Serves a Crowd

Big Basque Breakfast

September 20, 2009
4 Ratings
  • Serves Many
Author Notes

Breakfast in a Basque hotel (California, circa 1910); Potatoes, Baked Eggs and Chorizo
Basques as many of you know already (if you’ve been keeping up), have been part of the fabric of the history of the far west---California, Nevada, Idaho---since before the turn of the 20th Century. Spanish Basques began arriving in numbers in the Americas during the Carlist Wars in Spain. Most were shepherds but in San Francisco at least, some of the first arrivals were part of a seafaring lot. Migratory Basques minding their flocks established outposts that connected Bakersfield with Stockton, Reno and Carson City, and put down a big footprint in the Boise Valley of Idaho.
The typical Basque hotels of the period featured communal tables and multiple plates of food. My own first experiences of California Basque restaurant cooking began in Bakersfield during the early years of roaming far and wide for my job (no sheep involved). Picture me dressed for the Baketown heat in khakis and a madras shirt. I receive my menu and before I can even order, somewhere between five and seven plates of food suddenly appear in front of me; beans, tongue, a salsa of tomatoes, bread and so on… Once I realized that this was the norm I came to the conclusion that you need to bring a posse to visit one of these places so as not to embarrass yourself.
This recipe is a bit of a miniaturized version of but one breakfast course. Picture yourself surrounded by hungry shepherds and adapt portions accordingly. But the recipe is also modernized a bit. The potatoes are riced rather than fried in slices. If you are an anarchist, you can substitute mashed. Also if you pretend you are in the Basque homeland you can substitute blood sausage (morcilla) for the chorizo. - pierino

Test Kitchen Notes

I knew I wanted to test this recipe based on its name alone, and once I saw the actual ingredients, I was really excited. Chorizo, garlic, potatoes, and piment d'esplette can't go wrong, and sure enough, they make for a very hearty, flavorful breakfast that definitely does not disappoint. I did find a couple of things to be helpful in making this dish: First, by dicing the chorizo into very small pieces, you're more likely to get some of it in every bite. Second, being sure that the yolks stay runny is essential to keeping the dish from being too dry. (I found that, in my oven, bumping the temperature up to 400ºF got the eggs cooked in 15 minutes.) Also, using the olive oil generously contributes a lot to flavor and texture. For my palate, just a little more than one teaspoon of piment d'esplette provided plenty of kick, and as much as I love Tabasco sauce, I found that it overwhelmed the piment d'esplette when I added it at the table, so I went without it. I love baked eggs, and this is a great version that I'll be making over and over. – vvvanessa —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds small white potatoes
  • 3 whole cloves garlic, peeled and "flattened"
  • 2 links, Spanish style chorizo*
  • 1 carrot
  • 8 eggs (allow 2 per person)
  • 1 tablespoon piment d'esplette (or another good Spanish pimenton)
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • One bottle of a spicy table condiment such as tabasco or California Pepper Plant (from Gilroy). I just discovered that Zingerman's is selling a basque hot sauce made from piment d'Esplette. Try it out.
  • Good olive oil, a light one such as a Spanish or California made oil
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Boil some water and cook the potatoes until they pierce easily with the point of a knife. Don't worry about peeling them
  3. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them, and when you can handle them with bare hands cut them in halves and put through a ricer. You can easily remove the skins from the ricer
  4. Dice your chorizo and carrot and saute together in the olive oil
  5. With olive oil or butter, lubricate a flat casserole dish
  6. Spread your riced potatoes in the casserole. Season generously with your pimenton and salt and pepper, drizzle with just a little more olive oil and then top with the chorizo and carrot mix
  7. Carefully break the eggs and one by one arrange them on top of everything else. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or just until the whites have set and you have still runny eggs in litte puddles of white albumen
  8. Sprinkle with your finely chopped parsley and serve, allowing two eggs per person
  9. *For the chorizo you will need a really good Spanish style, semi-cured and not hard. Or substitute a good linguica. I order mine from La Espanola in Harbor City, CA (as do most Spanish restaurants in the US because it's impossible to import). La Espanola's "Bilbao" style works wonderfully.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • boulangere
  • lorigoldsby
  • pierino
  • Brenna
  • ChezUs
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.

8 Reviews

boulangere November 18, 2011
Beautiful. Glad you persisted.
lorigoldsby November 18, 2011
Glad you were able to finally repost! It's important to bring back these "golden oldies"--from over 2 years ago--this must have been an inaugural recipe!
pierino November 18, 2011
Actually this was the first recipe I submitted to Food52 upon enlisting.
pierino December 21, 2010
The formidable writer on all subjects food, Mark Kurlansky, advanced the credible theory in his book COD that the Basques actually reached North America before the Vikings. They just didn't tell anyone. Amazing, unique people and their language comes apparently from outer space because it has no connection with Romance languages.
Brenna December 21, 2010
Oh yes. Already missing my Basque feasts. Reno, Elko, Gardnerville. Rural Nevada towns all seem to have a Basque Hotel restaurant. Or 4.
monkeymom December 21, 2010
Brenna, are you still in Reno? How ya doing? I grew up there!
ChezUs September 20, 2009
Great piece ... are you Basque by chance? My family, on my mother's side is. My great grandmother came from the Basque region in the 1920s and they were sheep ranchers in Nevada.
pierino September 29, 2009
I'm not Basque myself, but I have a keen interest in food history. So, I'm familiar with the Basque communities and the traditions of Basque hotels in central California, Nevada and Idaho.