I haven’t been cooking much lately for a variety of reasons (multiple holes, suggestions that the NCEP is actually a fun and tasty thing to do, etc etc), but I recently set up to do a tapas service to get back in the swing of things (the full set is on Instagram if you’re curious). Tapas are one of my favorite ways of eating, because tapas has often involved charcutería (for which my love is borderline fetishist), and because it’s a great way to have a whole lot of different small items that also happens to pair best with jerez. [aside: I also love jerez, especially olorosos and PX dulces. Most people I know don’t.]
On the cooking front, tapas is a good fit because while there is some prep, and some (optional) cooking, at the end of the day, it can be just straight-out assembly onto a plate, onto a toothpick, or onto a piece of bread. It’s a good fit right now.
These made it into the tapas offerings, primarily because they recently became available at Les Délices du Marché at the Atwater Market:
They’re Cantabrian, so Atlantic fish. If you’re interested in trying them, bring money, because while these are significantly more affordable than those sold by La Tienda, it still works out to about CAD$ 1.00 per fillet. Trans-Atlantic transport and a weak Canadian dollar versus the Euro will do that for you, though in theory CETA should eventually decrease prices.
Boquerones (plural) are salt-and-vinegar-cured white anchovies, which are distinct from the standard brown anchovies (anchoas) most people flick off Caesar salads and pizzas while going “eww! eww!”. You can’t say anything; you can only do the eye roll. Actually, I really shouldn’t say anchoas as we can’t get Spanish anchoas in the Big Croissant; there are only Italian ones, and only one brand is any good.
In theory I could make boquerones myself, but in the real world, that’s quite difficult because of the general lack of fresh anchovies at any of the local fishmongers. They’re available on occasion, but not consistently, so I just never bother. The local availability of these packaged boquerones does however, provide options outside of anchoas, but boquerones and anchoas primarily bring one thing to mind: la Gilda.
I love Gildas. I mean, I like Rita Hayworth and all, but I really love Gildas. They’re curvaceous, a little spicy, and a little salty. Like Rita Hayworth, except they’re donostiarra pintxos and you eat them.
The Gilda is a pretty simple pintxo, comprising an anchovy, an olive and a guindilla pepper. Simple however, means that one needs really good anchovies, olives and guindilla peppers, because with only three ingredients, there’s nowhere to hide if anything is just “meh”.
I have made la Gilda in the past, and if the post tag is to be believed, “past” = almost six years ago. That would be in part due to lack of opportunity, and in part due to the other supply difficulty – obtaining the requisite pickled guindilla peppers (the curvy spicy part of the Gilda). Good Spanish ingredients aren’t really falling off the truck here.
So, here is a current ración of Gilda. Less post-processing than on the photo so the peppers and olive aren’t as fluo green, but an anchovy, an olive and a guindilla pepper on a toothpick. Curvaceous, a little spicy, and a little salty.
And here is La Gilda with boquerones as opposed to anchoas. Somewhat different looking (obviously) and they need longer toothpicks.
Also curvaceous, a little spicy, and a little salty, though a different kind of salty. There’s more meatiness to the pintxo because the fish proportion with the boquerón is probably quadruple the size of the anchoas. In terms of a straight-out taste comparison, I like the version with the boquerones better, though I’m kind of wondering whether it’s due more to the fish content playing on my constant protein craving than anything else: the anchoas version of the Gilda is almost vegetarian when compared to the boquerones version. In the future I’d probably make a third Gilda variant with both boquerones and anchoas on a longer skewer to be able to thread on two olives and extra guindilla peppers.
I eventually ran out of guindilla peppers (ugh!), so I wound up making this montadito as an after-the-fact snack: pimientos del piquillo y bonquerón. That’s an arbequina olive.
And one final note to self: not everyone is enamored of anchovies, but montaditos of atún encebollado are the popular ones at the dance.