Bar Casa Vale’s Coal-Roasted Artichokes Are a Lesson in Live-Fire Spanish Cooking

And dinner will rise from the ashes.

By Benjamin Tepler May 13, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Mike Novak

Ever since Nate Tilden walked into Barcelona’s famed La Boqueria market during a freewheeling, coming-of-age Eurail trip through Catalonia, the local restaurateur has lusted after the idea of opening his own Spanish spot. “My little 21-year-old culinary brain was floored,” says Tilden, who co-owns Clyde Common and Olympia Provisions. At his Bar Casa Vale on SE Pine Street, he focuses on Spain’s love of smoke and flames with an eight-foot, black steel Spanish grill and plancha that he welded and accessorized himself. The grill’s first victim? A late-spring artichoke, cooked in ash, cloaked with crispy, burnt frills, and holding a smoky, tender heart at its center. Dip each leaf into nutty, rich red pepper sauce or garlicky aioli and pop open a bottle of txakoli—it’s grilling season.

Coal-Roasted Artichokes with Romesco Sauce

(Serves 12)

  • 6 globe artichokes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt, for seasoning
  • Romesco sauce or garlic aioli, for dipping

PREPARE THE ARTICHOKES Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Remove the toughest outermost leaves of each artichoke, and cut two inches off the tops with a serrated bread knife. Scoop out the spiny chokes using a spoon, being careful not to scrape out the hearts. Add the artichokes to the water, return to a gentle boil, and cook, covered, for 3 minutes. Remove, let dry, rub inside and out with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.

LIGHT THE GRILL Remove the grate from your barbecue and start a charcoal fire with around 20 briquettes. Once it’s white-hot, use a long spatula or kitchen tongs to push the coals to one side of the barbecue and form a mound.

ROAST THE ARTICHOKES Lay the artichokes in a line inside the grill on their sides next to the mound of charcoal. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Continue to cook the artichokes, covered, using tongs to rotate them every 5 minutes for a total of 30 minutes longer (they will begin to burn—don’t worry, that’s the point!), until a skewer can slide easily into the section where the bulb meets the stem.

SERVE Remove artichokes from the grill and let rest on a plate for a few minutes, then cut in half lengthwise. Pull off leaves and dip them into romesco sauce or garlic aioli, and eat the tender heart whole.

Bar Casa Vale Romesco Sauce

(Makes 1½ cups)

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 tbsp, plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 dried New Mexico chiles, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, destemmed, squeezed of its juice, and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp salt

Grill the red pepper, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 10 minutes. Peel skin, remove seeds, and chop roughly.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat, add 3 tbsp olive oil, and sauté garlic for one minute, being careful not to brown. Add the chiles and cook for one minute more. Add the red pepper and tomato and cook for another two minutes. Add the sherry vinegar, cook for 30 seconds, remove from heat, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Using a food processor, pulse the toasted nuts until finely chopped but not completely puréed. Reserve the nuts, add the pepper-garlic-tomato mixture, and process until creamy. Add the nut mixture and pulse just until combined. With the motor running, slowly add the remaining olive oil; the romesco should be the consistency of warm peanut butter. Add salt to taste. Keeps for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Bar Casa Vale Garlic Aioli

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 pinches salt

In a metal or ceramic bowl, mash the garlic with a pinch of salt using the back of a wooden spoon until it becomes a paste. Add yolks and whisk. Combine olive and canola oil, and slowly whisk the oil mix in a few drops at a time. Continue adding in incrementally greater amounts until fully combined. Add lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

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