Basque Bistro Lunch at Home
The best beginning for any party is at the bar with a nice selection of wines to try with the famous food bites that express the terroir of the Basque country. The Gilda is the trifecta of flavors from the land and sea with boquerones (marinated anchovies), manzanilla olives and quindilla peppers. The octopus is wildly popular for a reason right out of the can and dipped in the mayonnaise right out of the jar that has been infused with a generous spoonful of minced garlic. Everything is good dipped in the mayo. The jamon is from the famous pigs called Iberico who roam freely supposedly eating acorns which contributes to the flavor of the meat.
A little slice of this firm cheese is another quintessential flavor with or without fresh baguette. The white wines to try with these bites were a fino and amontillado sherry, white Rioja and an albarino.
In the spirit of an easy going bistro experience I selected a Basque seafood stew, Marmitako that Laurence cooked in my new book, The Cooking Class in San Sebastian. Originally a humble fisherman's dinner made on the boat with water, potatoes, tomatoes and whatever fish was left, has of course been elevated with time and venues like mine that start a day ahead and make fish stock. I chose equal parts tuna, salt cod and shrimp, a deluxe combo anywhere. I cheated a little bit with an imported from Spain Aneto fish stock, which I would buy again but at $8 a quart, I also made 1 quart with shrimp shells. My recipe from memory of reading many Marmitako recipes includes 2 cups of wine for 2 quarts of water or stock. I used the fino sherry and thought it was a excellent choice.
The ingredients make a colorful base to make ahead and I heated up the stock in the oven and right before serving added the shrimp whole and the fishes chopped in small pieces to cook in 2 or 3 minutes. The cod had been de-salted over 2 days but still added enough salt flavor that I didn't add any at all and offered salt at the table and nobody wanted it. Everyone liked it!
Marmitako means "from the pot". In addition to the ingredients photographed above, I added a pound of tiny new potatoes and 6 small tomatoes cut in half and sliced. A generous 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne was all it needed to be bold but not spicy. We decanted both Riojas to taste with the soup.
Usually I forget the garnishes, so don't go blaming the Rioja. Things I forgot yesterday: 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice for finishing the soup. A watercress salad with radishes and artichokes in lemon vinaigrette on the top shelf in the refrigerator. There is no photo of the cute puff pastry rectangles with almond custard that were delicious, particularly with the Jurancon dessert wine. (If you've read the book you'll remember that special wine to go with this very same dessert that Laurence made for the pintxo party at Amy and Kevin's.) I didn't really forget it but I had foie gras in the freezer that I decided that morning would be too much food. Another day soon it will be the star of a new Basque menu. What wine do you like with foie gras?
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