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Jun 13, 2012 07:16 AM

What Can You Tell Me of Basque Cuisine?

I'm interested in Basque food, in large part, because I'm totally ignorant of it. So what do these people like to eat and drink?

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  1. I am very interested in any info as well

    1. Sixty years ago when we lived in Argentina we used to go in the summers to a coastal town, Necochea, which had a large Basque population, and stay in a small hotel, the Zure-Echea, that was run by a multi-generation Basque family. For what it's worth, here's what I remember of the cuisine: 1) Very often served, mussels steamed with something sour (vinegar? lemon juice?) and bits of green stuff (parsley? herbs?) with the shells open and bread to sop up the lots of very good juice. 2) Also often, crepes filled with creamed stuff like spinach and rolled up. 3) Fried fish with breading on it so that a crusty crust formed. 4) Fruit salad with wine in it. I have no idea whether this was typical Basque food but, on request, the family used to assemble and dance the Jota for guests after dinner so they were still in the culture.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Querencia

        I've read the Wikipedia article on Basque cuisine, and it's somewhat enlightening. It mentions Basques in Buenos Aires, and, of all places, Boise, Idaho!

        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          Boise, because Idaho sheep ranchers hired -- and arranged for travel for -- Basque herders to manage their flocks. [Most westerners wanted nothing to do with sheep.] Several Idaho state officials were/are descendants of the herders. The food is most interesting!

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            There used to be a number of decent Basque restaurants in Bakersfield, CA (run by descendants of the Basque shepherds who were brought to the area in the early 1900s). What I remember most about them was that they all had sweetbreads as part of the meal. Unfortunately, urban renewal hit the area and on our last visit I wasn't able to find any of the old places I remembered.

        2. ongi etorri!

          Txakoli is the local wine of choice, tending to be low in alcohol lightly frizzy goes great with Pincho's (bar food). Rioja is close by as well (Haro is a short ride away) and are considered local wines. Also famous locally is the Cider. The Cider houses often have restaurants that specialize in fixed price meals with rare grilled rib eye, cod tortilla, ect.. and all the cider you can drink!

          Basque cuisine comes mostly from the hills or the ocean, so you see a lot of sheep milk and meatcheeses as well as the dessert Leche cuajada served with local honey or sugar. Cod is popular, Merluza is everywhere, fish cheeks served pil pil style, berberechos (cockles I think?) Tuna served in traditional stews like Marmitako.

          The basque cornmeal 'tortilla-esqe' wrap called Talo typically served around the feast of santo Tomas and served with the basque sausage txistorra.

          1. This link has a number of recipes for Basque specialties.


            You might want to try some of them.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Yank

              I've not eaten Basque, but Catalan, which from what I understand has similarities. Of course the Catalan restaurant I ate at was in Washington DC - and in the National Art Gallery, at that. However, the food was delicious, and definitely exotic to me.

              There were lots of white bean dishes - cold salads with cilantro, lemon, and other cooling ingredients. Salted cod soaked to reconstitution was a main ingredient. Lots of fresh green herbs with very woody/earthy tasting beans. Tomatoes were a big part of the flavoring, as well.

              We had the Empedrat de mongetes amb bacallà (White bean salad with vegetables and Catalan salt cod) and the Canelons de Sant Esteve (Pork and chicken “canelons” with béchamel sauce).

              It was all very tasty. It reminded me not at all of traditional Spanish, Cuban, or Mexican cuisine. I grew up in south Florida, so ate lots of all three.

              Here is the menu:

            2. I heartily recommend Mark Kurlansky's book _A Basque History of the World_. Kurlansky is a writer who's focused on food histories -- Salt, The Big Oyster, Cod... and the worldwide impact of Basques is remarkable and weaves together themes from his other books.

              The wonderful cheese Ossau-Iraty is a Basque food.