Chile is a slice of South America as skinny as an asparagus and, yet, bursting with temptations for our Global Table!
First, there’s Chile’s undeniable love affair with fish, eels, and anything that flips or flops (or slithers) in the water, along their rambling shores. Linda Bladholm, author of Latin and Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified, tells me they have the most incredible seafood. In an email to me she writes:
I was in Patagonia, Santiago and the Atacama desert. The best strange thing I ate was the picoroco or large beaked barnacle. It looks like a volcano and when heated, two claws emerge from the crater on top. They taste like a cross between crab and lobster and are good in soup or baked. The Giant centolla crabs are like snow crabs on steroids. One leg makes a meal.
For those who don’t have access to such exotic seafood, Chile provides countless dishes with beef and chicken, like empanadas. Another favorite is an unusual casserole containing meat, hardboiled egg, green olives, raisins, cumin and other spices, topped with a smooth puree of corn. Called Pastel de Choclo, this deep dished casserole used to feed a hungry crowd (recipe).
Corn is a staple that, along with potatoes, makes its way into most meals. On the side? Avocado salads and all manner of bread. The much adored Pan Amasado is a flat, yeast-risen roll usually made with lard (recipe).
If you are in the mood for wine, you are in luck. The growing conditions in central Chile are comparable to the Mediterranean and the produce Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet blanc, and more.
Desserts, as sweet as my daughter Ava’s kisses, often include dulce de leche (sweetened condensed milk caramelized over low heat for 2-3 hours). Imagine, if you will, biting into a soft cookie infused with orange zest and fresh squeezed juice, slathered with a healthy dollop of Dulce de Leche. This is Chile’s answer to the Alfajores, a treat made a multitude of ways and found throughout South America (recipe).
Another treat is a homemade ice cream product, Crema de Limon, made from fresh lemon juice whipped with evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk (recipe). Unbelievably creative and tasty way to end a heavy meal.