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Making Basque Tapas with Chef Mattin Nobile of Iluna Basque

On the corner of Powell and Union, just off the main drag in North Beach, sits Iluna Basque, a swank eating place pushing itself into San Francisco's late night scene. Chef Mattin Nobile, formerly of Gerald Hirigoyen's Piperade, wanted to create a destination for his peers, a welcoming late night haunt with food and drink from or inspired by his Basque upbringing.

To further distinguish himself from his days at Piperade, his menu consists entirely of small plates, all very conducive to a snack either before or after the night's events. The food is simple and traditional, meant to satisfy rather than astound. The idea is to focus on your gathering of friends rather than the menu. (Although it should be noted that the editors found the seared tuna with blue cheese sauce to be so incredibly delicious that they craved it as much as the company.)

One item that is often overlooked because of its simplicity, but which is a staple of the Basque culture is Tortilla de San Sebastian. Amazingly versatile, it's a perfect breakfast food, afternoon snack or evening meal. In this version, chorizo is added, giving the tortilla a bit of spice and substance. The main spice is the traditional Basque Piment d'Espelette, a sweet dried chili powder that has a much more intense flavor than the chili powder found in the states. The chorizo can easily be omitted or replaced with shrimp, spinach, mushrooms, or whatever strikes your fancy. Heating it up, sliced thin and served as a sandwich with tomatoes the next day is also a great option.


TORTILLA DE SAN SEBASTIAN
Serves 8

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
7 large eggs
1/3 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. Piment d'Espelette (chili powder can be substituted)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chorizo
1/2 boiled potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch squares

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, add onions and slowly caramelize, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chorizo, and potatoes, cook for another five minutes.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs then season with salt and pepper to taste, add the piment. Pour this mixture into the skillet, stir and put in oven to bake till eggs are cooked through, about 8 minutes.