A Basque Pintxo Party Menu for Frugal Fun

January can be a dreary month of salads for dinner at home compensating for indulgences over the holidays. I beat the syndrome this year by planning a menu to share with friends that emulates an extravagant night out at our favorite Basque restaurant in Seattle, The Harvest Vine. I am sorry to deprive the venue of a big check but this event made January fun to look forward to and affordable. No matter how you spell pintxo, pincho, or even tapa in the rest of Spain, the format of numerous, small, highly flavored plates is appealing.

The Gilda features a slim Guindilla pepper surrounded by anchovy and olives. It pairs well with hot, crunchy chickpeas.

The Gilda features a slim Guindilla pepper surrounded by anchovy and olives. It pairs well with hot, crunchy chickpeas.

These pinchos are named after a character in the 1946 movie staring Rita Hayworth, who played Gilda in the leading role, and Glenn Ford. The Spanish filmgoing public fell in love with the sensual, fiery character played by Hayworth, and so named this enticing and slightly spicy pincho after her.
— The Basque Table by Teresa Barrenechea

Researching the menu, one of the joys of this project,  included only three books but they were all a pleasure to read and useful: The Basque Table, a classic collection of recipes from 1998, Rustica from 2009, The Basque Pintxo Cookbook, a 2013 e-book. After reading them and making a list of 32 recipes that seemed appropriate for a group effort on a menu, the primary cooks drilled down to arrive at the final selection of seven dishes that were easy to assign so everyone had equal time and money invested.  Most of the recipes were designed for four people so no adjustments were necessary to present small plate servings. No one declined dessert. No one left hungry.

Basque Night Pintxo Menu

Crunchy Chickpeas

The Gilda

White Asparagus Salad

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp

Potato and Chorizo Stew Rioja Style

Braised Rabbit in Red Rioja Wine Sauce

Gazta Tarta

The Wine List

Basque wine is available here but not that easy to come by. Rioja is so close and simpatico with Basque cuisine, I liberally think of wines from Rioja and Navarra as good options.

Campo Viejo Cava Brut Reserva

2010 Amizade Godello (Gallicia)*

Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo Reserva 2007

2007 Martinez Lacuestra Seleccionn Anada Reserva Rioja

The Execution

The chickpeas, rabbit and potatoes walked in the door ready for a final warming before serving. The Gildas could have been made in the morning but were quickly assembled to be served with the hot chickpeas while sipping a glass of cava at the bar. After the welcome sip and bite it was easy to move the crowd to the table where the asparagus salad was waiting all dressed with a vinaigrette, as tedious to prepare but absolutely worth it, as the author said it would be.

white asparagus salad

While the next bottle of white wine was opened, the rabbit and potatoes went in the oven for twenty minutes and the shrimp spent two minutes in a preheated wok before arriving at the table. No one bothered peeling the shrimp, the shells were divine with garlic and pimienton picante.

Right on cue with the opening of the first Rioja, the potatoes and rabbit came out hot, succulent, side by side, as though intended to be served that way. Everything was too delicious at that point to be obtrusive and take a photo. You understand.

I had to show the cheesecake recipe to the crowd to prove why I was torturing it in the broiler after it had been baked and sat patiently on the counter for hours looking ready to eat. I really need to get one of those torches because this is my idea of a very easy and elegant dessert. It's a bonus that it has no crust and thus is gluten free for my friends who eat that way.

The Gatza Tarta from RUSTICA A Return to Spanish Home Cooking by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

The Gatza Tarta from RUSTICA A Return to Spanish Home Cooking by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

My best effort at the Gatza Tarta with no blow torch to brown the top.

My best effort at the Gatza Tarta with no blow torch to brown the top.

* I didn't have a traditional white Basque, Txakoli, or a white Rioja in my cellar like I was sure I did, but this has similar characteristics of freshness, citrus and Spanish authenticity.

Basque Country Map

Basque Country Map