Three Amazing Recipes from The Basque Book

Photos of recipes in The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito
Photos of recipes in The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of TxikitoBrian Latimer / Penny De Los Santos Photos

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By Ana Sofía Peláez

Open-faced fried quail egg and chorizo sandwich | Arraultza

The Basque Book's open-faced fried quail egg chorizo sandwich.Penny De Los Santos

This charming pintxo is a real crowd-pleaser: who doesn’t love fried eggs and chorizo? In the version we make at Txikito, we cut the chorizo into very thin matchsticks, which makes it easier to eat and ensures that all of the flavors come through in each bite. Make sure that the chorizo is at room temperature, as cold chorizo is waxy and not as tasty and will make your eggs cold. | serves 6

  • 5 ounces dry-cured spicy chorizo, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons sweet vegetable “marmalade”, at room temperature, or 1 Spanish onion, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, and pinch of kosher salt
  • 6 (½-inch-thick) slices baguette, cut on the bias
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 quail eggs, at room temperature
  • Maldon salt, for finishing

Using a sharp knife, cut off the tips of the chorizo, then cut it in half at its U bend to create 2 logs. Carefully make a shallow incision along the length of each log and peel off the thin casing. Slice the chorizo crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces. Cut each piece lengthwise into thin slices and then cut the slices into matchsticks. Alternatively, cut the chorizo logs crosswise into thin coins. Set aside.

If using the vegetable marmalade, spread 1 tablespoon of it onto each baguette slice. If using the onion, dice it very small, then cook it very slow and low in a frying pan with the oil and salt for about 25 minutes, until very soft and sweet. Let cool to room temperature, then spread about 1 tablespoon onto each bread slice. Top the marmalade or slow-cooked onion with a generous amount of the chorizo, then make a small well in the middle of each mound of chorizo.

In a very small frying pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the quail eggs one at a time, then reduce the heat and fry. Nestle a fried egg in each chorizo well. Sprinkle a little Maldon salt over each yolk and serve at room temperature.

Rice with cockles | arroz con txirlas

Rice with cockles recipe from the Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the KitchenPenny De Los Santos

I used to like going to the fish market around Christmastime with Eder’s maternal grandmother, Eulalia. The authoritative Basque matriarch would take an elevator from Bilbao’s Casco Viejo, where she lived, to Begoña, the neighborhood that towers high above the city. “Better fish at better prices,” she would say. “Of course she was right,” Eder would later say, “because she is a woman.” Eulalia’s fish lady was a well-known secret, betrayed by the lines that formed around the block. She had an incredible variety of fish and other sea critters, and everything she sold was pristine.

We would eat her clams raw. I remember that when I would bring my knife close to the plate, they would close around the blade so I could lift them out and pry them open in one motion. I had never seen such active clams.

This dish always makes me think of the heady ocean-infused perfume that rises when cockles or clams and parsley are mixed together. Salty and clean is the only way to describe it. In the Basque Country, you don’t need to buy parsley for your fish. Because fish is never eaten without parsley and is rarely eaten with anything more than that, parsley comes courtesy of the fishmonger. When we finished shopping, Eulalia and I would take the elevator back to the street, return home, place a sprig of parsley in Eulalia’s figurine of San Pancracio (Saint Pancras) for luck, work, and money, and then get cooking. | serves 4

  • 2 pounds cockles or manila clams
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 dried red guindilla pepper, or small pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs plus ¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped, for finishing
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup manzanilla sherry
  • About 2 cups mussel stock (page 161) or fish stock (page 28), or as needed
  • ½ Spanish onion, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup Bomba rice

In a large bowl, soak the cockles in cold water to cover for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat three times, until they cockles are free of sand. Set aside.

Heat a heavy 3-quart stockpot over medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the oil, or just enough to cover the bottom. Add the garlic and pepper and cook for about 30 seconds, until the garlic turns light gold. Add the parsley, cockles, white wine, and sherry and simmer for about 2 minutes to cook off the alcohol. Cover and steam, checking frequently to see if the cockles have opened (even a crack means a cockle is open). This should take from 1½ to 2 minutes from when the pan was covered. Using tongs, transfer the cockles as they open to a bowl. Discard any cockles that failed to open after 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and reserve.

Cover the cockles with a clean kitchen towel. Combine the strained cooking liquid with enough stock to total 2½ cups.

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the onion, and a pinch of salt. Sweat the onion for 8 to 10 minutes, until sweet and translucent. Add the rice, stir to coat, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the stock mixture, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat until the rice is barely percolating and cook, uncovered and without stirring, for about 13 minutes, until the rice is tender but firm. Remove from the heat and let rest, uncovered, for 2 minutes.

Fold the cockles and chopped parsley into the rice and transfer to a serving dish. Finish with a thread of oil and serve immediately.

Fish stock | caldo de pescado

Makes 4 to 5 quarts

This stock could be the textbook definition of the old proverb “waste not, want not.” You can toss in shellfish shells, fish bones, and fish heads (be sure to cut away the gills, as they can turn the stock bitter); whitefish bones, for the record, yield a particularly flavorful and clean-tasting result. I do not recommend using the bones of oily fish like mackerel. We do not add vegetables or wine here to keep the stock more neutral and flexible. You can add shrimp shells, but keep in mind that they are stronger flavored and not as versatile as fish-bone stocks.

When you make this stock, be careful never to let it boil hard. Think of the cooking process as steeping tea. The finished product has many uses, from a base for fish soups to the cooking liquid for the white rice served with Squid in Its Ink (page 171).

  • 2 to 5 pounds fish bones and heads and/or shellfish shells
  • 10 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 4 to 6 quarts water

In a large stockpot, combine the fish and shellfish remnants with cold salted water to cover and let soak for 5 minutes to remove any excess blood. (If using only shellfish shells, you can skip this step.) Drain the contents of the pot through a strainer and return the solids to the pot. Add the parsley sprigs and water to cover and bring to a bare simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. Turn off the heat and let the stock steep for 20 minutes.

Scoop out the large solids with a slotted spoon and discard. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a container, being careful not to allow any of the solids that have settled at the bottom of the pot to pass through the strainer. Let cool, then use immediately or transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Basque cake | gâteau basque

Basque Cake from the The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of TxikitoPenny De Los Santos

Pastel vasco, euskal pastela, and gâteau basque are all names for this magical, custard-filled cake, which is so beloved throughout the Basque Country that entire bakeries are dedicated to its production. Until recently, I think the cake was better known than the region. It’s a common attraction at festivals, where it’s often sold filled with homemade cherry jam. Not a cake in the traditional sense, its magic lies in the buttery, shortbread-like crust that encloses its pastry cream filling. This dough is easiest to work with when it is cold, firm, and pliable and impossible to work with effectively otherwise. This recipe takes time and patience, but it is well worth it if you carefully follow each step. It calls for a 9-inch springform pan, but I recommend that you purchase a 9-inch round silicone mold at least 1½ inches deep, as it will make all the difference during the cooking and freezing steps. | makes one 9-inch cake


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • pastry cream
  • 2¼ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Zest of 2 lemons, in wide strips
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup dried cherries, plumped in ¼ cup hot water and drained (optional)

To make the dough, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the eggs and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the butter, lemon zest, vanilla and almond extracts, and baking powder and beat just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, add the flour in 3 equal additions, mixing just until combined after each addition. Divide the batter evenly between 2 pastry bags fitted with a ¼-inch plain tip. Place the bags in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, until the batter is firm but still pliable.

To make the pastry cream, line a 13 by 18-inch baking sheet with plastic wrap and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the milk, ¼ cup of the sugar, the cinnamon stick, and the lemon zest and warm gently over medium-low heat until the milk is barely simmering. Remove from the heat and cover with plastic wrap. Let steep for about 1 hour, until cooled to room temperature. Pour the cooled milk through a fine-mesh strainer into a larger saucepan, place over medium-low heat, and bring to a bare simmer.

While the milk is heating, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then whisk in the remaining ¼ cup sugar, the cornstarch, and the salt. When the milk is hot, remove it from the heat. Whisk about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, then whisk in the remaining milk mixture about ½ cup at a time until all of it has been incorporated. Return the combined mixtures to the saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is thick and creamy. Using a rubber spatula, spread the pastry cream onto the plastic wrap–lined baking sheet. Lay a second sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool, then refrigerate for about 2 hours, until well chilled.

You can use a 9-inch springform pan or a 9-inch round silicone mold at least 1½ inches deep. If using the pan, butter it. If using the silicone mold, you can skip this step. (If using a silicone mold, make sure you keep the bottom of the mold as flat as possible.) Remove a pastry bag of batter from the refrigerator and pipe a thin layer of batter onto the bottom of the pan, starting from the center and working outward to make a snail-shell spiral. Be careful not to pipe too much of the batter; the thickness of the layer should not exceed ¼ inch. Return the piping bag to the refrigerator to allow the batter to firm up again. Using a small offset spatula, smooth out the batter on the bottom of the pan, making sure the thickness is uniform. Put the pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until the layer firms up.

Return the pan to the work surface and remove the same pastry bag from the refrigerator. You are now going to build up the sides of the cake by piping the batter against the sides of the mold and using the offset spatula to smooth it out. The sides can be thicker than the bottom, but make sure the sides are a uniform thickness (about ⅓ inch) throughout. Also, be sure to pipe the batter to the top edge of the pan. The easiest way to do that is to pipe the batter to the top of the pan and then level it out against the lip with the offset spatula.

By the time you reach the top, you should have used up all of the batter in the first piping bag. Return the pan to the freezer for about 1 hour, until the batter is frozen.

Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and lift off the top sheet of plastic wrap. Using a paring knife, cut out an 11-inch disk. Remove the pan from the freezer and dust the frozen batter layer on the bottom with the flour and sugar. Transfer the disk of chilled pastry cream to the pan and gently press it onto the bottom and halfway up the sides with your fingertips or the offset spatula. Scatter the cherries evenly across the pastry cream, pushing them in gently. Save any extra pastry cream for another use.

Remove the remaining bag of batter from the refrigerator and return the pan to the work surface. Pipe the batter evenly over the pastry cream and cherries and then smooth the surface with the spatula. Return the pan to the freezer for at least 3 hours or up to overnight, until the top layer is frozen.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the frozen pan on a baking sheet, place the baking sheet on the bottom of the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet, rotating it back to front, to the top oven rack and bake for about 40 minutes longer, until the top is a nice golden brown.

Remove from the oven and place the pan on a rack set over a baking sheet. Let cool for about 10 minutes. If using a springform pan, run a knife around the sides, release and lift off the pan sides, and slide the cake onto the rack. If using a silicone mold, tip the cake out of the mold onto the rack and turn upright. If when you unmold the cake, the bottom looks too pale or is not sufficiently crisp, do not despair: pop the cake back into the oven on the rack (upside down) and baking sheet and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottom is browned.

Let cool completely on the rack before flipping and cutting into wedges to serve.

To read an interview with Alexandra Raij, one of the authors of The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito, please click here.

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