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Food is definitely one of the reasons I wanted to visit San Sebastian in Basque Country.  There are more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else.  

In Basque Country, they love pintxos which are small plates similar to tapas.  Pintxos get their name from the word “pincho” which means spike because they usually have a toothpick to hold them together and make them easier to grab.  

Russell and I planned to try as many pintxos as we could during our visit and thought it would be fun to also take a pintxos cooking class in San Sebastian to learn more about the tradition.  Let me tell you about our experience and how you can learn more about Basque cooking.

Anisa with her favorite pintxo, Tosta de Bacalao.

Anisa with her favorite pintxo, Tosta de Bacalao.

The San Sebastian Food Cooking School

You may remember, I took a cooking class when I went to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and I enjoyed it.  The class I took with San Sebastian Food (now called Mimo) makes that one seem amateur.  We were going to be cooking in a state of the art kitchen with two professionally trained chefs to teach us.  While it wasn’t a private cooking course, we would get plenty of personal attention, since there were only five of us in the class.  Oh and last but not least, there would be plenty of adult beverages.

We began in a classroom in the Basque cooking school with introductions and an overview of the menu.  We would be making five different pintxos and then dessert.  It would be like our own San Sebastian Pintxos Crawl! Time to put on our aprons and head to the kitchen.

Some of the ingredients we would be using during our Pintxos Cooking Class.

Some of the ingredients we would be using during our Pintxos Cooking Class.

Prepping the Ingredients

First, we got an overview of the ingredients, and then it was time to do the chopping.  Since it was divided amongst the class, it wasn’t that much to cut up.  I need to work on my knife skills but Russell, on the other hand, got complimented on his chopping skills.  So going forward when Russell and I cook together, he is in charge of chopping.

Russell demonstrating his knife skills at the Pintxos Cooking class

Russell demonstrating his knife skills

Drink Break

Once the knives were put away, we were offered drinks.  They had a great selection including Basque cider, txokoli (Basque white sparkling wine), beer, and other Spanish wines.  We were also served different wines paired with the food we made.  It was great preparation for our day in Rioja.

Russell taking a break and enjoying some wine during our Pintxos Cooking Class.

Russell taking a break and enjoying some wine during our Pintxos Cooking Class.

The first dish we made in our San Sebastian cooking class was Pintxo Indurain.  This is a very traditional Basque recipe that you will see at most Pintxo bars.  It is basically fish (in our case we used tuna) with olive and a guindilla pepper on a toothpick served with a flavored mayonnaise sauce.   The guindilla pepper is traditional in Basque country, but you could substitute another type of pickled pepper and I think it would work.  The presentation of this dish also makes it special.

Pintxo Indurain is a very traditional dish

Pintxo Indurain is a very traditional dish.

Gamba Gabardina

Next, we made fried shrimp called Gamba Gabardina.  I think the ingredient that made this dish special was the saffron, which we added to the batter.  The shrimp is deep-fried but I wonder if you could get a similar result with an air fryer.

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Gamba Gabardina - The Fried Shrimp we made in our Pintxos cooking class

Gamba Gabardina – Fried Shrimp

Tosta de Bacalao and Pil Pil Sauce

The Tosta de Bacalao was my favorite dish from the class.  It is cod served on a piece of bread with the fabulous Basque Pil Pil sauce.  Learning how this sauce was made was fascinating!   You cook the cod in a lot of olive oil and you move the pan so that the fish moves around.  The gelatin that is between the skin and the meat of the fish releases into the olive oil and makes it creamy. The Basque cod just melts in your mouth and the sauce is delicious.

Making Pil Pil Sauce during our Pintxos Cooking class

Making Pil Pil Sauce.

Making Croquetas

I was excited that we were making croquetas, one of my favorite foods, during our pintxos cooking class.  We made Croqueta de Txangurro which are crab croquetas, but the recipe could be adapted to make other types of croquetas like mushroom, ham, or fish.  I also assumed that croquetas had potatoes in them, but I learned that is not the case.  The inside of the croqueta is actually made of butter, flour, and milk!  The process is similar to when you are making a cheese sauce.  Then once the sauce is ready it needs to be chilled overnight before you fry it, but in the state-of-the-art kitchen, they had a machine that chilled it in a few hours.

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Posing for a picture while we are making croquetas during our pintxos cooking class

Posing for a picture while we are making croquetas

Croquetas with an origami rose that Russell made during Pintxos cooking class

Croquetas with an origami rose that Russell made

Pimientos Rellenos De Carrillera

Our last pintxos dish was Pimientos Rellenos De Carrillera, which are special small Basque red peppers stuffed with beef that is slow cooked.  We started cooking the meat early in the class so after a few hours it was very tender and easy to shred.  

Learning how to stuff peppers at our Pintxos cooking class

Learning how to stuff peppers

Dessert

By the time we got to dessert, I was already pretty full.  We made Intxaursalsa, which was like a walnut pudding.  It was different than any other dessert I have tried and while it tasted fine, it wasn’t the most visually appealing.      

The dessert we made in our Pintxos Cooking Class was sort of like a walnut pudding.

Our dessert was sort of like a walnut pudding.

Wrapping Up Our Cooking Course

The Basque cooking class was scheduled for four hours, but it ended up lasting almost six.  Everyone was just having so much fun, including our instructors.  It was so nice not to feel rushed.  After the class, we visited their gourmet shop (also available online).  They have a great selection of Basque food and wine products that are priced very fairly.  I bought a bottle of Basque cider and some spices.

I should also mention that our teachers at the San Sebastian culinary school were great.  Not only had they planned a fabulous menu, but they wanted to make sure everyone was learning.  They were very patient, answered all my questions, and were so much fun.  

I enjoyed my time at the San Sebastian cooking school.  We just had the best time and enjoyed all the Basque food we made.  Have you taken a cooking class while traveling? I would love to hear about your experience.

-Anisa

Expert Tips for Your San Sebastian Pintxos Cooking Class:

  • Come to the class hungry, you will have plenty of food!
  • Check out their gourmet shop (also available online), they have a great selection and it’s reasonably priced.
  • Don’t plan something right after the class, as it may go longer than scheduled.

Disclaimer:

I did receive a discount on the Essential Pintxos Cooking Class from San Sebastian Food in exchange for doing an instagram takeover, they did not request that I write a post.  I decided to write a post because I enjoyed my experience at the Basque cooking class in San Sebastian and wanted to share it with my readers.  As always, opinions are my own.