A robust meal from the mountains of the Basque region


Gerald Hirigoyen has been in San Francisco for 18 years now, but it's the hearty Basque flavors he brought along from his native region that made him a 1994 F&W Best New Chef and that bring diners to his two restaurants, Pastis and Fringale. (He is currently at work on The Basque Table, to be published next spring by HarperCollins.) Set high in the Pyrenees, straddling France and Spain, the Basque country produces rich harvests of vegetables that lend themselves to quick, simple preparations. Hirigoyen uses Basque ingredients-- world-famous Bayonne ham and sheep's-milk cheese-- as accents for a first-course green bean salad. He makes walnuts the base for a simple sauce to top seared pork. Even a chocolate cake (Bayonne is also known for its chocolate) is ready for the oven after only 10 minutes of preparation. The entire menu takes just over an hour to prepare, and it's even faster if you don't make the cake.