New York City restaurant Txikito, run by chefs Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero, is an ode to the phenomenal food of Spain’s famed Basque region. Whip up a few of their specialties at home with the help of The Basque Book, and you’ll never throw a party without pintxos again!
Cucharillas are pintxos served in spoons, often of the Chinese soupspoon variety. If you’re lucky enough to have access to the incredible Taylor Bay scallops farmed on Cape Cod, I recommend using them and portioning three scallops per shell or spoon. Served nearly raw, the sweet scallops make a great match for salty jamón ibérico fat, and the sherry vinegar and the soy lend some acidity to cut through both. Although the use of soy may seem incongruous, Asian ingredients are popular among chefs in the Basque Country, who consider them “muy moderno.”
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 3 green onions, white and light green parts only, minced
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 12 scallop shells (ask your fishmonger) or ovenproof Chinese soupspoons
- 12 medium scallops, small outer muscle removed
- 24 very thin (1-inch square) slices jamón ibérico fat or Italian or Spanish lardo
- 1/2 cup microcilantro, or 1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
For the scallops
Preheat the broiler or oven to 500°F. In a bowl, combine the salt with enough water (about ¾ cup) to create the texture of wet compacted sand.
To make the vinaigrette, in a bowl, stir together the green onions, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, oil, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Depending on the acidity of your vinegar, you may want to add an additional pinch of sugar. If your soy sauce has made the vinaigrette too salty, stir in a little water, too.
Place 12 small mounds of wet salt (about 1½ teaspoons each) on a baking sheet and balance a scallop shell on top of each mound. (You may have to do this in batches.) Place a scallop in each shell and top with a slice of the jamón fat. Broil or bake until the scallops are warmed through and the fat is transparent, about 1 minute. Repeat as needed with the remaining scallops.
Remove from the broiler and top each scallop with about 1½ teaspoons of the vinaigrette and some microcilantro. If serving the scallops in shells, apply more wet salt to a platter and balance the shells on top. If serving in spoons, forgo the salt and set the spoons directly on the platter. Serve immediately.