Alec's lovely wife, Nina, wore a sexy red cami to taunt bullish Alec throughout the evening.
Now, for a recap of our amazing menu: The Basque Table, Spreckles Park, Coronado
Commencing with a selection of tapas, Chris impressed us with his last-minute discovery of Pata Negra Market, and adjoining Costa Brava restaurant, in Pacific Beach. They were extremely helpful in assisting him with a nice selection of Spanish cheeses and Revilla chorizo, Revilla Gold Iberian Ham to top his bruschetta, and a bottle of Muga 2004 Rioja Reserva.
Alec and Nina shared some red peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese from Venissimo Cheese Shop in Hillcrest. Those were also delectable!
As one of my tapas, I offered Seared Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Manchego Cheese, from Jose Andres' Made in Spain cookbook.
I seared the stuffed peppers table-side at the park so they would be nice and hot and oozing with cheese, and then drizzled the shallot, scallion, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and thyme dressing over the top.
My second tapa, Classic Potato Salad with Crunchy Trout Roe, is also from Made in Spain. Jose created a more modern interpretation, with homemade mayonnaise, potatoes, carrots, peas, hard-boiled eggs, Spanish oil-packed tuna, and trout roe. I substituted salmon roe.
Nina made this beautiful Basque Potato Pie
And Alec presented the Pommes Biarritz pictured below. In addition, Alec passed around Picon Punch, the National Drink of the Basques! The cocktail is made with Amer Picon, grenadine, soda water, lemon peel and brandy.
Kai wowed us with Oxtail Stew, Rabo de Toro, oxtails slowly braised with onion, celery, carrots, garlic, red wine, and herbs. What a presentation for our Basque picnic in the park!
Kai and Hillary sported new tattoos, in honor of their 11th wedding anniversary! They're off to Germany for three weeks to visit Kai's family. Max and Olivia can't wait to see their Oma and Opa. Oma and Opa may not be too happy to see the tattoos!
We had no shortage of food on this summer evening. Mark & Kerry lugged over their Basque Chicken a Clay Pot, flavored with onions, mushrooms and peppers.
Carmen made a zillion Basque Fishermans' Lunches, all wrapped in foil packages, composed of a nice piece of rustic bread, topped with shrimp and Tortilla Española.
Jack and Sandra made some little Ham and Brie Sandwiches with Apricot Preserves, and apologized because they weren't Basque. I recalled seeing something similar in my Made in Spain cookbook: Sandwich of Dried Pork Loin, manchego Cheese, and Quince Preserves. Without even realizing it, they just made an innovative version of that recipe!
Oh my, the food just kept coming. For dessert, John passed out another one of his fantastic ice cream creations, Strawberry Swirl, studded with balsamic marinated strawberries.
Our chocolate cravings were satisfied by Nina's Beret Basque, chocolate mousse drizzled with chocolate ganache. Max and Sonoma had several servings.
Alec and Nina encouraged me to attempt Gateau Basque, an exquisite tart from the Pays Basque region of France. I reviewed several different recipes and chose one from Pastry Studio because I liked the idea of using both pastry cream and cherry preserves. Here are a few other incredible-looking versions: Cannelle Vanille, Daniel Boulud, and Tartelette.
I experienced some pastry dough issues (the recipe made just barely enough dough for my tart pan, had to be rolled very thin to fit, and consequently stuck to my parchment paper in spots) and my preparation photos leave a bit to be desired. I followed Pastry Studio's recipe, but added a splash of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur to the French cherry preserves.
The layer of pastry cream is blobbed on next
And then a second piece of dough is placed over the pastry cream, sealed to the bottom piece of dough, scored in a decorative crosshatch pattern, and brushed with egg wash.
Some magic must have occurred in the oven, because it made a complete transformation and came out almost perfect!
Serves 8 to 10
From Pastry Studio
1/2 cup sugar
4 oz (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream)
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon rum
Preserved whole cherries and/or high quality cherry jam/preserves
Egg wash: 1 yolk and 1 tablespoon milk
For the pastry dough, place the sugar, butter, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and pulse until it is blended. Add the egg and egg yolk and pulse until mixed. Whisk together the flour and the baking powder and add to the processor and pulse until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Pat the dough into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
For the pastry cream, whisk the sugar with the egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Heat the milk just until it starts to show signs of coming to a boil. Gradually add 1/2 of the hot milk to the sugar-yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract or rum. Pour into a bowl and cool slightly. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until chilled and firm.
To assemble, remove the dough and let it sit for a few minutes to take the chill off. Butter a 9-by-1-inch flan or tart ring and set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Working between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or parchment and a bit of flour, roll out the larger piece of dough to about an 11” round. Ease the dough into the flan ring, pressing it into the bottom and leaving a slight overhang. Spread a layer of cherry preserves evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Layer the pastry cream over the preserves and spread carefully. Roll out the second piece of dough to a 10” round and lay it over the pastry cream. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together to seal the crusts and trim the overhang. Using a bench scraper, knife or the tines of a fork, score the top crust in a decorative crosshatch pattern. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Brush the Gâteau with an egg wash made by combining the egg yolk and 1 T milk. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let the tart cool completely on a wire rack.
I went a bit overboard this week, with two tapas and a dessert. With all the food, Spanish and French wines, and Alec's Picon Punch, we certainly didn't need any more...but I couldn't resist. Somehow, I knew Jim would become an instant fan of 43 Cuarenta Y Tres Liqueur, the leading premium liqueur of Spain. Several others became fans too.
Cheers! Thank you fellow chefs for yet another incredible culinary journey. We're creating Russian cuisine on Sunday. If anyone out there has some ideas for me, please share!