8 recipes for Spanish pinchos that make the perfect casual party

The Dallas Morning News


December 24, 2019

The new chef at Sketches of Spain in Oak Cliff shares tips for easy make-ahead bites.
Tina Danze

Remember when tapas first swept the country? Now Basque bites known as pinchos are trending, from Atlanta to Seattle. With Sketches of Spain opening soon in Oak Cliff, Dallas gets its first spot for eating these famous appetizers from Northern Spain. The make-ahead bites ? ranging from simple skewers to lavishly topped toasts ? are ideal for home entertaining, too.

If you’ve been to Basque cities like San Sebastian, you probably recall platters full of pinchos splendidly displayed at bars. If not, you may wonder what separates pinchos from tapas.

“For the most part, the difference between pinchos and what’s widely considered tapas, is that a tapa is meant to be shared, and a pincho is always an individual serving,” says Javier Garcia del Moral, co-owner of Sketches of Spain. “A lot of pinchos come on top of a slice of bread,” he adds. Even potato salad gets piled on bread slices, so there's no need for a fork.

The name pincho (pintxo, in the Basque language) is derived from the verb pinchar, which means to puncture or pierce. That’s because many pinchos are skewered, some eaten in one giant bite. Heftier skewers often lay on a bread slice. Tall cocktail picks or skewers also secure multiple toppings stacked on bread or toast, like an open-faced sandwich.

Many pinchos require no cooking, just assembly. One of the easiest to make is the wildly popular “Gilda,” named after Rita Hayworth’s hot and salty title character in the 1946 movie. It skewers bottled guindilla chile peppers (a mildly spicy Basque variety, pickled in wine vinegar) with anchovies and green olives.

Top quality ingredients are the key to this pincho. You can buy guindilla chile peppers online at tienda.com. The peppers are used to top off a wide variety of pinchos. Another easy pincho is the txaka ? a simple salad made of imitation crab (a California roll ingredient) mounded on toast.

Iñaki Beltran, Sketches of Spain’s chef who hails from San Sebastian, says that the Gilda and txaka are the most common pintxos served in Basque bars ? and homes.

“There isn’t a family gathering that doesn’t have these pinchos,” he says. Although you can certainly give the txaka an upgrade with real crab, he says it’s customary to use the imitation crab, which is made of white fish (typically Alaskan pollock) and often labeled “surimi,” its Japanese name.

Presentation is an important aspect of pinchos. “We eat them twice ? first with our eyes,” Beltran says. Finely chopped parsley, roasted red pepper strips, olives, and tapenade commonly dress up pinchos, he says. Heartier garnishes include boiled shrimp, hard-cooked egg and anchovies.

Read on for easy pincho recipes to make for your next party. Like the pinchos served in bars, they can either start a meal or make an entire meal, depending on how many varieties you serve.

For a meaty pincho, it’s hard to top Pinchos Moruños. The kebabs are usually made with pork marinated in a Moroccan-spiced paste. The length of the ingredient list ? mostly seasonings for the marinade ? belies this recipe’s ease of preparation: just marinate, skewer and briefly grill.

Pincho Gilda (olive, pepper and anchovy skewers)
8 good-quality oil-packed anchovies (such as Ortiz brand, or a bottled Italian brand)

16 bottled, pickled guindilla peppers (see note)

8 good-quality pitted manzanilla olives (stuffed with anchovies or pimento)

Thread an anchovy onto the top half of a short skewer, piercing the anchovy through the lower end of the fillet and letting the rest dangle, for now. Thread two peppers onto the skewer. Wrap the dangling anchovy end over the peppers, piercing the anchovy near the end to secure it. Add an olive to top off the skewer. Repeat with 7 more skewers and remaining ingredients. This pincho should be eaten all in one bite.

Makes 8 servings.

Note: You can buy the mildly spicy guindilla peppers online at tienda.com. There is no real substitute: Other pickled chile pepper varieties are too spicy and harsh.

Source: Iñaki Beltran, chef at Sketches of Spain

Pinchos Moruños (Moorish Kebabs)
2 tablespoons chopped onion

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika (sold in bulk at Central Market)

1/2 teaspoon smoked hot Spanish paprika (sold in bulk at Central Market; or substitute 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)

Coarse salt (kosher or sea), to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 bay leaf, crumbled

2 tablespoons best-quality white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dry white wine (optional)

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the skewered meat

1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder or tenderloin, leg of lamb, or boneless chicken thighs or breast meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

Place the onion, garlic, sweet and hot paprikas, 2 teaspoons of the salt, oregano, peppercorns, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaf, vinegar, wine (if using), and olive oil in a mini food processor and process to a paste.

Place the pork (or preferred meat) in a bowl and rub a little salt on it. Scrape the marinade into the bowl with the meat and toss to combine thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the pork for 4 to 6 hours, tossing a few times. Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling.

Soak 16 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Light the grill and preheat it to medium-high, or preheat a large ridged grill pan to medium-high over medium heat.

When ready to cook, thread the meat onto the skewers and brush it with a little olive oil. Cook the meat, brushing with more oil and turning once, until it is just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. (If you are cooking lamb, don’t cook it quite so long.) Serve at once.

Makes 16 appetizer servings.

Source: The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen ($22.95, Workman)

Pincho Matrimonio de Anchoa y Boqueron (pincho of oil-cured anchovies and marinated white anchovies)
10 bread slices, cut diagonally from a good quality, crusty baguette (chef prefers Empire Baking Company)

1 roasted, peeled and seeded red pepper, finely diced (may use bottled) to yield about 1/3 cup

1 roasted, peeled green pepper (Jimmy’s sells a bottled variety), finely diced to yield about 1/3 cup

10 good-quality jarred anchovy fillets in oil (such as Ortiz brand, or an Italian brand)

10 marinated white anchovy fillets (sold at the deli counters of Central Market and Jimmy’s Food Store)

Arrange bread slices on a platter. Top half of each slice with about 1/2 tablespoon diced red peppers, and the other half with about 1/2 tablespoon green peppers. Arrange one oil-packed anchovy and one white anchovy fillet on top of each bread slice.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Iñaki Beltran, chef at Sketches of Spain

Five Easy Pinchos
Txaka (crab salad) on bread or toast
In a mixing bowl, flake 12 ounces of imitation crab/surimi using forks. Add 2/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (such as Duke’s or Hellman’s brand). If desired, add 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion. Stir to combine (may be prepared to this point ahead of time and refrigerated). Mound the salad on 10 to 12 slices of baguette, cut on the diagonal (if not serving right away, use toasted baguette slices or crostini). Garnish with minced parsley, roasted red pepper strips, or halved kalamata olives.

Source: Iñaki Beltran, chef at Sketches of Spain

Cheese and Chorizo Pincho
Cover a small baguette slice with fig jam or a slice of membrillo (quince paste, sold at Central Market or Fiesta Mart). Top with a slice of Manchego cheese and slices of Spanish chorizo. Use a skewer or cocktail pick to hold the pincho together.

Jamon Serrano (cured Spanish ham) with Roasted Peppers, Egg and Shrimp
Cut roasted and peeled red or green peppers into strips (jarred peppers are fine; red ones are widely available, green ones are sold at Jimmy’s Food Store). Top 8 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal, with pepper strips. For each pincho, fold a thinly sliced Serrano ham piece loosely ? like a ribbon ? into thirds, and place over the pepper layer (if the ham slices are too big or thick, cut them in half and just fold them over once). Follow with a slice of hard-cooked egg and a poached or boiled shrimp. Finish with a dollop of mayonnaise (mixed with a little minced herbs, if desired). Secure each tower with a skewer. You can skip the egg, shrimp and mayo, and still have a delicious pincho.

Chorizo and Pickled Onion Pincho
Skewer a 3/4-inch slice of Spanish chorizo sausage (sold at Central Market) with a rinsed pickled onion and square of fresh red bell pepper.

Texas Pickled Okra Pincho
For a Texas take on the Gilda, thread a stuffed green olive, a pickled okra spear, and an oil-packed anchovy fillet onto a skewer.

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