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The Basque Kitchen: Tempting Food from the Pyrenees Hardcover – April 21, 1999
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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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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."
Jokes aside, Parra and Arrambide are now the leaders because they have rejoined the overall Basque movement led by Juan Mari Arzak of Donostia (San Sebastián): a return to the Basque sources (and some important Spanish ones, like Jabugo ham and virgin olive oil) to start creating from them and not from Paris-inspired fashions, products and techniques.
I have the impression that Mr. Hirigoyen left the Basque Country before this movement took off on the French side of the border, before French Basque chefs became Basque again. His ignorance of southern (Spanish) Basque recipes and culinary traditions, which represent a large majority of the Basque cooking heritage, is rather amazing, as other reviewers have pointed out.
By the way, in case anyone's interested: I am a journalist, and occasionally a wine and food writer, based in Spain, but with extensive experience in France and the United States. So I think I know what I'm writing about in this case.