Food is definitely one of the reasons I wanted to visit San Sebastian in Basque Country. There are more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else. In Basque Country, they love pintxos which are small plates similar to tapas. Pintxos get their name from the word “pincho” which means spike because they usually have a toothpick to hold them together and make them easier to grab. Russell and I planned to try as many pintxos as we could during our visit and thought it would be fun to also take a pintxos cooking class to learn more about the tradition.
You may remember, I took a cooking class when I went to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and I really enjoyed it. The class I took with San Sebastian Food really makes that one seem amateur. We were going to be cooking in a state of the art kitchen with two professionally trained chefs to teach us. Plus, we would get plenty of personal attention, since there were only five of us in the class. Oh and last but not least, there would be plenty of adult beverages.
We began in a classroom where we did introductions and got an overview of the menu. We would be making five different pintxos and then dessert. Then, we put on our aprons and then headed to the kitchen.
First, we got an overview of the ingredients, and then it was time to do the chopping. Since it was divided amongst the class, it wasn’t that much to cut up. I need to work on my knife skills but Russell, on the other hand, got complimented on his chopping skills. So going forward when Russell and I cook together, he is in charge of chopping.
Once the knives were put away, we were offered drinks. They had a great selection including Basque cider, txokoli (Basque white sparkling wine), beer, and other Spanish wines. We were also served different wines paired with the food we made. It was great preparation for our day in Rioja.
The first dish we made was Pintxo Indurain. This is a very traditional pintxo that you will see at most Pintxo bars. It is basically fish (in our case we used tuna) with olive and a guindilla pepper on a toothpick served with a guindilla pepper flavored mayonnaise sauce. The guindilla pepper is traditional in Basque country, but you could substitute another type of pickled pepper and I think it would work. The presentation of this dish also makes it special.
Next we made fried shrimp called Gamba Gabardina. I think the ingredient that made this dish special was the saffron, which we added to the batter.
The Tosta de Bacalao was my favorite dish from the class. It is cod served on a piece of bread with the fabulous Basque Pil Pil sauce. Learning how this sauce was made was fascinating! You cook the cod in a lot of olive oil and you move the pan so that the fish moves around. The gelatin that is between the skin and the meat of the fish releases into the olive oil and makes it creamy. The cod just melts in your mouth and the sauce is delicious.
I was really excited that we were making croquetas, one of my favorite foods, during our pintxos cooking class. We made Croqueta de Txangurro which are crab croquetas, but the recipe could be adapted to make other types of croquetas like mushroom, ham, or fish. I also assumed that croquetas had potatoes in them, but I learned that is not the case. The inside of the croqueta is actually made of butter, flour, and milk! The process is similar to when you are making a cheese sauce. Then once the sauce is ready it really needs to be chilled overnight before you fry it, but in the state of the art kitchen they had a machine that chilled it in a few hours.
Our last pintxos dish was Pimientos Rellenos De Carrillera, which are special small Basque red peppers stuffed with beef that is slow cooked. We started cooking the meat early in the class so after a few hours it was very tender and easy to shred.
By the time we got to dessert I was already pretty full. We made Intxaursalsa, which was like a walnut pudding. It was different than any other dessert I have tried and while it tasted fine, it wasn’t the most visually appealing.
The class was scheduled for four hours, but it ended up lasting almost six. Everyone was just having so much fun, including our instructors. It was so nice not to feel rushed. After the class, we visited their gourmet shop (also available online). They have a great selection of food and wine products that are priced very fairly. I bought a bottle of the Basque cider and some spices.
I should also mention how great our teachers were. Not only had they planned a fabulous menu, but they really wanted to make sure everyone was learning. They were very patient, answered all my questions, and were so much fun. If you would like to try doing some Basque Cooking at home, you can download San Sebastian Food’s free ebook. Have you taken a cooking class while traveling? I would love to hear about your experience.
Expert Tips for Your Pintxos Cooking Class:
- Come to the class hungry, you will have plenty of food!
- Check out their gourmet shop (also available online), they have a great selection and it’s reasonably priced.
- Don’t plan something right after the class, as it may go longer than scheduled.
- If you would like to try Basque Cooking at home, you can download San Sebastian Food’s free ebook.
I did receive a discount on the Essential Pintxos Cooking Class from San Sebastian Food in exchange for doing an instagram takeover, they did not request that I write a post. I decided to write a post because I really enjoyed my experience and wanted to share it with my readers. As always, opinions are my own.
The Weekly Postcard
We are happy to co-host the Weekly Postcard Linkup and invite everyone to join us and share their travel blog links here beginning at 12 p.m. (PST) / 7 p.m. (GMT) Friday. The instructions are below, but if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. You can also check out last week’s posts here. Happy Travels!