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The Basque Kitchen [Hardcover]

Gerald Hirigoyen
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 22 1999

"To know how to eat is to know enough."-- Old Basque Saying

Nestled among the Pyrenees, on both sides of the French-Spanish border, the Basque country is renowned as much for its fine culinary traditions as for its rugged terrain and the independent spirit of its people. Basque cooks are widely considered among the best in Europe, combining their love of fresh, simple ingredients with time-honored techniques. The joy of cooking and eating are central to Basque culture. In San Sebastián and throughout the region, men belong to cooking clubs, dedicated to the preservation of their outstanding cultural and culinary heritage. Outside the cooking societies, simple family meals turn into feasts of mammoth proportions, and everywhere conversation invariably turns to good food and the pursuit of it.

The Basque Kitchen,lusciously illustrated with photographs of the Basque region as well as its famous dishes, is the first major cookbook to explore Basque cooking on both sides of the border. Basque native Gerald Hirigoyen, named one of America s best chefs by Food & Wine magazine, celebrates the food and memories of his beloved homeland. He shares recipes for his favorite Basque specialties, from traditional renditions of Salt Cod "al Pil-Pil" and Pipérade to sumptuous soups, salads, meat, poultry, game, and of course, more seafood, all built on a bounty of fresh ingredients and carefully presented for the home cook. Hirigoyen's splendid interpretations have made his two San Francisco restaurants, Fringale and Pastis, critical favorites.

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Sometimes, when you are Basque, you speak English with a French accent. Sometimes, that accent will sound a little more Spanish than not, and yet you are still Basque. Such are the complications of one of the more peculiar pockets of humanity to be found. For the country occupied by the Basque people is in both France and Spain while remaining unique unto itself. The Basque language is like no other, and no one knows where it comes from. Even Basque DNA is different than the DNA of other Europeans. Food--the taking of meals--is central to the culture. In some places it's a little more French than Spanish; in other places in Basque country, just the opposite is likely to be true.

Chef and restaurant owner Gerald Hirigoyen invites the reader into The Basque Kitchen. In page after delicious-looking page, Hirigoyen presents what he most loves about the cuisine. And rather than suggest that what he so loves remain frozen in a museum of cuisine, he embraces the foods and cooking techniques he has encountered in Paris and California. His Seared Ahi Tuna Steaks with Onion Marmalade honors his uncle's tuna and onion casserole. But instead of covering a tuna steak with onions and olive oil in a casserole and cooking a long time, Hirigoyen prepares an onion marmalade, then pan sears thick ahi steaks until they are hot and rare, and serves it all on a bed of lentils. He's saying that you have to be Basque to get there, but now that we have all arrived, we're somewhere else, yet connected.

And what a marvelous connection. The vast majority of the foods to be encountered between the covers of The Basque Kitchen are simple in nature, yet complex in the flavors they deliver. Potato and chorizo tortilla, an omelet of onion, potato, chorizo, salt, pepper, and parsley, gains added radiance with a little piment d'Espelette, powdered small, dried red peppers with a distinct flavor. Steamed mussels are prepared with tomatoes, crusty bread cubes, white wine, parsley, and chives. It's a dish from St.-Jean-de-Luz, over which the author proposed to his wife.

Gerald Hirigoyen brings to life the foods of his youth and family, as well as foods he has created from experience and whimsy. Refusing to be confined by tradition, Hirigoyen takes inspiration from Basque tradition and demonstrates the timelessness of the Basque kitchen. The benefits for one and all are right there, page after page after page. --Schuyler Ingle


"To know how to eat is to know enough." -- Old Basque Saying

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
So Seared Ahi Tuna Steaks with Onion Marmalade and Lentils is Basque? Because there's tuna in it and the Basque dish, Marmitako, is also based on tuna (bluefin tuna, by the way)? No. Mr. Hirigoyen's dish, which can be perfectly OK, is the typical French/Californian concoction with maybe a touch of Asian in it. Again: very fine, but Mr. Hirigoyen should avoid using the misleading word, "Basque", in the title. The Basque Country is about 85% on the Spanish side of the border, south of the Pyrenees and the Bidasoa river. While the "Spanish Basque" chefs have remained adamantly Basque, and have indeed "Basquified" to a large extent all of modern Spanish cookery, the "French Basque" chefs have let themselves, for many decades, become thoroughly "Frenchified", learning in French culinary schools and following the edicts of classic French cuisine. This becomes apparent in Mr. Hirigoyen's constant use of butter, not to mention many of his techniques.
One of the top two chefs now working in Iparralde (i.e. the French part of the Basque Country), Christian Parra of L'Auberge de la Galupe in Urt (the other is Firmin Arrambide, of Les Pyrénées in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port), once told the French magazine Gault-Millau: "You know why the Spanish Basque chefs are better and more creative than we are? Because we all have a well-worn copy of Escoffier's cook next to our kitchen, and the Spanish Basques haven't even heard of Escoffier.
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I scanned Mr. Hirigoyen's book and did not buy it, even though I am always on the lookout for books on the cuisines of Spain and Spain's Basque Country. What put me off was the recipe for patatas a la riojana, which called for no chorizo and included butter and white pepper (as did many of the so-called Spanish Basque recipes). Patatas a la riojano just happens to be one of my favorite folk dishes in Spain. As the name implies, it comes from the great Spanish wine region, La Rioja, which also has a Basque section, La Rioja Alavesa. In my trips to La Rioja, probably 30 by now, I have had patatas a la riojana numerous times, never without chorizo. In fact, patatas a la riojana is also known by its more common name, patatas con chorizo. I have also helped make bacalao al pil-pil and I can assure you, there is nothing easy about the versions I have seen made, contrary to Mr. Hirigoyen's assertions. As a widely-published writer on the wines of Spain, I was shocked by Mr. Hirigoyen's lack of knowledge about the wines of the Spanish Basque Country. As to French Basque food, perhaps the book is much stronger, but I know little about the subject. Spain and France, Basque or not, are much different in their approach to food, IMHO
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, educational and yummy! June 29 1999
By A Customer
I've had "The Basque Kitchen" in my small kitchen for a few weeks now. While it (book) fits perfectly, the recipes and ingredients have become second nature to me and my family. I've had a chance to attempt a few meals and all have turned out excellent. I actually thought of never retuning to Fringale or Pastis, but my kitchen cannot compare to the service and ambience. And my wife would be a little upset not being able to taste her favorite Basque wine from Irouleguy. Having been in the Basque area a year ago, I found myself salivating over the beautiful pictures and well written stories. They have brought back the incredible memories of my trip. I just had to pull out my photo album from my trip. Pictures of Biarritz, Bayonne, St. Jean de Luz as well as the smell of the wonderfully fresh fish markets and coastal fishing villages have me calling for a return trip. Although I might skip the painful running with the bulls in Pamplona. Ouch! Enough said, I feel the book, stories, recipes, photos are excellent. A non-cooking friend of mine has been enthralled with the stories in the book and is looking forward to a trip to Pastis and Fringale. 5 STARS
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1.0 out of 5 stars A misleading view of Basque cuisine June 19 1999
By A Customer
A pretty book with some nice pictures, but it does little to portray veritable Basque cuisine. I am a Spaniard from Catalunya who loves good food and knows the kitchen. I was bothered by many things in this book -- his overuse of butter, for instance... Gazpacho is a dish from southern and central Spain, not the Basque country. Gazpacho does not need an "earthy" flavor as Mr. Hirigoyen suggests by adding red beets (What an aberration!). The dish "Hake San Sebastian" is unheard of anywhere in the Basque country, unless he means his own version of the traditional "Merluza en Salsa Verde". "Bacalao al Pil Pil" is one of the most ancient and sophisticated dishes of the Basque country (possibly of Europe)and is taken for granted without giving it due respect... In sum, quite a disappointing and misleading view of Basque food.
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By A Customer
The Basque Kitchen is a beautiful book. From cover to cover, photographs offer the reader vast exposure to the Basque country and its unique cuisine. A carefully crafted introduction orients the reader to the culture in which Hirigoyen developed his talents.
For years, San Franciscans have been fortunate to enjoy Hirigoyen's exceptional talents for at Fringale and Pastis. Now those who wish to can experiment with his recipes at home. I particularly like the manner in which recipes bring Basque customs to American tables by using ingredients most folks can easily gather in local markets.
We can all learn from Gerald Hirigoyen and his wife how to enjoy fine food (and good wine!), not only in their restaurants, but in our own homes.
This book has become my favorite gift for friends!
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautfiul Book, Unusual Recipes, Needs an Editor
This book is full of gorgeous pictures and inviting, unusual recipes. Most of the recipes are relatively simple, although some hard-to-find ingredients are used. Read more
Published on May 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposes Us to Unknown Place and Its Cuisine
Nestled between the two cusine powerhouses of France and Spain, the Basque are influenced by these two, yet retain and developed a food tangent of their own. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2001 by rodboomboom
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel companion
I took the book to France with me. It enriched my enjoyment of "Veal Stew With Peppers" in Espelette, and the mayor of that town (and owner of the restaurant where we... Read more
Published on June 13 2000 by FNU MNU LNU
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful
I'm a tough customer for cookbooks, but this one is a winner on many fronts for me. The recipes are exciting and different from the many other European regional cookbooks, the... Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2000 by M.A.
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointed basque from Oneonta
Hirigoyen should have based his book on the french basque recepies and left the spanish basque recepies to the ones who know better. Read more
Published on June 23 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Not too authentic
I have seen the book in a bookstore but i haven't bought it because i was very surprised to see that the Spanish Basque recipes are anything but authentic: "patatas a la... Read more
Published on June 21 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous
I had the pleasure of taking a cooking class from Gerald, so I go to pre taste some of the recipes. Tried the lamb stew with nuts and my guests raved!
Published on May 26 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Every page seduces...
As avid cooks, we've learned along the way that the best combination is taste AND simplicity. Only three recipes in (rabbit, shrimp and mussels) and we're ready to try them all. Read more
Published on May 3 1999 by bushbaby@asan.com
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