Earlier this week I posted a review Basque Country, a most impressive account of the cuisine of a unique culture. Located in the far northeast in Spain and southwest corner of France, Basque country has mountains, meadows and seacoasts that furnish their kitchens with a diverse set of ingredients.

Pintxo is the treasure of Basque cooking. It is not, they will tell you, tapas. But you just might just think of it that way. Hundreds of different pintxos have evolved over decades. They are bar foods, eaten before you wander off to a full meal. So, they are small, bite-sized and intense.

This dish began in San Sebastian, became particularly popular, and has spread everywhere. Pintxo is akin to sushi. You need perfect ingredients and then exceptional technique to assemble the final tower of magnificence.


Spanish Ham, Goat Cheese, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pintxo

Yield: makes 9

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup dehydrated sun-dried
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 9- to 11-ounce log goat cheese, preferably with rind, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 9 slices Iberico ham
  • ½ baguette, preferably covered in poppy, flax, or other seeds, cut into nine ½ inch slices

Preparation:

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, ½ cup (120 mL) water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl, pour the hot vinegar mixture over, and cover with plastic wrap. Soak for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours, until very soft. Drain, transfer to a plate, and drizzle with the olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Slice the goat cheese crosswise into 9 pieces, each about¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar. Place the baking sheet under the broiler and allow the sugar to brown, watching closely so the cheese doesn’t burn. Once lightly browned and sizzling, remove from the oven. (Alternatively, you can use a kitchen blowtorch to brown the cheese: Hold the flame over each slice until the sugar is bubbling and beginning to brown).

To compose the pintxos, arrange the baguette slices on a platter and place a sun-dried tomato on each slice. Using a spatula, place a slice of the goat cheese on top of each tomato, sugared-side up. Threat a piece of the ham on a skewer, forming an “S” shape. Spear the cheese, tomato, and bread with the skewer, adjusting them if necessary. Repeat with the remaining ham and skewers and serve.


Source: Basque Country by Marti Buckley [Artisan, 2018]