Romescu or Romesco Sauce, Cremat (1954) & Catalan cookery

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Sun Jun 20 04:08:45 UTC 2004

   I told you "Romesco sauce" wasn't invented in 1980.  I don't know if OED
is preparing this sauce.
   The 1954 book is a travel book by someone who has also done cookbooks.
   ProQuest Historical Newspapers and Newspaperarchive, unfortunately,  are
useless for Catalan cookery.

by Colman Andrews
New York: Atheneum

   A great book on this cuisine.

Pg. 222:  ROMESCO
   "I don't think there are many cities in the world," Joseph Pla once wrote,
"that have, in addition to an incomparable past, a spledorous present and a
uniquely beautiful location, a sauce of their own."  The city he's talking
about is Tarragona, the fabled old Roman capital (and modern business center)
sixty miles or so down the coast from Barcelona, and the sauce is _Romesco_--a
Catalan classic based on pulverized almonds and hazelnuts, dried sweet peppers,
and tomatoes.  The word _romesco_, in fact, has three emanings in the region:
It is a variety of dried pepper, small, ruddy-red, and medium-mild, also called
the _nyora_ (_fiora_ in Castilian); it is a sauce, and it is a great seafood
dish--perhaps the most interesting of all Catalan fish soups or stews.  Local
tradition in Tarragona sometimes maintains that it is of ROman origin (hence
its name), and journalist Angel Muro, in his bookj _El Practicon_, published in
1894, extended its pedigree even further back, suggesting that it had been
eaten by the Celts in Tarragona and was in fact originally a Phoenician
invention.  A bit more modestly, another Tarragona journalist, Antonio Alasa, used to
claim that a representative of the city had offered it to Jaume I or Aragon,
The Conqueror, when he visited the region after his victory in Majorca in 1232,
and that by the end of the thirteenth century, it was common among local
   The only trouble with all this supposed history, of course, is that the
single most important ingredient of the sauce--the one without which, by common
agreement, it would not be _Romesco_--is the _nyora_ pepper, and peppers, an
import from the New World, weren't planted in Catalonia until the sixteenth
century.  In reality, whatever its antecedents, the dish seems to have first
appeared in the nineteenth century.
   Scholar Charles Perry, who has made a special study of peppers both sweet
and hot, tells me that he _thinks_ the _nyora_ pepper is the variety
scientifically called _Capsicum annuum grossum/provar. pomiforme/sub-var. Conc.
humilirotundum Haz_,  So there.  Whatever it is, it is not available in the United
States--but I've had good luck substituting ancho peppers (called pasilla in
California, though elsewhere that name refers to a spicier dried pepper) or small
New Mexican peppers.

(The revised OED has no entry for "nyora" pepper.  OED has only one recent
hit for "pasilla," and that has 2,330 Google hits--ed.)

London: Frederick Muller Limited
(The NYPL lists "Fanny Cradock" as the author "Bon Viveur"--ed.)

Pg. 73:  We devoured _sobrosada_ and butifarra_ (the red and black Ibicenco
sausages) and sampled both _palo_--an aperitif which is rather like Amer Picon,
but lighter, the sam colour but not so thick or of such high alcoholic
content, and _frigola_--a sticky, sweet, mild liqueur.
(See "sobrassada" and "botifarra" below--ed.)

Pg. 81:  Here follows a brief description of one or two dishes you may expect
to find and which we enjoyed very much indeed.
   Whole small squid with melted parsley butter and pimiento sauce called
Romescu.  This sauce is made with pimientoes, oil, wine, vinegar, powdered
garlic, cloves and almonds.  If it is very hot, drink with it (and almost everything
else) one of the countless variations of Sangria, a Spanish-type claret well
iced and served in a lidded glass jug with soda water, a dash of cognac,
orange and lemon juice and sections of fruit.
_Cremada Plachada._
   This is a form of caramel cream.  The basic cream is run over a shallow
plate and an ice-thin skating-rink of salamandered sugar locks it in.
   Mallorcan Ibicenco prawn: soft, deep-pink and tasting like lobster flesh.
Wonderful with mayonnaise.
Pg. 82:
   These will be served to you every morning for breakfast on Majorca.  They
are the island specialty--coiled, featherweight, flaky buns, sweet and wholly
delicious.  According to the local patissier on the island it is impossible to
make them anywhere else.  As the tale runs, this authority on the subject
flew not only all the ingredients but the local water as well to Barcelona, and
even then, failed to make ensaimadas identical with the ones for which he is
_Melon el Patio._
   This is a specialty of El Patio, Palma, Majorca.  Quarters of water melon
are marinated with kirsch and maraschino, dusted with sifted icing swugar and
thoroughly chilled.
_Rognons Jerez._
   Another specialty of the same house.  Kidneys cooked with sherry from
Jerez and asparagus tips.
   The cold national soup of Spain.  We will not go into the crude peasant
variety here, but will content ourselves with saying that the more sophisticated
version with its side dishes, as served to us at Finisterre, Barcelona, is
perfect in this climate and a great success when served at home in England.
_Paella Andaluz._
   Another national Spanish dish which will pop up everywhere: a
highly-filling concoction, of varying degrees of luxury, with some form of oil-fried rice,
vegetables, onion, garlic, sausage, chicken, lobster and shell-fish.
_Mero, Sauce aux amandes._
   This is the local fish cooked with a particularly succulent almond sauce.
Pg. 83:
_Champagne Cocktail._
   From a gastronomic stand-point we strongly disapprove of such a drink,
but, during a summer holiday in Spain, the temptation to drink champagne
cocktails at anything from 1/- to 2/6d. is  quite irresistible.
_Ibizenco hors d'oeuvre._
   This remarkable assortment, rivalled only by the Indonesian RIce Table,
includes (among many standard ingredients of a mixed hors d'oeuvre), the
following: brains dipped in butter, fried mushrooms, fried octopus, cold grilled
cutlets, stuffied pimientoes, cold fried kidneys, cold fried fish.
_The local creme caramel._
   Look out for an extremely naughty trick indulged in on the Island of
Ibiza.  THey drench the little moulds of caramel with marmalade.
_The omelette._
   Besides its normal service this will be quite a feature on any picnic
meals you are given.  It is customary to eat it cold, and it is really very good
_Habas a la Catalana._
   Look for this in Barcelona.  The Spanish equivalent to the cassoulet of
France's Castelnadaury.
_Perdiz a la Vinagretta._
   A sweet service of partridge in which the bird is wrapped in vine-leaves
and served with vinaigrette sauce.
   This primative offering is made with either rum, brandy or cana.  THis
last is a Cuban distillation from the sugar-cane.  THe chosen fire-water is
poured over sugar, burnt and doused with hot black coffee.  The result is a
non-aristocratic (Pg. 84--ed.) version of Monsieur Brillat- Savarin's Cafe Bruolt;
but around midnight in a small taverna, or on the terrace of your hotel, it is a
potent inducement to passing romance.
(See "Cremat" entry below--ed.)
_Helado Mandarin._
   Whole tangerines or mandarines are hollowed, stuffed with tangerine liquer
water-ice, frozen and served with the tops replaced and little dark-green
orange leaves added.  The effect is enchanting, the taste delicious, and this
takes the place of the Edwardian sorbet in the meal.
   A saffron stew with oil and such fish as prawns, mullet, mussels, lobster
and octopus.  Highly indigestive, and well worth it!
   The Spanish version of Boston baked beans and bacon.
_Arroz a la Paella._
   Rice cooked with much saffron and opil, small shell-fish, chicken, octopus
and mussels.
   Spanish hors d'oeuvre of many versions.  If you are fortunate enough to
sample this inland, it will probably contain fresh lobster, crayfish, raw ham,
artichoke bottoms, mayonnaise and ribbons of tripe in tomato and pimento sauce.
_Gambas a la Plancha._
   Grilled to order.  Served hot.  A positive passion with us.
_Salsa de Nadal._
   Christmas soup on Ibiza unchanged for centuries, containing chicken, pork,
spices and almonds.
Pg. 85:
_Ibizenco omeletttes._
   Expect to find these larger, heavier, frequently served flat instead of
folded, and laced with fish and vegetables.


BOTIFARRA + SAUSAGE--246 Google hits, 21 Google Groups hits
BUTIFARRA + SAUSAGE--525 Google hits, 37 Google Groups hits
(Not in OED)

CATALAN CUISINE, pg. 147:  _Botifarra._  This is perhaps the most common
Catalan sausage of all-the one you get grilled with white beans or wild mushrooms,
crumbled up in stuffings, etc.  It's simply a white pork sausage,
medium-coarse in texture and usually seasoned only with salt and pepper.  Under its
Castilian name, _butifarra blanca_, and in a domestically made version, it si
sometimes available at Spanish or Hispanic markets and it may be ordered by mail
(as _butifarrita_) from the La Espanola company in California.


SOBRASSADA + SAUSAGE--240 Google hits, 0 Google Groups hits
SOBRASADA + SAUSAGE--1,570 Google hits, 11 Google Groups hits
(Not in OED)

CATALAN CUISINE, pg. 147:  _Sobrassada._  This is a Majorcan specialty, a
sofr, almost patelike pork sausage flavored with garlic and paprika and often
eaten simply spread on bread.  (Penelope Casas gives a recipe for a version of
_sobrassada_ in _The Foods & Wines of Spain_.)  A domestic version (_sobrasafa_
in Castilian) is sometimes available at Spanish and Hispanic markets (and,
again, is sold by La Espanola).  Otherwise, the closest march is Mexican pork
chorizo, though it's spicier than _sobrassada_.  Despite the similarity of name,
Italian _soppressata_ is not at all the same thing and is not a good


CALCOTADA--606 Google hits, 244 Google hits
(Not in OED; nice, long writeup in CATALAN CUISINE)


CREMAT + COFFEE--282 Google hits, 8 Google Groups hits
(Not in OED)

And if all this someday happens, you will quite possibly be convinced, at least
for the moment, as I certainly wasmyself, that _Cremat_ is the most
delicious, wondrous drink you've ever tasted.
   If, on the other hand, you happen to be sitting on an apartment balcony in
New York City with the sound of screaming traffic in the distance...The stuff
still tastes pretty good.


TUMBET--3,530 Google hits, 349 Google Groups hits
(Not in OED)

dish--which is simply an arrangement of sliced potatoes, eggplant, and bell
peppers, first fried and then layered in a cassola and baked in fresh tomato
sauce--is almost exclusively a summer dish in Majorca for just this reason.
Majorcans can't conceive of making it with ingredients that are not at their

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