Cookbook Club: Pinxtos

What was on the menu for October's Cookbook Club?  Apparently, disappointment.  Pintxos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition, is a beautiful book written about one of my favorite niches of one of my favorite cuisines. Having visited the epicenter of pintxos last year (Hondarribia and San Sebastian), I was excited to whip up some of my own.  I'm still excited to try making my own, because Pintxos (the cookbook) somehow does not show you how to make pintxos (the food).


Overall Rating: 1.5 stars

Table full of deliciousness

D. making Pork Medallions Confit w/
Curried Apple and Celery Root Salad
First of many bottles of wine

I have to admit, the book is beautiful and all of the food looks delicious.  And you know what? The food was delicious.  It just was not what it advertised to be.

These are pintxos:  Small plates, 2-3 bites each, prepared simply with few ingredients, expected to be eaten in a casual atmosphere over a beer.

What this book requires:  Fly to Spain, buy specialty ingredients, somehow import them into the US, use a pinch of said ingredients, slave over your stove for 5 hours.  Serves 2.

Anchovies w/ Tomatoes and Parsley-Dusted Garlic
Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration.  But, when recipe after recipe calls for specialty ingredients that must be ordered online - for example piment d'espelette, which is used in nearly half of the recipes - I start to lose interest.  The author acknowledges the "rare in the US" ingredients, but thinks that online ordering is a fine solution.  Not only are these ingredients expensive, but they require a significant amount of planning ahead (select recipe, compare prices on Amazon, order ingredients, wait 5 days, make recipe).  And he insists that every single specialty ingredient "has no substitute."

Chicken Thighs w/ Spicy Basque "Ketchup"
I can understand that there really is no substitute to Jamon Iberico de Bellota, but as a cookbook writer, you should provide several alternatives that approximate the flavor/texture that are more reasonably priced and easier to obtain.  Piment d'espelette is used many of the recipes, is nearly $10/oz on Amazon, and can easily be substituted with paprika.  Does he say you can use paprika in a bind?  No.  "There is no substitute."  When I bought Pinxtos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition, I didn't realize I'd actually have to be in Basque Country to make the recipes.

Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings (I used legs b/c TJ's didn't have wings)

Then there's the recipes out of left field like Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings.  I made it.  It was delicious.  It just wasn't "in the Basque Tradition."  Last time I checked, Vietnamese fish sauce is not commonly used by the abuelas in Northern Spain.

Braised Lamb Shoulder with Fideo Pasta in Parmesan Crust

Overall, the recipes were delicious, and a few were even easy to make and Basque in tradition.  In addition to the dishes pictured in this post, we also made tomato and watermelon salad, potato and chorizo brandade, and fava beans with creme fraiche and mint.

No need to run out and buy this book immediately.  But, if you're looking for a gift for that cook-who-has-everything (who also appreciates beautiful food photos), then Pintxos is a good choice.

Stay tuned for next month's CBC when we review:

*Cookbook Club Rating System:
-3 stars: This cookbook is essential, buy it now
-2 stars: Good overall, a nice addition, but not an urgent buy
-1 star: Meh; one or two good ideas, but not worth the money
-0 stars: Would work better as kindling than a cookbook

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What was cooking this time last year?  2 years ago?

K's Cat

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