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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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Pichilemu–Surf Town, Chile


Last weekend was a long weekend here in Santiago. Which, I found slightly ironic because we got Halloween (Mon) and All Saints Day (my birthday) off, but no one really celebrated Halloween. I mean, yeah, there were parties, but generally, Chileans don’t dig it so much. In states, Halloween is pretty big, but we definitely don’t get a day off. In fact, I remember spending many Halloweens in college studying for midterms. NERD alert.

Anyway, my friends (Katie, Becky, and Dan) decided to take advantage of the long weekend and took a 3 hour bus to Pichilemu, a coast town right “below” Valparaiso.

When my friend booked the bus tickets, she was unable to get return tickets for Tuesday, but felt confident we could get them on arriving. Unfortunately, we got there, and there were literally NO return tickets for Tuesday. I had a bit of a panic attack, but after we all made some calls and emails to cancel our classes, we decided to enjoy the unplanned extra night.

Pichilemu is a small town. You can walk from one end to the other in about 30 minutes more or less. There is a main center with shops, restaurants, and two outstanding empanada joints. One was call “El Rey” (The King) and the one right next to it is called “El Tio del Rey” (The Uncle of the King). Both places had equally delicious, gooey cheesy, fried empanadas. I was a particularly big fan of the ham, cheese and pineapple.

We spent most the time loungin’ on the beach, watching the surfers glide around. It wasnt very hot, but we got some sun, and the ocean was very relaxing.

The town is predominantly known as a hot spot for surfing, and the vibe reflects that. There is a laid back, go with the flow type atmosphere and you will spot Chilean and gringo surfers alike in all weather sporting wetsuits. The shops around town promote the image, selling radical knit hats and groovy woven ankle bracelets. Cow-a-bunga, dude!

Alright, I’m off to get ready for my birthday sushi dinner (sqqquuuuee) and eat more of the outrageously delicious strawberries I bought at the market by my house. Life is good!

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En Toma: The Education Movement in Chile


I’m using this blog post to take a quick detour from my usual gastronomic guide of Chilean cuisine (and other unnecessary additions) and give some brief reflections on the current political frenzy happening in Santiago, Chile.

My first encounter with tear gas was hardly memorable. I don’t remember being scared or even that bothered, really. I actually just thought my contacts were acting up. The only reason I took any notice was that everyone around me was coughing, holding scarves up their face, and generally acting a bit skittish. When I finally got home after a long day of teaching, I found out the gas was a reaction to the Hydrosen protests happening in Plaza Italia (a plaza generally famous for providing the grounds for protests, city wide parties, and general madness of all kinds).

The Hydrosen issue was an important one; not just for Chileans, but also for environmentalists worldwide and I myself felt there was a great injustice being done and was sad to think such a beautiful area of the world was not being protected, as it should. Yet, more than the ecological issue, what struck me about Hydrosen was the passion with which Chileans voiced their opinion on the matter. Still, I had no conception the kind of deep-rooted anger that existed when it came to the education crisis. Until now.

To be honest, my life and work here in Chile does not really involve University Education. I have a few private classes with college age students, my roommate is a Master’s student at Universidad de Chile, but generally my time is spent with businessmen in Las Condes who could really care less about these “poor people” issues. But that’s not to say I haven’t been watching. On the way to work every day I  have noticed the schools and universities now deserted–chairs eerily stacked up along the chain link fence, and graffiti proclaiming “educacíon gratuita”–it’s kinda hard to miss. Many students have now been out of school so long that they will have to take the school year over again.

(Photo by National Turk)

And protestors have really stretched the imagination when it comes to being heard.

From Thriller flash mobs, 30-day hunger strikes, faked group suicides, to mass scale “kiss ins”; Chileans are determined to get their message across. Can’t ignore the pink elephant.

But while the education protests have been accumulating momentum over the past few months, this is by no means a new issue here in Chile. Education has been a hot topic for Chileans ever since “democracy” was established in the country in the 90s. Since then, the Chilean Education System has been based on economic structures put into place by Pinochet’s team of free market activists called “The Chicago Boys”. The outcome was a deep fissure between private and public education, making it extremely difficult for lower-income Chileans to receive quality education. Piñera initially responding to the protests by “offering US$4 billion in extra state funds for education, as well as more scholarships, more transparency and help with debt. He also appointed a new education minister, replacing the beleaguered Joaquin Lavín. But critics and students are not satisfied, claiming that deeper change is needed.”-Clare Bevis, Santiago Times

(Photo by RoarMag)

And we are now seeing the consequences of years and years of built-up frustration. On Thursday, August 4th, Chile had one of its biggest protests to date in which,

“Incidents of fires, break-ins, road barricades and confrontations with police were reported in at least 12 locations across Santiago. At the intersection of San Diego and Tarapacá demonstrators  set fire to a La Polar department store — destroying all of its merchandise.”-Clare Bevis, Santiago Times

Not to mention the over 874 arrests made that night, and the general chaos that ensued throughout the streets of Santiago (my close friend Katie called me in a panic around 2pm because she could not get to her house and people were running and screaming in the street). Later that night as I was casually perusing Twitter and Facebook, I noticed my news feed was abuzz (all a-twitter, if you will…..har har har) rallying Chileans to bang pots at 9pm in protest. I was initially perplexed, but at 9pm I ventured out on my balcony, and sure enough, in every single apartment window, Chileans were banging pots and pans furiously in a symphony of cookery.

I later learned that this ‘pot banging”, or “cacerolazo” was a “tradition from the days the upper-middle class protested against food shortages during the government of Socialist President Salvador Allende, and later during the Pinochet dictatorship when citizens used the technique as a means of safely and anonymously protesting the government.”-Adeline Bash The Santiago Times

Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night, but I do think that the physicality of the pot banging, the tangibility and the power of having a city united in action, really started to hit me hard. I felt like I could really feel the frustration, the cry for change, released in the clashing and clanging. Okay, okay…. too much you say? Well, maybe, but I think enacting old traditions does carry a certain undeniable weight that can be truly powerful.

(Photo by FuckYeahProtest)

So what is it students want? I personally get a little confused. Obviously, the two main demands are higher quality and affordability. And those seem not only like reasonable, but necessary demands in a country whose economy is booming by the minute. But, what does that actually mean? Some students want a total education restructuring, to create a free education system for all (seems a tad lofty in my view) while others just want better programs, more affordable programs, and more investment. Specifics get blurred when it comes to mass movements.

(Photo by “International Student Movement“)

Some students seem to be simply recreating history, reliving the past,

The movement has become about more than education, university student Dominique Bueqazo told the Santiago Times. It has transformed into retaliation against the entire government, she said.

“The government is not listening to us. They are treating us like fools,” Bueqazo said, comparing the movements in 2011 to those of youth during the 80’s.

“Chile needed a change in the mindset of its youth to end the Pinochet dictatorship,” Bueqzo said. “We are the young people.”-Adeline Bash The Santiago Times

I find it sometimes difficult to swallow when kids of my generation try to compare current situations to past events, even though it may be inevitable. How else do we learn, except through watching history? Yet, sometimes I feel people just want to feel apart of something so they create analogies guided by nostalgia.

That said, I think as a foreigner abroad, with the intention of only staying here for about a year, it’s hard for me to feel like I can really have an opinion on this issue. I’m not a student, nor do these issues really affect me because if I do go back to school, it would be in the States. Yet the entire fiasco has really made me take a harder look at our education system back home (the problems are endless) and has also allowed me to witness, in action, just how essential technology has been for my generation in creating new movements. First Egypt and now Chile, its been remarkable to see how social media has been able to not only assist, but also truly reinvent what it means to mass organize groups of people. But, that’s a whole new essay in and of itself. Maybe next time.

For now, I’m just going to take a back seat and watch, with a curious eye, to see how the issue develops in the next few months. I’m definitely not the first, nor will I be the last lost gringa to give their take on the action, but I think just the process of writing helps me to digest the events around me.

In a recent NY Times piece on the topic, Piñera was quoted as saying in reference to the protests ” There is a limit to everything”

Now, isn’t that just ASKING for a revolution?

For more photos of the protests in Chile  go to This Ny Times Slide Show

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Chilean Wines 101: Concha y Toro


Finally a little sun here in Santiago! Yesterday was raining and gloomy and I needed a little sun this morning to bring back my faith in humanity.

Despite the drizzle, Saturday morning my fellow wine tasting companions (winos) Katie, Tali and Nathan and I set out down the green line at 9am to investigate one of Chile most famous wineries, Concha y Toro. Even though my feet were cold, the drizzle actually made for a pretty tour. Felt a bit like we were in Ireland.

Yeah yeah, okay, the absolute best time to go would be a sunny, warm Fall day when the leaves on the vines are changing colors, but why not go again? There are many wineries in Chile to visit and I think it is an essential part of my education that I investigate them all in the hope that if I hear about wines over and over, maybe some of it will subconsciously enter my brain. Essential. 🙂

Because, the truth is, although I think I’ve made some heavy strides in the food writing world, and collected some dorky, Seattle-focused foodie vocabulary (you got lightly seared, flambé, grass-fed, foie gras, reduction, al fresco, resto, blah blah blah) I’m totally lost in the world of wine. I blame this on my parent’s lack of alcoholism. Curse you! (I kid, I kid…)

The one time I got  little wine knowledge happening in my brain is when I did some fact checking at Seattle mag on wine labels, but that was about it. I also remember being really nervous because I had to call the winery and pronounce French words. It was interesting.

ANYWAY. The tour was lovely albeit cold and the wine was fabulous. I’m not a great listener or very mature, so I didn’t learn very much, but here’s the very barebones information I gathered:

1. The wine is called Castillero de Diablo because originally the owner of the winery found out locals were stealing his precious wine!! Oh no! Preying on their suspicious, ignorant ways, he decided to dress up like the devil to scare them off! Shaking in fear, the local them deemed his house the house of the devil. What a sweet story!

oooohhh!!

2. To be called a reserve wine, the wine must be aged for a minimum of 8 months and can be aged up to two years.

3. Red wines are aged in oak barrels, but most wine whites are not. They are aged in stainless steel barrels. This does not reduce quality, but it simply better for the white wines. Particularly Malbecs.

4. Most Chilean red wines are grown near Santiago, where the weather gets very hot and very cool during the year. This combined with the type of soil (terroir), fresh clean Andes water, and the barrier created by the mountains creates the perfect atmosphere for reds.

4. Chilean white wines are grown near Valparaiso, nearer the ocean. The white wines need less extremes in temperature and the cool ocean air is good for the grapes.

5. When tasting wines, they may ask you to look for “acidity” “dryness” “earthy undertones” or even “fruity hints” in additional to smell and body. You may or may not taste/notice any of these depending on how much wine you’ve had. Wines with a strong acidity go well with pasta. Noted.

6. Do not drink the whole glass of wine before your tour guide describes it and says “salud”. It makes you look dumb. Cough. Again, noted.

7. Wines go through a cycle! This is my very simplified version A) Add yeast to the juice  B)Yeast turns sugar into alcohol C)Some other stuff happens D)They put it in barrels for a long time.

8. Finally, do not go on a wine tour without eating. You’ll feel dizzy and super hungry and probably buy a churro.

After the tour, we pooled together our meager teacher earning and purchased one bottle of Carmenere for the road. And on the way to Tali and Nat’s we stocked up on cheese, bread, and ham (obvio) and went to town! A perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday. Inside, eating wine and cheese.

Until next time…

DRINK, EAT, BE HAPPY!

Cheese Tray

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Homecooking and my new Chilean I.D.!


Happy Friday everyone!

Tonight,  I’m taking a night off from the 24/7 party that is Chile. I taught a night class and then came home, put on my comfy slippers, poured some wine, and here I am.

But, I muss confess, I’ve failed you. Once again, I’ve been struggling to make Chilean food as apart of my normal routine. This is mostly due to do my very low income ( rice and lentils, repeat) and also because I can’t seem to fight the urge to make my own version of comfort food.

For example, last week I made Asian Noodle Salad which always reminds me of home and  my mom.

Then a few nights ago I made sauteed purple cabbage with apples, sugar, and vinegar. I served it with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, sausages, and a little dijon mustard. Quick fix German food. The only thing vaguely Chilean here is the sauerkraut (chucrut)

It may not look that gourmet, but the flavors are lovely! This is an easy, cheap dish to make at home.

Then today, I decided to make some egg salad and it turned out fabulous. I mixed the eggs with mayo, a little dijon, curry powder, salt, pepper and cayenne. It hit the spot. I always forget about egg salad, and I tend resort to tuna for a quick sandwich (it’s a little less maintenance), but this was an awesome alternative.

We had a brunch last weekend at my house where I made these potatoes, and I even took a stab at making kimchi with purple cabbage!

I soaked the cabbage in salt water overnight, then added ginger, red pepper, carrot, green onion, and vinegar and let it ferment for four days. It was not bad! I’d probably prefer napa cabbage next time though…

Made for some excellent make shift bi bim bap! (fried rice with spinach, sauerkraut, kimchi and a fried egg with hot sauce).

So, as you can see, I definitely was cooking, just not Chilean things. Hopefully you at least got some inspiration for some quick, easy, and cheap meals to make at home.

But, good news my fellow foodies, this weekend I’m going on a wine tour and I’m also going skiing! Doesn’t get more Chilean than that. And, in anticipation, I bought a hat..

And, even more exciting, I’m now an official, temporary resident of Chile! (sorry the photo is backwards)

Wooohoo!

I’ve now been in Chile just a little over four months and despite the nasty cold winter, it’s been absolutely incredible. When I think back to my first few weeks, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come in such a short time.

Stay tuned for a wine and skiing post, and maybe even an empanada experiment! (I’ve been promising that for a while now….)

Ciao! Nos Vemos!

P.S. (See a trend in all these recipes? Ingredients? This is the definition of making your groceries last, purple cabbage (3 meals), dijon (egg salad, sausage))

Kimchi

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Winter Camping and Sushi, Chilean-Style


Well, good news everyone. I survived my wisdom teeth surgery. Miraculous, I know. Apparently dentists are equally as nice and helpful in Chile as back home (maybe more so??). I had local anesthesia, which was a little scary (they put me under this blanket thing with a hole for my mouth?? Creepy). The first tooth was a nightmare. It took around 40 minutes and involved drilling, more drilling, smoke from drilling so much, and then a horrible crack when they split my tooth in half. FUN. The second tooth was no problem.

When they were done, I took a cab home and began my epic movie marathon (Blue Valentine, The Fighter, The Illusionist (cartoon), Biutiful, and Dexter). By Sunday, I was fine and taught all my classes the following week. I was exhausted, but managed and by Friday was ready to go “camping” which basically meant staying the night at a friend’s Cabin in Lo Barnechea. We had a great time, 3 gringas and 3 Chilean and there was lots of pisco and an outrageous amount of carne.

So here I am, with a brief moment to myself to reflect on the almost 3 months I’ve been here in Santiago. On the whole, I’m still happy but have gotten a few pangs of homesickness which is normal. The “thrill” of newness is wearing off but I’m very happy that I’m beginning to develop more of a routine here between work and social life and my income is looking less hopeless. It’s been tough juggling all the my classes and traveling so far to teach, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Things I do miss very much are Olive, good coffee, my dryer, good thai food, my mom’s cooking, and Target. However, the wine, avocados, constant walking, sun, pisco, and mountains are helping to balance the equation. It’s the end of fall here in Santiago and the leaves are beautiful shades of red and gold. The weather is usually in the 60s during the day but dips dramatically past 6pm to a chilly 35-40. I’ve invested in polar tech leggings but might need to bite the bullet and buy a real coat.

What about food you ask? Sigh. Well, the wisdom tooth fiasco put a real dent on the cooking, though I’ve been cooking plenty, just not Chilean things. Mostly lentil soup, pasta and veggies, toast with a fried egg and avocado, and rice. Boring.

Only thing I managed to photograph was a quick trip with Amanda to our local sushi joint called “Sushi Face”. Oh, Sushi Face. It wasn’t very good, but either is most sushi here. Overwhelming amounts of avocado with no fish to speak of and rice with flavor….sigh. It hurts my northwest heart. The salmon is disgusting. All around fail. But, it does LOOK pretty…

I mean, why eat sushi if it’s gonna suck? Someone here told me it’s cause Chile wants to be like L.A. so sushi became the hip, cool thing a few years ago. It’s not cool to just eat sushi, it’s cool to eat delicious sushi! They don’t understand. What is sushi without tuna? or hamachi? or yellowtail?  Everything on the menu was like a different combination of avocado, shrimp and cream cheese. Or even , avocado wrapped in avocado….

But, enough whining (unless there is wine involved). Today was good, I got a powercord for my mac and cashed a paycheck (even though it took like an hour because it was at the Santander and I had to take a number just to get helped. It was like the bank was the DMV. So ridiculous.) so life is good. One more really busy today then I’m almost free!

I hope everyone both in Chile and the States and happy and well. Even though I’m jealous it’s summer in the good ol’ U S of A. It’s soooo cold here!

Tuna Sushi Roll

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The Wisdom Tooth Saga: Final Episode


Happy Friday everyone! Everyone loves a friday, full of promise for the weekend to come.

This friday is however, a bit less exciting because I’m getting my wisdom teeth out today. I sincerely hate all things related to teeth, blood, and dentists, so this is gonna take some deep breaths. Luckily I have many kind friends willing to assist me in this fun little adventure, but I’m definitely not excited.

Puts quite the hamper on the weekend, I must say. Although, I can’t say I’ve been too adventurous in the mean time. But, it’s the little things, right?

Like, my undying, unquenchable love for the abundance of fresh mango and avocados. Seriously. The mangos are just perfectly golden and the avocado silky and creamy. My favorite way to eat them? SALSA:

This batch was especially good.

And empanadas. I wish I could say I don’t eat them all the time, but I do. I love the cheese and mushroom and shrimp and cheese, but I recently been really into the pino with beef, onions, a slice of hard-boiled egg and an olive (with the pit!! annoying).

This is my last bit of chewable food for a while…

Also, I caved in and bought some slippers, which I love:

And a blanket for my wall:

Ahhh. my room feels much better! Less like a dorm room.

In preparation for this interesting post-op weekend, I’ve stocked up on the goods:

We got some blackberry yogurt, jello, and these amazing puddings I found. All that is missing is some Pineapple ice cream.

Okay! All set, got the movies downloaded. Rip em out!

Grace Geiger

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