It’s an idyllic Saturday night and you’re inspired to gather friends and family for an impromptu party. Sharing laughs over good food and drink is always enjoyable. Long prep time and toiling in the kitchen is not. If the notion of too much time laboring over food preparation is preventing you from putting out word that the party is at your place, fear not. The ever present obstacles of time and labor can be overcome with pintxos.
Pintxos (peen-tchos) are the small plates you’ll find lining the bars throughout the Parte Vieja (Old Town) in Donostia-San Sebastian, the renowned culinary city in northern Spain. In Basque Country the term includes all tapas, while elsewhere in Spain pintxo more specifically means a tapa that is skewered on a toothpick. Montaditos, just to add a bit more confusion, are served atop a small slice of bread instead of skewered; think miniature, open-faced sandwiches.
Conservas, foods preserved in tins or jars, are the ingredients that make up many of these small plates and an age-old tradition in Spain. Using only top-quality ingredients, Spaniards have created delicacies unlike anything Americans have come to expect from typical canned foods found on grocery store shelves. Spanish canned seafood in particular is becoming more well-known for its exemplary quality, thanks to the likes of Anthony Bourdain and other chefs who have an affinity for Bonito del Norte tuna, Cantabrian anchovies, or octopus in olive oil. Other specialties like white asparagus, guindilla peppers, and piquillos are appearing on more menus across America as the notion of serving conservas, even straight from the tin, is becoming more popular.
Beyond the delectable quality of the ingredients, the appeal of conservas, to professional and home chefs alike, is the gourmet dishes that can be made with minimal preparation. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to serve your guests authentic Spanish small-bites of the highest order. You don’t need to venture across the Atlantic to wander the cobbled streets of San Sebastian to enjoy the good food and conviviality that comes along with it (though such a trip is highly recommended). All you do need are a few jars and tins of conservas, some fresh bread, a few staples, and some friends.
Below are seven pintxos that together can be prepared in less than half an hour. With these simple delicacies you can make the most of any party and enjoy the flavors of Basque Country from the comforts of home.
The Gilda is the classic pintxo of San Sebastian, named for Rita Hayworth’s character in the eponymous film. Simply a Cantabrian anchovy fillet, guindilla pepper, and manzanilla olive skewered on a toothpick.
Mussels in escabeche piled atop fresh ricotta cheese on slices of bread.
Octopus in olive oil, marinated grilled artichokes, and piment d’Espelette.
Sardines in olive oil, roasted cherry tomato, chives, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bonito del Norte tuna, piquillo pepper, mayonnaise or aioli, and an olive.
Cantabrian anchovy, manchego cheese, and apricot jam.
White asparagus, piquillo pepper, goat cheese, and mayonnaise or aioli.