What’s better than a drink and a nibble especially when the nibble is a plate full of pintxos! I have been aware of pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) for some time, but I have only begun to obsess over them since I began going to one of my favorite restaurants, ‘Coqueta’. Servers waft by you with the most beautiful boards of pintxos making it nearly impossible to resist indulging in some. Pintxos, which means “thorn” or “spike” in Spanish, comes from the Basque region of northern Spain. When I finally got around to making some, I found that the best part of the process was coming up with the nearly endless number of delicious combinations.
For my first board, there was only one place to start, and that was with the classic ‘Pintxo Gilda’. The ‘Gilda’ is named for the character Rita Hayworth played in the film of the same name. Like the reigning sex symbol of the day this pintxo is a little bit salty, a little bit spicy and, if I dare say, a little bit sexy. I went on from there to create some more using classic Mediterranean flavors with an emphasis on Spain: garlic shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo), Chorizo, Serrano ham, manchego cheese, piquillo peppers, and artichokes. Not being satisfied to stay in Spain for too long, I found myself heading east and making a sharp right turn at the Alps where I struck Italy. Here I created a Caprese pintxo using tomato, marinated bocconcini, and basil on a crostini. After that, no flavor profile was safe. I made a ‘Roasted Baby Beets, Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Blood Orange Pintxo’ to round out my first ever pintxos board.
Pintxos naturally go hand in hand with tapas. As such they are often found on top of a toasted piece of bread. A piece of bread serves a dual purpose. Not only does it help sop up the delicious flavors running amok on the pintxo, but also helps prop it up in an attractive upright position. This architectural feel is what I love about these appealing appetizers. To advance this interest in epicurean engineering, I have borrowed a page from Michael Chiarello’s ‘Coqueta’. I have seen these ‘skewer holders’ or boards around, but never saw one that I liked. The ones I found were not very pretty, and they were a little overpriced (in my humble opinion). All that I needed was a board with holes in it to keep the pintxos in place. Easy enough? So I picked up a nice looking cutting board at a local import store for a song and proceeded to make my own. It was easy. I simply drew a grid on a piece of paper cut to the size of the board, taped it to the board, and drilled holes using a 1/16 inch bit. I used a piece of blue tape on the bit to keep the drill from going all the way through, and ‘voila’ I had a pintxos board!
I am not afraid to say that there are no recipes in this post. You don’t need any. All you need to do is look at the pictures and begin assembling. With a little imagination, I am sure you can create some fabulous pintxos of your own. Since I started working on this post, my mind has taken me all over the globe for ideas. My desk quickly became littered with ideas jotted down on little bits of paper from late night brainstorming sessions with my editor. I also setup a Pinterest board and started pinning ideas I had come across online. Some of the inspiration and recipes for the pintxos I made for this post you can find here. The most time-consuming part of this is gathering all the ingredients and preparing them. Fortunately, all this can be done ahead of time. The actual skewering is relatively quick especially if you are a fan of ‘mise en place’. In addition to getting all your peas and carrots in a row ahead of time, the only other advice I have is the same I always give: seek out the highest quality ingredients for the highest quality results. I made a list of resources that came in handy for this project below. Gozayu! (Enjoy)