We're Putting Spanish Ham on Our Burgers Until Further Notice
Javier Canteras' tapas-inspired hamburger with Kalimoxto aioli is Basque Country on a bun.
The drizzly, chill vibes of Portland may be 5,000 miles away from Basque country, but you'd never know it after a meal at Urdaneta, a popular tapas spot helmed by Javier Canteras. "My father is from Madrid; mother is Basque; I'm the half-and-half child of a thousand-year war," jokes Canteras. He emigrated from Bilbao, Spain to Oklahoma with his family at age 5 and grew up watching his parents cook without the piquillo peppers, cured chorizo, and good quality anchovies they were accustomed to. "We made our own little version of Spain at home using what we could find."
These days, Canteras is happy to have the ingredients of his homeland at his fingertips—and that American diners are clamoring for them. "The Basque culture has its own history of amazing dishes that are very different from the rest of Spain," Canteras says. "Within the past 5 years, people have become much more informed about the cuisine." Normally, the menu at Urdaneta beckons with small plates of grilled octopus with pistachio aioli and pickled fennel, or Basque-cider braised chorizo with caramelized onions, but their to-go menu begged for a different approach. "We're known for high-end tapas, a lot of sauce dots and swooshes and pea shoots," Canteras says. "But we had to ask ourselves, 'is this what people want right now?' Let's give them an awesome burger."
And so he did. Quality beef and potato bun aside, the real heroes of "The Urdaburger" are the smoky, melty pimentón cheese, crispy serrano jamon, and the piece de resistance, the marvelously mauve Kalimoxto aioli, flavored with red wine and cola, a nod the Basque classic that's his mom's favorite drink. "We've been doing Kalimoxto-braised items for a few years now; I thought it would a cool idea to turn it into an aioli and give it an almost barbecue sauce vibe." The resulting burger his all the right flavor notes: salty, crunchy, creamy, and just a little tangy-sweet. "It's a nod to all the flavors I really like, still making the burger represent Spain," Canteras says. "It's really important to me to no overdo it; everything that goes on a burger should have purpose."