Chau to Chile


Hello internet!

I did not do a good job of keeping this timely, but within the last three months, I´ve made the decision to finally return to the United States to gear up before heading off to Seoul, KOREA to teach more English! Many dramatic changes, I know. So here I am now in Seattle, preparing for a new adventure, but I am homesick for Chile, a country I´ve come to call home. Saying goodbye wasn´t easy, but the last year and a half has been an experience I will never forget. I hope everyone has enjoyed the recipes I´ve posted, interlaced with adventures in and around South America. I wrote a good summary in my last column for the Santiago Times which you can read here.

You can follow me on my new adventures in Seoul at my new blog, here.

Saying goodbye to my favorite students

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Me with friends at mi despedida (goodbye party)

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Carnes al Disco


Well, I´ve been on a bit of a hiatus because there have been some changes in the last few months. The biggest being I am going to move to South Korea this August to teach English. Signed, sealed, delivered. It´s happening: contract, flight and all. Therefore, I´ve been dedicating my remaining time to being with friends and soaking up my last few months in Chile.

Last weekend, I went to Algorrobo with my housemates to do a little bonding. Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our side and it was rainy and windy the whole time. At one point, the power went out too. So, we decided to make the best of the situation and started a fire, poured some wine, and started cooking.

One of my favorite aspects of Chilean cuisine is that the majority of the food and cooking is a social process. Whether it is a weekend asado or a long Sunday almuerzo, Chileans like to take their time and chat while the food slowly simmers. One of the best examples of this type of food is cooking in a disco which is similar to an Asian wok, except not concave. The legged, deep pan is put directly over the fire and the food cooks for hours to build flavor. Typically, Chileans will make this dish with seafood (mariscos al disco) but sometimes they just stick to meat, which is what we did in Algorrobo.

And it was absolutely delicious. We put in potatoes, onion, 6 cloves of garlic, wine, salt, chicken, sausage, carrot and green pepper and let it do its thing, stirring occasionally.

The chicken and sausage got nice and tender and the juices from the onion and meat mixed beautifully with the soft potatoes. Be sure to dip your bread in the juice!

Unfortunately, many of us do not have an open fire or a disco at our disposal, so I came up with a way to replicate this dish without the special equipment. And, maybe it wash´t exactly the same but it was really delicious nonetheless.

Grace´s Carnes al Disco sin Disco

INGREDIENTS:

4-6 small chorizo sausages

1 whole chicken cut into pieces or 4 thighs, bone in

2 large onion, sliced thinly

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large carrots, sliced thinly (I used a peeler)

1 large green pepper, sliced

4 tablespoons of salt

1 pinch of tarragon

1 pinch of pepper

1 pinch of merken (optional)

5 large potatoes, peeled and sliced like french fries

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup of wine

DIRECTIONS:

Put in the onion, garlic, potatoes, chicken and sausage and put on medium high with a little bit of olive oil. After about ten minutes add the wine and carrots. After about 10 minutes add all the spices. Now, all you have to do is stir occasionally, and let this puppy simmer for about an hour, or as long as possible, until the onions are caramelized and the potatoes soft. Add a cup of water about halfway through. The chicken should be fall off the bone soft and the potatoes nice and soft.

Buen Provecho!

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Patagonian Aventure


I was extremely lucky and fortunate to have two of my favorite friends from high school visit me in Chile these last two weeks. The first week we spent in Santiago and had an amazing time. We went to the market, ate Peruvian food, went to Subterraneo, basically just had a ball.

Then, last Sunday we headed off to Punta Arenas for an end of the world adventure. To be honest, none of us had really done a lot of research so we had to sort of go with the flow.

We arrived in Punta Arenas around 3pm, but had to kill about 3 hours till the next bus to Puerto Natales (we took Bus Fernandez). So….of course….we got pizza and drank beer. What could be better.

We arrived tired and cold into Puerto Natales and went right to our hostel, the Erratic Rock. This place was so great! Very warm and cozy, with a helpful staff and awesome breakfast. They even have a place next door where they give daily information meetings about the park at 3pm, and provide equipment for rent like tents, sleeping bags, etc and all at a good price. We spent Monday figuring out what we wanted to actually do in the park, getting groceries, eating dinner, and exploring.

We had a delicious dinner  at a place called El Maritimo which specialized in seafood. My paila marina was a little weird, but Elizabeth´s sea bass stew was awesome.

We finally decided we wanted to do two nights and three days in the park. Doing three days is a little complicated. The most common route is to do the 5 day 4 night W trail, but we just didn’t have the time and honestly were not really prepared for that. So, we decided to do the first day up to the Torres, then spend the night in a refugio. The next day, we would take the 9am bus to Lago Grey and stay a night at that regufio, then come home the third day. BUT. That´s not really how it went down. To be honest, the whole thing is really difficult because buses only run once a day at specific times, and you can´t just camp anywhere…so this is what happened.

Day One: We woke up early for the only bus into the park at 7:30. We arrive at the park, pay the fee, then head over to Torres Refugio and begin our journey at around 11am. This was a rough climb, but the weather was gorgeous. It took us 3 and a half hours of straight up hill climbing to finally get to the Torres, and our bags were heavy. But, the views were breath taking and we were in good spirits. But by the time we reached the Torres, Claire´s previously broken foot (a month ago) was killing her and my back was really in pain from climbing. Plus, it was already 5pm! It would be a challenge to do the 3 or more hour trek back to base camp before dark. We made the executive decision, after much ado, to finally just camp at the campamiento las torres (refugio Chileno was CLOSED…not helpful) and from then on the plan sorta fell apart…but in a good way.

Day Two:

We woke up around 8am, and it had rained and was still sprinkling. Cold and sore from sleeping on roots and rocks, we packed up our things and headed for the bottom of the mountain. This was not a fun hike. It was mostly downhill, in pouring rain. Claire´s foot was hurting, my back was spasming….just wasn’t working. We barely made it to the refugio, limping and cold and wet. That…was the end of it. We decided to stay in the refugio that night, which was actually delightful. We had a delicious chicken and mashed sweet potato dinner and hung out by the fire. Plus, the views were stunning! Overall, we were happy.

Day  Three: We headed back to Erratic Rock and went out for a spectacular burger and wings dinner at Baguales. Delicious. As you can see, hardcore camping went out the window….but we had a great time and to be honest, it might have been a bit ambitious in the winter season to try what we did without much experience….ah well.

We also really wanted to see penguins, but first, it costs like 100 dollars each, and also, apparently penguin season just ended! Sigh.

But, besides a few obstacles, the trip was amazing, the views gorgeous, and all of us had a great time together. Worth every minute!

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Charquicán


I recently heard about this dish from one of my Chilean students and I immediately knew I had to try it. Corn? Basil? Pumpkin? Count me in.

Charquicán is a word that derives from the Quechua and Mapuche word, charqui, which means jerky. During Andean times, meat and fish would frequently spoil, so they would dry their meat in order to preserve it. The charquicán stew is traditionally made with dried meat and an array of South American vegetables (squash, potatoes, corn) and topped with a fried egg.

Over time, people began to substitute fresh beef (ground or shredded) for the jerky because of the jerky’s strong, sometimes abrasive taste. Which is exactly what I did.

Charquicán

Ingredients:

1 white onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 or 2 lbs of lean beef (You can either use ground beef or thin filets)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large chunk of pumpkin (called zapallo in Chile, but you can use squash if you like), cubed

2 cups of beef stock

1 hand full of fresh basil, roughly chopped

3 cups of fresh or frozen large kernel corn

1 tablespoon of paprika

1 tablespoon rosemary

3 tablespoon of cumin

3 tablespoons sea salt

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon of oregano

2 tablespoons of olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the beef into strips and simmer in 1/3 c caldo for 1 hour. Shred the beef and save the juices. (If you are using ground beef, skip this step)

Sauté the shredded beef (or ground beef) with the  onion, garlic, pumpkin, potatoes, spices, and salt and pepper in the olive oil in a large, deep pan. Once the beef is cooked and the vegetables nice and fragrant, add the beef stock and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are soft (about 20 or 30 minutes). One the potatoes are softening up, mash them up a little to give the stew some thickness, then add the corn and basil and stir. Let the stew simmer for about 10 more minutes until it is nice and thick. Taste for salt or  more spice.

Serve hot in a bowl with a fried egg on top.

Note: Feel free to add more, different vegetables (tomatoes, peas, green beans) and whatever spices feel right. You can’t go wrong with this homey, comforting dish.

This stew is lovely with a free green salad or ensalada chilena and a big glass of Chilean wine.

Another great idea would be to make this a vegetarian stew (use vegetable  or chicken stock and no meat) and serve with a nice juicy steak.

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San Pedro de Atacama


After the flat tour I was very excited to go across the border back to dear old Chile. Within a one hour bus ride, the temperature changed dramatically to a hot, desert climate which was great after cold Bolivia.

A friend recommended a nice hostel called Sonchek which was the perfect option. It was budget friendly, but had nice hot showers and clean rooms.

The first day I spent walking around the city, enjoying some down time. San Pedro is mostly just a tourist hub and a starting point for tour operations, but I actually really enjoyed the town itself. It has a New Mexico vibe with white washed buildings and dusty roads.

That Sunday I booked a sandboarding tour which was really fun. It ended up being a lot more challenging than I thought  (There are no lifts up the dunes…you just gotta haul it) and kind of a bummer getting sand everywhere, but overall it was an awesome time.

After boarding, we had pisco sours overlooking the valley which was lovely.

That night I took myself out to a fancy dinner at a restaurant called Piedra Blanca. I ordered the Quinoa Cannellon which was like a crunchy  quinoa shell filled with pulled pork in a tangy sauce. It came with a sweet potato ginger mash, zucchini, and porotos verdes with merken.

This dish was a tasty blend of local ingredients with a gourmet twist.

Some people really dislike San Pedro because it is expensive and touristy but I really loved it. You can’t spend more than a few days there unless you want to do a bunch of tours, but I loved the atmosphere of the town and perusing the shops and cafes. It was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip.

This concludes my travelogue, so to speak. It was an incredible trip and I highly recommend doing the same loop if you get the chance.

Now that I’m back in Santiago its back to teaching and back to cooking! Stay tuned for more recipes and dishes coming soon.

 

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Salt Flats of Uyuni


The trip to Uyuni from  La Paz was uncomfortable and bumpy.  I took the overnight bus (the only available) and it was not the nicest bus. I was very relieved to arrive safe and sound at 7am the next morning.

Getting off the bus I was a little lost. It was my original pre booked so I didn’t have to think. Luckily, I met a nice group of Argentinian girls who needed an extra for their tour group, so I signed up. I ended leaving straight away at 10 am that morning to begin my journey, but was lucky enough to find a hotel for a shower first.

DAY ONE:

First stop was the old train cemetery. Bolivia used to have a train system, but in 1950, the trains changed fuel system and they just abounded the old models. Because of the dry heat the train did not disintegrate over time.

After the trains came the best part: The salt flat itself. This is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. Miles and miles of white salt covered by a thin layer of water in all directions. The sky and the water seem to unite, and it feels as though you’ve stepped into some type of heavenly time warp.

Post salar, we were driven a long way to a hostel to stay the night. Dinner there was actually quite lovely, and the beds were warm and comfortable.

DAY TWO:

This day was all about the lagoons and desert. The first stop was the valley of the rocks, which looked like Arizona, but with bigger rock formations.

Second two stops were at these gorgeous lagoons to try and find some flamingos and enjoy the magnificent colors. I was blown away by the pastel shades, the mountains, and the contrasts. Stunning.

We had an excellent lunch with three different kinds of potatoes..

Last stop for Day Two was the National Park where you can visit el Lago Colorado. It costs to go it, but its worth every penny. It was windy and freezing, but the flamingos in the red water, with the green moss,  and grey mountains made for a picture perfect  painting like view.

The place we stayed at that night was a little rough, but we managed.

DAY THREE: Our 5am wake up  the next day was also not very fun, but we survived. We saw the geysers (freezing) and had breakfast.

Our last stop was to Laguna Verde, one of my favorites. There were no animals here because the lagoon has traces or arsine. Besides the poisonous chemicals, the view was incredible.

Truly, this was one of the most amazing trips of my life and I was left speechless on numerous occasions. It was very difficult to pick good photos…there were so many!

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La Paz, Bolivia


The bus ride to La Paz from Copacabana was pretty smooth and only took maybe 5 hours. However, we had to cross the lake as part of the journey, which I had no idea about. They made us get off the bus and get into a little tiny motorboat in the rain.

Meanwhile, all our luggage was still on the bus. I watched in horror as the proceeded to load the bus onto like, a wooden dock, that was powered but a tiny motor. The water was not exact tranquil. More like a frothy, turbulent whirlpool. The bus was rocking back and forth, and I was absolutely convinced it would capsize. Once we got to shore, I scanned the water frantically to see if the bus would make it to shore. It did, and it all worked out. But, I still remained baffled. Is this the only way to do this? REALLY?

Coming in to La Paz made for some stunning views of the city. La Paz is one of the highest cities in the world, and the houses sit on gigantic mountain sides. Really spectacular.

However, I did not really have a great time in La Paz. Shortly after arriving I came down with a burning fever and had to sleep for like 20 hours. I was worried Id have to go to the hospital, but it all worked out.

Meanwhile, it was Carnaval in La Paz, which meant the streets were filled with dancings, costumes, water guns (they shoot you with them….it sucks), trumpets, drums, and general chaos and drunkenness. In my bed, it sounded like a war zone and I remembered drifting in and out of my feverish naps to the sound of explosions and trumpets.

Once I did finally recover, and Carnaval ended, I could finally walk around and enjoy the city more. I especially like the Coca Museum, which guided the visitors through the history of cocaine in Bolivia and the coca plant which is sacred to the local people in the area.

I had a nice little lunch at a cafe where I ordered the daily special. Can anybody guess the name of this dish?

Honestly, I did not get to explore too much Bolivian cuisine because of being ill, but here’s a few traditional plates worth knowing about:

Chicharron – Pieces of fried pork, cooked with chicha and served with stewed corn.

Changa de pollo o de conejo – Soup make with chicken or cuy (guinea pig), potato, peas, avas and green onion.

Salteñas – Only eaten in the morning. A warm savory pastry that holds a juicy combination of chicken or meat, greens and sauce, and is cooked in an oven.

Pique Macho: It is a heaped plate consisting of bite-sized pieces of beef, sausage(hot dog type), and french fry-cut potatoes. Added to this mixture are onions, locoto, boiled egg, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup.

Generally, Bolivia is not renown for its cuisine, but it still has a lot of offer, and to be honest, I just barely touched the surface of the culinary world there.

Once I recovered and Carnaval ended I booked my bus ride to Uyuni and departed ways with Katie. I was on my own for the next stretch!

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