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.
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
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.