We recently celebrated our 11th Txoko (Basque gastronomic society) For the uninitiated, a Txoko is a culinary-based gathering of men who collectively prepare an enormous meal and drink copious amounts of wine, beer and liquor.

We’re the only Txoko in the state of Texas. As with any good society, there are rules that must be followed: no women, no politics and no religion. We model our Txoko off the ancient social groups of Basque country and these rules must not be breeched.

Our most recent gathering saw a modest 7 courses trotted out of the kitchen. We’ve been known to go upwards of 15 but forbearance was the order of this day. At least we did manage to consume 18 bottles of wine amid the cocktails and beer drinking.

Below is the menu along with the wine pairings and intermezzo. All the men in the group pride themselves on being superb home cooks. We often ponder as to whether any group of people dine as well as we do during our quarterly gatherings.

I’m still haunted by that spit roasted chicken of all things. Sometimes the simplest dish of the entire evening wins out. Kila Cava 2009

Cheese & Cranberry Salsa Baked Goods

Segura Viudas Brut Rsv Rose

Arca Nova Vinho Verde 2011

Raats Orig Chenin Stellenbosch 08

Roasted marrow bones, chicken liver mousse, deconstructed gremolata and crostinis

T. Sant’ Antonio Scaia Rossa Corvina 2010

La Bella Vita Frappato 09

Frisee Salad with Julienne of Bacon and Poached Egg

Ch d’Oupia VDP Rouge Les Heretiques 2011

Beso de Vino 2010

Soup. – Smoked chicken and hot guts Gumbo

Lamargue Syrah Les Gr Cab 08

Prensa Real Red NV

Spanish mushrooms with garlic and parsley sauce.

Vina Borgia 09 ?, Tochuelo Red 09

Raywood Vineyards Merlot NV

Spit roasted chicken(s) with (subcutaneous) herb butter

Verdillac Rouge 2010

Wrongo Dongo 09

Montmartre Brut NV

Dessert: Spiced pumpkin cheesecake with brown sugar and bourbon creme

Uma Coleccion Torrontes 11

Chiarli 100yr Amabile NV

TRUE Prosecco di V. Pink NV

The power of the Txoko is not to be understated. I left a birthday party where 40 bottles of champagne sat on ice so that I could attend our most recent Basque gathering.

We recently celebrated a milestone: the tenth gathering of our Basque Gastronomic Society, known as a txoko {choco}. Our guild was formed in September of 2010 in a backyard in North Austin, about as far away from the Basque Autonomous Community in Spain as you can get, yet we still strive for authenticity. The rules are simple. Women are not allowed to attend a txoko, and talk of politics and/or religion are taboo. These are the bylaws of any respectable, old-country Txoko and we follow these constructs with absolute rigidity.

Our group is small at 7 members, but each of the men labors greatly and strives to be the man of the match {winner of “best dish”} Here is the menu from our recent gathering along with the wine pairings:

We started things off with a cold beverage at arrival:

*Gueze – Lindeman’s Cuvee Renee

then moved onto one of the best, most garlicky soups I’ve ever eaten

*Baratxuri Salda – Garlic and Egg soup

*Ameztoi Txakolina 2010

followed by a dish that was like a bastard son of yom nua and the best French country tartare imaginable

*Pate Chaud + Thai Beef Tartare

*L’Opale de la Prequ’Ile de St. Tropez 2011

it wouldn’t be a Txoko without expertly grilled hunks of red meat

*Lamb and Fig Kabobs with Honey and Rosemary, Fluer de Sel

*Terredora Aglianico D’Irpinia 2010

I picked up some incredible goat sausage in Brady, Texas and passed it along to Txoko brother Tony who made

*Moroccan Stuffed Artichoke Hearts and Basil Leaf “Dolmas” with Poached
Garlic and Goat Sausage

*1er Prem President 08 Cab-Grenache

we always have at least one healthy component on the menu

*Baby Kale, Arugula, and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Shredded Rotisserie
Chicken and Asian Vinaigrette

*Heinz Eifel Shine Riesling 2010

I wanted to relive my days as a baker, one of the happiest eras of my life, by baking a cake

*Honey Crisp Apple Cake with Toasted Pecans and Piloncillo Glaze

*Tru Vanilla Vodka Drink # 1 – Cinnamon Caramel Apple

then we had dessert number 2, mind numbingly delicious

*Bananas Foster Chimichangas with Caramel Pecan Turtle Ice Cream

*Tru Vanilla Vodka Drink # 2 – Waikiki Hooker

That Waikiki Hooker just wiped me clean.

Each of the ten Txokos has had its own identity. There have been wild, free-for-all Txokos, where we blasted music and drank high-dollar wines straight out of the bottle, but this one was peaceful. As fate had it, it was the first cool night of the Summer and we all lounged on a gorgeous back patio with a big grill fire raging in preparation of firing the lamb. Two of the members were preparing to head to Basque country and another gentleman was preparing to go to Italy so travel dominated the conversation.

It’s my dream to one day visit Victor Arguinonziz and his restaurant in Axpe, the heart of Basque country, but til that day comes, and it will, I’ll be content to celebrate the old country foodway of Txoko, a Basque tradition that lives and breathes in Austin.

previous Txoko stories http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Txoko-A-Basque-Tradition

Our Txoko continues to grow and mature. Well, except for one dedicated member who went face down on the sofa after a Herculean intake of wine and beer.

More’s the pity. After 4 straight nights of burning the candle at both ends it was bound to happen. Complete dissolution has not arrived just yet but it is peeking at me over the horizon. As our dedicated readers know, a Txoko is a Basque tradition wherein men of all walks of life gather together to cook, drink and socialize at a common gathering place. In Basque-land this would be a clubhouse that is strictly devoted to the Txoko. In Austin, Texas, where we have formed the only Basque gastronomic society in the state, it’s at one of our two Basque member’s homes.

The centerpiece of Txoko number 7 was a twenty four month old country ham sourced from one of the premiere artisan pork outfits in the USA; Benton’s out of Madisonville, Tennessee. Chefs in the know around our country utilize Alan Benton’s bacon, ham and prosciutto when they want to take their menu to the upper planes of dining. There may be others as good but there are none better.

I picked up a fourteen month old, fifteen pound ham back in January and ruminated for the last ten months on who I would share it with. Then a Txoko was proposed by our society leader and it became a no-brainer. There are no more ardent lovers of food in Austin than our group and I knew this ham would be most appreciated.

But we did not just dine on ham at this gathering. Here’s our menu along with wine pairing for the winos amongst us.

Arrival, as in where the heavy drinking commences:
Isastegi Sagardo Cider 2010, Liefmans Goudenband

Then it’s time to start eating:

*Figs with Goat Cheese & Preservation Bacon Appetizers: Perdrier Brut Excellence Blanc des Blancs NV, Cresta Rosa Premium Sparkling Rose.

*Deviled Eggs Appetizers: Verdillac Blanc Bordeaux 2010, Uma Chardonnay 09

*Scratch biscuits: Emerald Bay White Zinfandel 08, Strong Arms Shiraz 08

*Ratatouille with Garrotxa Crust: Toro Loco Tempranillo 09, Radio Boca Tempranillo 09

*Corn Pudding: Benaza Godello 08, La Playa Merlot Colchagua 09.

*Country Ham, with Life Breathed Into It: Café Juno Chenin Blanc 09, Cozi Chianti 09, La Bella Vita Frappato 09.

*Chess Pie for Dessert: A sugar bomb to revivify all concerned, Phillips Eckstein Mosel Kabinett Riesling Graacher Himmelreich 08 and Uma Chardonnay 09

*Departure: Marking the end of an epic food party with: Unibroue Ephemere Cassis and Alexandro Sherry Pedro Ximenez.

What’s a food gathering without coffee? We got that covered too:

*Two cup Hario ceramic drip brewer

*Hybrid drip-infusion brewer

*Yama syphon

Coffees

1. Guatemala Finca Bourbon: Single Estate, Organic, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Certified

Varietals: 100% Bourbon

Elevation: 1500m-2400m

Washed and Sun Dried

Roast: Full City

2. Panama la Florentina: Single Estate

Varietals: Bourbon, Criollo, San Ramon, Caturra

Elevation: 1520m

Washed and Sun-Dried

Roast: Full City

As you may have gathered we take our Txoko very seriously. Each man ponders at great length what dish he will construct paying utmost attention to even the most insignificant of details. It’s important.

We’ve thrown 7 of these parties in 13 months but now we’re slowing down. We’ll only be doing 4 per year to maintain the status of the Txoko as a once in a blue moon affair where all culinary stops are pulled out.

Are you participating in a Txoko?

Are you Basque?

Please share details if so, we’d love to hear from you.

previous coverage http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Txoko-A-Basque-Tradition

Our Basque gastronomic society had Txoko number six last night. We’ve established a titanium-strength core of seven dedicated eaters/cooks who take this project very seriously.

For the uninitiated, a Txoko is a Basque gathering of men from all walks of life who congregate in a home or clubhouse [in Spain] with big bags of groceries and bottles of wine. We then commence to cooking and drinking for several hours til a point of complete satiation is reached.

I realized it was a successful Txoko when the host prodded me from a drunken slumber on his front porch where I was sprawled out like a sack of potatoes with an empty bottle of wine in one hand and a Juggs magazine in the other. I was using a cement planter as a pillow.

Our Txoko only has two rules. Neither may be breached. No women are allowed at the Txoko. This is a rule carried over from the Old Country [Basque-land]. At first we were trepidatious of this curious law.

Then we grew to love it. We all have a deep love of our women folk-they just better not intrude on our Txoko.

Second rule is that no politics may be discussed at Txoko. This keeps everybody focused without the party dissolving into the absurdities of our modern times.

The food last night started out in an onslaught where we banged out four courses in the first hour. We must have been starving as we normally take it a little bit slower.

Of course the wine flows like water as we utilize Austin’s finest wine retailer: East End Wines to great effect. To the tune of twelve bottles [down from the 18 at last Txoko]. My personal favorite was a Louis Perdrier brut rose’. It was knock your socks off good.

But we also fortified ourselves with glasses of sherry, vodka, Carpano Antica and Deschutes ales as well.

Now that Austin finally has world class cheeses available in a store front we always start things off with a few hunks of fromage from Antonelli’s in Hyde Park. After the cheeses, we flow like rivers til it’s time to stand like mountains at the stove as we each take our turns feeding the group.

Informally, we’re all trying to have “dish of the night”. Everyone has their own opinion of what constitutes their favorite but for me the Korean/Vietnamese Deep Fried Chicken with funky homemade caramel/sambal dipping sauce was mind bogglingly good.

This was the Hanoi part of the subject header. The Tuscaloosa part came in the form of a meat and three minus the meat. Sweet corn, simmered collards and fried okra. This is the sort of food served on a nightly basis in the farm house I grew up in in Kentucky.

One of our Txoko members came close to being led out of the gathering in handcuffs as he brazenly fried totopos in hot fat on the stove top. I told him of the Austin city ordinance forbidding such activities and he hollered something about how the man could come take it if they dared.

At some point the wine and food come together to create a haze of pure pleasure: daikon, cucumber, arugula, beef shanks, cantaloupe, aged ham, Spanish tortilla, Vietnamese iced coffee pops….they all come in a languorous rush of deliciousness unparalleled in the great state of Texas.

As far as we know we are the only Txoko in these parts but would love to hear from others if they exist.

All Txoko coverage here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Txoko-A-Basque-Tradition

Our Basque gastronomic society had Txoko number five last night. The core group of seven dedicated eaters combined to put out a 12 course bacchanalia of food and wine with a Mediterranean slant.

Which gave me the perfect excuse to dust off my Turkish cooking skills as Turkey is the dominant culinary player in the Mediterranean region.

As East End wines is the dominant player for under the radar, sleeper wines in Austin we always utilize them as our provider. To the tune of 15 or so bottles. The construction of a Turkish Pinto soup means restraint must be exercised as the typical version you get in Istanbul is a model of simplicity. Stock, not pork, I chastened myself, two pounds of pintos, a couple pounds of tomatoes and a pound of sucuk, the intensely delicious Turkish sausage. Simmered for seven or eight hours on the stove top this dish came out fine.

Since the menu was meat heavy I also composed a Turkish salad of lettuce, tomatoes, olives, artichokes, onions, pistachios and a Feta Pomegranate vinaigrette.

Reflecting back on the night’s affairs the star of the show was a Serrano Ham Croquette from Txoko brother Brian. While each dish had serious merits this is the one that I could not keep my hands off of. Just phenomenal.

If any of my Txoko brethren stumble upon this site I’d love for you to narrate your contribution in comments below.

And for anyone interested here are the links to my contributions at previous Txokos.

http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2010/9/17/Austin-Daily-Photo-Txoko-Friday-September-17th-2010 This was our first Txoko. My contribution was Hoppin John and Rice

http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2010/9/27/The-Endless-Pleasures-of-the-Txoko A mention of Txoko number two. My contribution was Poblano stuffed with alligator fried rice and pork cracklins

http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2010/11/21/Austin-Daily-Photo-Txoko-3-Sunday-November-21st-2010 Txoko number three. I knocked out a Vietnamese Chicken Fried Meat loaf banh mi.

http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/2/28/Austin-Daily-Photo-Cassoulet-at-Txoko–4–Monday-February-28th-2011 Txoko number four. This is when our Txoko grew up. We tackled the cuisine of the Basque people. Since two members of our group are Basque I had to climb the mountain top. My efforts resulted in the Basque stew Porrusalda:

http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/2/27/The-Cuisine-of-the-Basque-People-Part-1-Porrusalda Not the first time I’d ever tackled Basque cuisine as many years ago I was attempting to curry the favor of a Basque stripper named Pandora which resulted in me learning the building blocks of Basque cuisine. I thought this stew came out quite good.

Pictured above is Txoko brother Tony’s grilled lamb sliders. I think this was course number 10. At this point we’d consumed a good 13-14 bottles of wine so the haze was getting pretty thick.

Are any readers participating in a Txoko of their own? I’d love to hear from y’all.

Our Basque food society has a serious scholar in our midst. When Txoko brother Tony takes a break from being deep in the stacks at the University of Texas he likes to spend a few days conceptualizing and creating traditional Basque food like cassoulet pictured here.

I’ll try to entice him into speaking about his dish in the comments below.

Needless to say a few quarts of pork stock and a good quantity of pork belly figured heavily in his production.

While most folks think of cassoulet as being a one dish meal, at Txoko #4 it was merely one of an 8 course Basque food orgy.

all Txoko coverage here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Txoko-A-Basque-Tradition

https://twitter.com/#!/RLReevesJr

Our Txoko is growing up. We have a good solid core of committed gastronomiques who take the tradition very seriously.

When we decided to give our most recent Txoko a culinary theme it was pretty easy to choose the foods of the Basque people as the focus.

The Basque invented the Txoko and two of the founding members of our Austin group are indeed Basque.

It was clearly time to do some serious research. I spent a week in the Pyranees reading about Basque food ways including some very informative Basque shepherd blogs and other Basque cooking sites

One dish that kept recurring in my studies is called Porrusalda, a stew of sorts featuring lots of potatoes, onions, garlic and either sausage or salt cod.

There are two different camps on the latter option with some Basque claiming that without the cod, it just isn’t Porrusalda while the opposing group maintains that the stew must feature sausage or it simply is not authentic.

As one often does, I had to choose a camp and with a freezer full of high quality Louisiana sausage the choice was an easy one.

In a traditional Basque home a vast kettle of this dish is cooked on Sunday to provide sustenance through the week.

Porrusalda has a thousand fathers, each claiming primacy, the following is the version I prepared for Txoko Four, our Basque gastronomic society meeting on Saturday February 26th 2011

Ingredients

1 c. Oil, Olive,not virgin

12 each Onions, Green, Giant, white part, minced

3 lb Sausage, sliced, Best Stop [from Scott,Louisiana] pure pork works incredibly well

5 lb potatoes, red, peeled, cubed

2 T. Thyme, fresh

1 T. Pepper, white, ground

1 T. Salt

1 each Garlic, bulb

1 each Shallot, bulb

1 c. Flour

4 qt. Stock, Chicken, Scratch

8 each bay leaves

1/4 c. Parsley

Bread for garnish

Method

* In large 8 qt. stockpot, pour in oil

* Heat to medium

* Add in green onions and sausage.

* Stir to brown lightly

* Add in potatoes and seasonings

* Cook 15 minutes

* Add flour.

* Toss together till flour is incorporated

* Cook 15 minutes

* Add in chicken stock.

* Stir till all ingredients are well combined.

* Place bay leaves in pot

* Simmer for 1 hour.

* Stir in parsley just before serving.

* Place in individual serving bowls

* Top each with toasted French bread chunks

This recipe yields a large kettle of some of the best Basque soul food you’re ever likely to encounter. It would make a fine one dish meal or a small bowl could be used as a course in a Txoko type setting

Bon Appetit Y’all

all Txoko coverage here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Txoko-A-Basque-Tradition

Read All About It Our Basque gastronomic society is evolving nicely. We’ve left the cuisine completely open ended so it can grow in an organic fashion.

Get too organized and the life that the Txoko has taken could be stifled.

I’ve been studying the foodways of the Basque people since I met a Basque stripper a few years ago at a local cabaret.

I was completely ignorant of the culture but took an interest in the cuisine that led me to the work of Juan Mari Arzak, the patron of San Sebastien and the owner of Arzak, the three starred Basque restaurant.

all Txoko coverage here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Txoko-A-Basque-Tradition

http://eater.com/archives/2010/12/07/juan-mari-arzak-and-elena-arzak-on-starting-the-new-basque-cuisine-revolution.php Interview with the icon