My First Week Pt. 2!

This is a continuation from my ‘My First Week Pt. 1’ blog post right here!

Thursday, I finally got to meet Marti! She is the person that I have been communicating back and forth with ever since I started applying for the Basque Stage. I was really excited to meet her because I have been an avid follower of her blog bout the Basque Country, Blank Palate, and she is just filled with so much information about what’s going on around here. She is definitely one of the most interesting people I’ve got to meet! We met again at Xarma to meet up with one of the chef/owner, Aizpea, to talk about my time staging there. I find out I started work the day after! So soon but I was really anxious to get started and learning.

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I ended up going grocery shopping for the first time the same night and got all the fixings for friend rice and a bottle of red wine. I thought it would be appropriate to treat myself with something familiar before my first day of work.

shoppingfried

Friday and Saturday were my first two days at Xarma. That is all I have to share for now because this deserves a blogpost of its own, fo’ realsies!

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Sunday, Susy and I planned to visit Getaria for Dia Del Txakoli!!! Getaria is a gorgeous town that is a 45 minute bus ride from Donostia. Dia del Txakoli, which translates to Day Of Txakoli, is the day where about 2 dozen wineries in the Designation of Origin Getariako Txakolina take part of a festival to share their latest crops of txakoli. Susy and I had found out about this festival through Viridian Farms. Viridian Farms is a farm based out of Portland that produces a lot of European products, especially from the Basque Country! We get a lot of product in from this farm at the Harvest Vine, so it was a great connection to have when I found out I was coming out here! They have been so great to us as they have given us a lot of great recommendations of what to do and where to go during our stay here in San Sebastian.

getaria

Unfortunately, it seems that Susy and I didn’t really do our research and had gone to the wrong town. We had bussed all the way to Getaria to see no festival in sight. You could only imagine the confused looks on our faces. We later found out that the festival was actually in town of Aia, which isn’t that far from Getaria. But to 2 American kids that didn’t have internet access or have sense of direction, we kind of just gave up on making it to the festival.

But regardless, Susy and I know how to make for a good time! Since Susy has already been to Getaria, she showed me around town. She took me to Anchoas Maisor. This is where fresh anchovies die and go to heaven. Literally. It is here where fresh day-caught anchovies forego a process of being cleaned then packed in a barrel of salt for about 6 months. Then they are taken out of the salt, desalted, then meticulously filleted by the expert hands of the ladies of Anchoas Maisor and then carefully packaged with oil to help preserve them. It is an amazing thing to see how much care and love that these people here have these delectable anchovies. And to think that not at one point in time, that these anchovies are ever mishandled or mistreated since all of this work is done by hand. Bravo to all of you over at Anchoas Maisor.

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We then catch a bus and head to Zumaia, which is a town just 6 km east of Getaria. There was no reason to go to Zumaia other than the fact that its just incredibly gorgeous. It is a very scenic area that has some of the unbelievable views of the Bay of Biscay. We walked around a whole lot and ran into a little fair that was going on. Stopped by a churro stand and got a nice bag of deep fried yumminess. We make our way up to Itzurun, a beach on the most eastern part of the town that has a nice view of the bay that run into some caves off of the beach. We also get to this crazy pier that stretches right into the water and gives an amazing view of Zumaia. And at some point we try to hike around some cliffs to try to get a better view of the water. But all that got us is a couple pairs of really muddy shoes!

zumaia

On Monday, Susy and I met up with Marti, Nacho, and Andoni in San Sebastian for a good ol’ Pintxo crawl for my Welcoming to the Basque Country! We start off at Bidea Berri, one, if not, the only pintxo bar that serves grilled fresh piquillos. My god, were these good. Simply charred and then peeled and doused in a good amount of olive oil. Simplicity at its finest.

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The next pintxo bar we go to is Bodega Donostiarra (well, I think. I did not get a picture or remember the bar name!). Here we got a variety of pintxos from Pulpo a la vinagreta, chorizo, Jamon Tortilla, and a potato pintxo that we called montaña de la mayonesa, which translates to mountain of mayonnaise. It was basically that with a slice of jamon and an anchoa olive on top. It may have been a little over the top, but definitely was tasty with some crusty bread to sop up all that alioli up with.

pulpomayo

We thean head towards the old part of San Sebastian and go to Astalena. This was a nice little bar that had some great raciones and pintxos that I haven’t seen on other menus around town. I ordered Solomillo a lo pobre, which is beef tenderloin with fries, sautéed onions, and a fried quail egg. No complaints about this dish. It is a dish that I really could see being on a menu in America. There was a ketchup-like sauce made from piquillos that was good, but every time I ate it, I was always tricking myself into thinking I was eating ketchup. It only made me want ketchup more because it would of really complimented the dish better then the piquillo-ketchup. Marti ordered the Risotto de queso de cabra y tomate, Goat cheese and tomato Risotto. This dish was pretty good and really interesting. It was actually made with a wild rice rather than the normal Arborio or even Bomba rice. The sauce was really creamy and cheesey. Kind of too rich for my liking, but the flavor was right on. Susy had ordered the ravioli e foie y Margret, foie gras ravioli. Rich on Rich on Rich. This dish needed texture and some kind of flavor contrast. The ravioli was huge and was creamy and then it was drenched in another creamy porcini/mushroom cream that just added to the already large amount of richness. If this pintxo was 2 times as small, I can see it making a lot more sense, but this dish just seemed a little too crazy for me! Nacho ordered taco de bonito, seared tuna. The tuna was perfectly seared and still rare in the center. The meat was buttery and super flavorful. As it should be! =]

astelena

Our last spot was Atari. I’ve actually been to this spot a lot on my breaks between services at Xarma. I usually come during the downtime so I just get a couple glasses of txakoli and a café con leche then back to work. Here we wind down and the girls both order dessert, but I order savory because I was still in search for the best croquettes in town. I order just a small portion of croquettes de bacalao. They were tiny in comparison to other croquettes I have gotten, but I’ve got to say that they were extremely creamy and did not have that dense texture that I have seen in majority of the croquettes I have experienced. They were exceptionally delicate and the flavor was delicious! Nacho ordered the foie gras terrine. Its accoutrements were rather interesting as it came with a banana puree, apple, and a red wine reduction. The terrine in itself was perfect. Probably the best foie terrine I’ve had recently. It paired well with the apple and the wine reduction, but the banana puree kind of just throws everything off. Nevertheless, it was a really great dish and I have no room to complain. You get two huge slices of Foie!

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This was an amazing night to really welcome me into this great city. I couldn’t have asked for better company and even better food. I am so grateful and appreciative for this opportunity that these guys at the Basque Stage and Sammic have presented me with. Just like the open arms that these amazing folks welcomed me with, my arms are stretched wider than the biggest seas to welcome whatever adventures and obstacles the next 3 months bring to me here in the Basque Country!

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Food Blog Candidate Post: Piquillos Rellenos de Morcilla

Piquillos Rellenos de Morcilla

Piquillo Pepper filled with Blood Sausage

MMM.... Blood Sausage....

I chose to do this dish for my Basque Stage application because it was the first dish that had introducd me to what I now know as “Basque Cuisine”. My at-the-time girlfriend had taken me to this restaurant that her Uncle, who is currently my chef now (weird, right?), was the chef of. ‘Txori’ was the name of the restaurant (which means ‘Bird’ in Basque.) and I remember not even wanting to attempt to pronounce that. It was a Spanish bar that served the Basque version of tapas called pintxos. I had no preception of what Spanish food was like and had no idea what I was getting myself into. And the first pintxo to be placed on front me was blood sausage. BLOOD SAUSAGE?! I was so flabergasted. But I knew I had to try it. And my mind was blown. I had found a new love. And I knew that it was the start of somehting big….I ended up interning at Txori, then got the opportunity to work there as well as their older sister restaurant, The Harvest Vine, and had learned how to create this dish as well as many other traditional Spanish dishes.

As delicious as it was served as a perfect pintxo, I think it really shines when placed in a composed dish with the peppery greens of frisee and acidic flavors from the sherry and piquillo vinaigrette.

Blood Sausage is one of my favorite things in the world and it is surprising pretty easy to make. This recipe breaks away from the traditional Morcilla and replaces the rice with apples to help make for a blood sausage with a good balance of spice and sweetness.

Piquillos Rellenos de Morcilla

Piquillo Pepper filled with Blood Sausage

Piquillo peppers

Eggs, for egg batter

Flour, for egg batter

Frisee

Sherry Vinager

Arbequinia Olive Oil

Piquillo Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Alioli (garlic mayonaisse)

Parsley

Parsley Oil

Piquillo Vinaigrette

Piquillo Peppers

Sherry Vinegar

Olive Oil

Salt

Procedure

  1. Slice piquillos in half and scrape seeds out of pepper.
  2. Place peppers into blender and with the blender on, add the sherry vinegar and salt. Turn off and taste for acidity.
  3. When right acidity, slowly add olive oil until the vinaigrette is a bright orange color and the consistency is a thick, smooth sauce.
  4. Strain through chinois and then it is ready to be used.

For Blood Sausage

1# Pork Blood

1 oz fat back, grated

1# Fuji Apples, peeled and small diced

2.5# onions, Finely diced

Spice Mix

To Fold In

2 oz fat back, small diced

1/2# fuji apple, peeled and small diced

Spice Mix (for 1# pork blood)

Bay Leaves

Cloves

White Pepper

Salt

Mace

Smoked Paprika, Pimenton

Espelette

Onion Powder

(I’ll supply the ingredients, but you can mess with your own measurements to make the flavor the way you want it. Get creative!)

Ingredients For The Morcilla.

Procedure

1.  In a wide pan over medium heat, render fat out of fat back and add onions. Sweat until translucent.
2. Add diced apples and saute for 3-4 minutes, until a little tender but still has a crunch.

Apples and Onions!

3. Meanwhile, Place the pork blood into a food processor and puree for 10 – 15 seconds to keep it from coagulating during the cooking process.

Look at how bright the blood gets!

4. Add the pork blood and spice mix to the onion/apple mixture and cook down until mixture is thickened. About 10 – 15 minutes. The blood will cook down quickly and the mixture might look a little tight but it’ll loosen up when pureed.


5. When thickened, cool mixture on a sheet tray until all the way chilled.
6. Puree the mixture until it is the consistency is pretty smooth, but with a little chunkiness of onion and apples down to the size of rice grains.
7. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in diced fat back and diced apples.


8. Trim the open side of piquillos and remove all the seeds and then stuff the blood sausage until it fills the peppers.

To Finish Plate:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Heat pan on medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of pan.
3. Dredge stuffed piquillo into flour until fully coated and then cover in egg wash.
4. Take out stuffed pepper of egg wash and get rid of excess egg then add to the oil. Fry on one side until golden brown. Flip onto second side until golden brown. Then flip onto the last side and finish it off by putting it in the oven.

5. Meanwhile, toss frisee in a bowl with sherry vinegar, olive oil, and salt until greens are properly dressed.
6. Put piquillo vinaigrette and alioli onto the plate.
7. Take out the stuffed pepper from the oven and then add parsley to the hot oil and then spoon the hot oil and parsley over the fried pepper.
8. Transfer the stuffed piquillo onto the plate. Place frisee salad over the piquillo and garnish with parsley and parsley oil.

The Finished Plate.

 

Hope you guys enjoy this post. I had a great time putting it down on paper and really getting this recipe right.

Thanks again,

-Justin