Between the people, food, and culture, San Sebastian is by far one of our favorite places we've ever set foot. Very much Basque but still distinctly Spanish, one of the must dos in this seaside town is a tapas crawl. You'll see foods familiar to tapas in Madrid and Barcelona and other flavors that are 100% Basque. This piquillo pepper is a variation on the tapas bars and we now make it on the regular.
For the aioli: Heat the paprika and vegetable oil in a small saucepan over low heat. When hot, remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to steep at room temperature, 20 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, and all but 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice in a food processor or blender; process until smooth and frothy. With the machine running, slowly pour in the paprika-infused oil and process until the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt.
The aioli can be made up to 3 days ahead; refrigerate in an airtight container.
For filling the peppers: Combine the creme fraiche, mustard, reserved 1 teaspoon lemon juice, manchego, parsley, chives and egg in a large bowl; mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula to combine. Gently mix in the crabmeat (do not break it up too much). Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the piquillo peppers thoroughly. Remove the seeds, making sure to keep the peppers whole and intact. Carefully spoon about 1 tablespoon crab filling into each pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish and heat oven to 375°F. Bake the peppers, uncovered, until heated through, about 15 minutes. Top the peppers with the aioli and return to the oven until the aioli is hot, about 2 more minutes then serve hot.
The peppers can be filled 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp