Barhopping in the Basque Country

In my latest novella, Gnarly, I talk about food a lot. Partly because one of the main characters owns a bar, but also because the Basque people in general are passionate about food. Some of the finest chefs and restaurants in the region can be found in the coastal town of San Sebastian, the beautiful city featured in my long novella. Today I'm going to share my love for the region with photos and a few recipes I've included in my blog tours.

This is a typical bar scene with a wide variety of pintxos (also known as tapas in other parts of Spain) lining every square inch of space. Each of these delicacies cost anywhere from 2.50-5.00 euros depending on the intricacy of the dish and availability of the ingredients.

Most people bar hop, trying out one or two plates at each stop, usually accompanied by a small glass of wine or beer. It's impossible to try everything in one night. The goal is to visit as many places as time and money allow.

This is why people come back to the region all the time. They can't get enough!  There's one day during the week (usually Thursday) when they reduce the price on everything so the streets are clogged with revelers looking for the deal.

You could quench your hunger this way, but pintxos are considered appetizers. After making the rounds, people move on to formal dining at home or at a restaurant. What can I say? Basques love to eat.

Check out this great variety of pintxos! 

Here are a few of the recipes I shared on my Gnarly blog tour.


1 (750-ml) bottle of red wine
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
¼ cup sugar
½ orange, thinly sliced
½ lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
Let it sit for a while before you pour over ice
Ready, set, enjoy!

Tortilla de Patata (Potato Omelette) 

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, thinly sliced
2 Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat part of the oil in an 8-inch non-stick frying pan, and fry the onions until golden brown and cooked through. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Transfer to a plate. If you plan on adding chorizo or ham, you can fry the cubed or cut up pieces at this time and add to the cooked onions once you drain and pat dry. Add more oil to the pan and fry the potatoes, turning frequently. Cover tightly and cook over a gentle heat for about 30 minutes turning occasionally, until softened and slightly golden. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and parsley. Gently stir in the potatoes and onions until coated (and additional ingredients if desired), taking care not to break up the potato too much. It’s important to mix everything in a bowl instead of pouring the eggs directly over the potatoes in the pan. The eggs are distributed evenly and it tastes better this way. Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining oil. Add the potato/onion/egg mixture and cook over a very low heat until the egg begins to set. Use a rubber spatula to prevent the tortilla from sticking and allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Preheat your broiler to high. When the base of the tortilla has set, which should take about 5 minutes, protect the pan handle with foil and place the tortilla under the grill until it is set and golden. Cut into wedges and serve garnished with parsley.

Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Cod-Basque Style) 

1 large salted cod loin
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
2 roasted peppers (preferably red)
1 chopped tomato
1 tablespoon flour
Extra virgin olive oil.
Soak the cod loin in water for 24 hours, changing the water frequently to get rid of some of the salt
The next day, insert the cod loin in a pan with cold water and heat. Remove from the range when it begins to boil.
Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. Stir-fry the diced onion until it begins to brown, then add the garlic cloves, peppers, and chopped tomato.
When all the ingredients are lightly fried add the flour. Let it toast a little.
Add some of the broth in which the cod was cooked (two cups) and let it boil at low heat. This broth has the flavor and jelly of the cod.  
When the sauce thickens add the cod and keep on simmer until it’s time to eat. 
Serve with rice or a loaf of crusty bread.  

Alubias Rojas de Tolosa (Red beans from Tolosa) 

1 ½ pounds dried red kidney beans 
6 tablespoons olive oil 
½ yellow onion, finely chopped 
5 ounces salt pork, in one piece
3 (3-ounce) chorizos 
6 cups water 

1 small head green cabbage, coarsely chopped 
3 sausages (the Basques use morcillas aka blood sausages but you can use whatever you prefer) 
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced 
8 pickled guindilla (you can substitute with jalapeño, banana, or any other spicy green chilies) 

Rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water. Place in a bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches, and let soak for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.
Drain the beans, place in a stockpot, and add water to cover by 1 inch. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the onion, and the salt pork and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, at a gentle boil, stirring occasionally.
After the beans have cooked for 1 hour, add the chorizos. Add warm water if needed to keep the beans covered, and continue to boil gently for 1 hour longer, or until the beans are tender.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water lightly, add the cabbage, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the cabbage has lost its volume. Decrease the heat to medium, add the sausage, and cook for 20 minutes longer, or until the sausage is fork-tender. Lift the sausages from the pot and keep them warm on a serving platter. Drain the cabbage, squeezing it thoroughly to eliminate any excess liquid. In a sauté pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden. Add the cabbage and turn several times in the oil and garlic to heat through and blend the flavors. Transfer the cabbage to a serving platter and keep warm.

When the beans are tender, remove the chorizos and salt pork to the platter holding the sausage. Slice the meat into 2-inch pieces. (For ease, you can transfer the meat to a cutting board for slicing and then return them to the platter.)

If I've succeeded in whetting your appetite, you can learn more about the region through the eyes of my characters in Gnarly.  Next week I'll post pictures of festivals and scenery.  Feel free to leave comments, in fact, I'd love to hear back from anyone out there. Traveling is my passion and I'm interested in hearing from fellow explorers.    


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