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Cazuela – Chile National Dish – Day 66/Dish 35

March 16, 2010

Today we reconnect with our ship, which as you may recall, we left in Mauritania several days ago when we travelled into central Africa overland.  It will be nice to rest our feet after so much trekking.  With careful timing, we head west behind a massive storm in the Cape Verde Islands and ahead of one that is just forming and predicted to reach category 4 status in the days to come.  Sailing can be treacherous if you do not have an eye for the shifting weather patterns in the Atlantic.  

We blaze westward to the Panama Canal and then turn south to meander to our next destination.  This place has made the news in recent days after a cataclysmic earthquake shifted the country as much as 10 feet and changed the length of the year by several milliseconds when it rocked the very poles of the planet in an 8.9 Richter Scale measurement, the highest ever recorded.  The country is Chile and our final port is Santiago a bit inland from the sea and perched at the foot of the Andes Mountains.  

But first we must stop at a place that you may not realize you are aware of.  Off the coast of Chile is Juan Fernandez Archipelago.  Now home to 629 persons, the main island was once home to the marooned sailor, Alexander Selkirk who landed in 1704.  You may know him as the inspiration behind Daniel Dafoe’s epic classic, Robinson Crusoe.  The island has been renamed in recent years to commemorate the literary history of the place.  

Sadly in the confusing moments after the earthquake, the Chilean Navy mistakenly failed to initiate tsunami warnings along the Chilean Coast and in the islands.  This led as many as 20 of the Islands residents to perish in the 10-15 foot waves that rose up from the depths of the sea to swallow entire villages all along the coast.  The total damage is still being assessed.  

The archipelago, like its northern neighbor the Galapagos Islands, is home to literally hundreds of unique indigenous plants and animals many of whom were described or exaggerated on in the classic tale.  A personal favorite nonhuman resident is the Magellanic Penguin.  This height challenged merchant of death for local sea creatures has evolved a salt excreting gland to eliminate the seawater it ingests while feeding on krill, cuttlefish and sardines.  And it is pretty cute too. 

 

670 Kilometers away from the island village of Juan Batista is the mainland of Chile. With some of the highest peaks in the Western Hemisphere, Chile is a land of majestic views and deep valleys cut into the bedrock of the planet.  Chile declared independence from Spain early on in 1818, although it was not formally recognized until almost 30 years later in 1844.  At the same time, Spain was struggling with wars in Bolivia and Venezuela as well as unrest throughout many of their colonial bases.  Timing is everything or so they say. 

 If you think of Chile and the Andes Mountains as the backbone of the entire continent of South America, the seismic activity of an earthquake would be like a chiropractor adjusting the vertebrae with audible pops.  The resulting movement of the earth spans out in every direction and regularly rattles the population, causing buildings to sway and fine china to smash to the ground.  Unlike a chiropractor however, no relief is felt afterwards.  Chileans are used to earthquakes like people in Tokyo and San Francisco are.  In the case of the most recent event, the scale was far more intense than usual and very few man-made structures are designed to survive that type of intense action.  It is a testament to the ingenuity of Chilean architects and strict building codes that the quake did not kill more people or flatten more buildings.  Yet the damage is severe and the rebuilding will take time.    

Cuernos Del Paine as seen from Lake Pehoe in Southern Chile

It is unusual for me to go off topic in a posting, but like Haiti, the people of Chile have been severely traumatized by this event.  Unlike Haiti, aid to Chile’s worst hit areas has been meager from the Western world.  Perhaps it was charity fatigue or the misimpression that no aid is needed.  Although Chile is undoubtedly better able to manage this crisis, anything that can be done for the people, especially the children, is a kindness.  My favorite charity for disaster relief is Doctors’ Without Borders.  Here is the link to their website where you can learn how to donate resources to this and other natural and man- made disasters.  There are many other worthy groups also heading up aid work in the region.   A quick Google search will locate many legitimate organizations.  Beware of scammers!! 

The national dish of Chile is Cazuela, a soup that can be made with Vaca (beef) or Pollo (chicken) or even Pescado (fish).  It incorporates a hodgepodge of local ingredients in a one pot dish that is affectionately dubbed Chile’s Little Pot.  As with most soups or stews in the National Dish category, Cazuela can be made in hundreds of ways depending on personal taste.  Typically I pick a recipe that is bare bones and shows the basic construction.  Todays recipe is more involved with an extensive list of ingredients and different flavors.  I am very curious to see how it turns out.  

It uses some ingredients we have not seen such as Fennel mixed with squash, egg, cumin, chicken, and a variety of veggies.  To me it seems over the top but we will see… 

I give this a 3 for difficulty.  A one pot dish is seldom truly difficult, but in this case quite a bit of prep is involved. 

Postscript:  The stew was very good.  It was not as long a preparation as I imagined either. I was pleasantly surprised by the symmetry of flavors and the balance of textures.  The citrus and vinegar notes were present but subtle enough so as not to be offensive.  I added no salt and did not need to.  The thickening agent of potatoes and raw eggs mashed with vinegar brought a standard vegetable and chicken soup from broth to stew status almost immediately and to pleasant results. The cumin was very subtle, almost too subtle and the fennel did not bother me as I thought it might (not a big fan) So, overall….Viva La Cazuela! 

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION 

Rating: 

Appearance:  3 out of 5 

Aroma: 3 out of 5 

Flavor: 4 out of 5 

Total: 10 out of 15 

Ingredients: 

 3 Pounds Chicken — Cubed 

10 Cups Chicken Broth 

3 Tablespoons Butter 

1 Medium Red Bell Pepper cleaned and chopped 

1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne 

3 Medium Onion — Chopped 

2 Small Zucchini — Sliced 

1 Small Acorn Squash — Cubed 

1/2 Pound French-Style Green Beans  (small can or frozen will work) 

1 Medium Fennel Bulb — Chopped 

1 Teaspoon Cumin 

1/2 Cup Rice 

2 Sprigs Mint — Chopped 

2 Tablespoons Parsley — Chopped 

10 Ounces Corn (small can or frozen will work) 

1 Cup Peas (very small can or frozen will work) 

2 Medium Potato — Cubed 

1 Medium Egg — Beaten 

2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar 

1 Lime for Lime Juice 

 Preparation: 

Sauté red pepper, cayenne and onion in butter for 7 minutes. 

Add chicken and broth, simmer for 1 hour. 

Add zucchini, squash, beans, fennel, cumin, rice, mint and parsley. Simmer for 25 minutes. 

Add corn and peas and simmer until done about 7 minutes. 

Season the pot with salt and pepper. 

Boil potatoes in separate pan, drain and mash with egg and vinegar. Add potato mixture to the soup. Stir well, add lime and serve.  

   

Recipe: http://recipes.wuzzle.org/index.php/39/678 

Source: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/311797,tsunami-warning-came-too-late-for-robinson-crusoe-island–feature.html

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2010 10:02 pm

    Dear Eric – What a wonderful mix of ingredients – fennel with acorn squash, cumin & chicken? Wow! This is what I love so much about world cuisines. I can live a lifetime in pursuit & never know it all.

    I love your heartfelt post about this country & its people. I am glad you’re out there reminding us of what we can so easily forget.

    Great post!

    Ciao,

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  2. March 17, 2010 8:30 am

    Excellent and timely information! The fact that Chile was relatively well prepared in terms of infrastructure may make the disaster seem less serious but there was still a large loss of life and heavy damage. Thanks for reminding us that they still need help, too.

    This cazuela is certainly chockful of good stuff!

  3. March 20, 2010 5:51 am

    wow… flavours around the world. Glad I got lost here. Keep up the good feed!

  4. lachie54224 permalink
    May 19, 2010 9:58 pm

    yummy!!!!

  5. andrea permalink
    June 23, 2010 3:28 pm

    se ve muy bueno

  6. jp992751 permalink
    August 28, 2011 11:10 pm

    Eric,
    Love the website. Just found it tonight. I hope you are still going strong. I just dropped by to note that the cazuela you made is not a typical Chilean Cazuela. The ingredients are correct but in Chile rather than cube and dice the vegetables they just put them in whole. If you have 4 people eating you get 4 potatoes (1 per bowl) 2 corn cobs cut in half (1 per bowl) and the acorn squash would be a big chunk per bowl.. The chicken (or other meat) would not be cubed rather bone-in leg or breast would be used. Other than that the rest of the ingredients would be chopped and cubed. My wife is from Chile and I have lived there for some 3 years and this would be your typical Cazuela. Yours on the other hand would be more like a Carbonara, another Chilean soup or stew. Not hating just letting you know how a traditional Cazuela would be made.
    I hope you are still going with this as I have loved browsing your recipes. Good luck
    Jonathan

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