Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I know, I know. I should be living in the present and seeing all that Chile has to offer. My mother reminds me every time I begin to rile myself up over the projects I'm dying to tackle when I get home. Duly noted, Mom, I agree. But I thought I'd take a bit of a mental escape anyway, and move to a place that is easier for my mind to digest. And that doesn't involve speaking Spanish. I need to indulge a bit in the part of myself that is consumed in all things cooking, baking, bee-keeping, project-ing, etc. It's Tuesday, after all. I need a little motivation to get me over the hump that will be Wednesday.

Anyway, here it is, my current favorite-book-of-all-time, and if you're a friend/family member/stalker of mine you will know that I lend that title to many a book I have read in the past. But to be sincere, they really all are my most favorites. The book is Seattle-local (holla!) Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table" and though I have yet to get myself a real copy I am currently obsessing over her beautiful blog, Orangette.

In the meantime, don't get too huffy about my relapse into all things Americana. I have been undertaking a bit of culinary exploration in the land of empanadas and completos, a place that I have come to call home. And when I say a bit of exploration, I mean a lot. So here is an ode to Chile. Choripan, charquican, churrascos, and chili powder hot chocolate. I didn't intend each topic to begin with a C. Then again, I also saw it coming and chose not to stop it. But it fits nicely, don't you think? Chile begins with a C.
These are just a sampling of the most delectable, as well as most common food items I've found here. 3/4 of which happen to include meat, telling you a lot about the eating experience you too can have if you visit.

To begin, choripan. 'Chori' standing in for it's full name chorizo, and 'pan' meaning bread in Spanish. So there you have it. Bread and sausage. But do not take this simple duo for granted. It is like heaven in your mouth. And to eat a choripan while peering up at the Andes helps a bit too.

Charquican. This is somewhat resembling a very thick stew, made up almost entirely of mashed potatoes (puree in Spanish). And it is comfort food at its best. It is eaten in the homes of the campesinos as well as any city folk. The only difference is that in the country it may have more aji and in the city, more meat, but the ingredients are traditionally the same. Before refrigeration the meat that was used in charquican was dried, called "charqui," from which the name of the dish is derived. Can happens to mean dog, but we won't get into that. Many people use beef rump or any other inexpensive beef cut, but my host mother uses ground beef. Some innovative cooks found a high protein substitute for the beef and they use a type of giant Pacific seaweed called cochayuyo.

And then there are churrascos. When using the word 'churrasco' someone can be referring to a particular kind of bread or a kind of thinly sliced meat, usually of the beef variety. Over the weekend in Maipo we ate both choripan and churrascos making me one very happy camper. Ok, so here's how to make one. One churrasco I mean, though you'll be making many more in the near future once you try your first. Use any bread you like best, but as is appropriate, churrasco bread is typically the best option. It's big and fluffy and has the capacity to hold all that good stuff. Take your bread, cut in half lengthwise, and fill it with sliced avocado and tomato, cheese, grilled onions, a fried egg if you can fit it, and of course the churrasco meat itself. Chileans love themselves some mayonnaise and slather it on absolutely everything, including churrascos. I'll let you decide whether or not you'd like to do the same. A good recipe for your heart to have a sure meltdown. But it just tastes so good!

Finally, a sassy chocolate caliente to end. Spicy hot chocolate. Well here we are in the land of chocolate, so I thought this would be fitting. Especially the part with the chili powder. C-H-I-L-E powder. I found the recipe online after watching the movie, Chocolat, and finding my thoughts preoccupied with the Mayan hot chocolate Juliette Binoche makes in her shop, I decided I better have a go at it myself. When I made this over the holidays, in a bout of excitement, I added more than the listed amount of chili powder. Yikes. That was a shock to my system. I wound up coughing my lungs out over the kitchen sink. Use caution.

Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate
via the Left Over Queen

8 oz. whole milk
4 T Ghiradelli's Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa (or any other rich mix you like)
2 tsp Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
sugar to taste

In a saucepan heat up the milk over medium to low heat. Then slowly whisk the hot cocoa mix cocoa powder and spices into the milk until blended. Serve!

So easy to make and such a good way to warm up on a cool day. I want to try this recipe using Mexican hot chocolate instead of Ghiradelli's sometime.

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