As with some of my other culinary adventures, I let the calendar be my guide. I googled "international independence days", then clicked on Wikipedia and scrolled to see what the month of September had to offer. Honestly, without going through the trouble of throwing a dart at a map, this method made the most sense. My choices included: Bulgaria (go figure), Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mali, Papua New Guinea and many others, but I ultimately decided on Chilean cuisine and that decision was two fold. The first was because I stumbled upon this fantastic website called Eating Chilean, which explored the culture and history of Chilean food and giving its anthropological significance. The second, well, I really enjoy drinking Chilean wine, particularly their Sauvignon Blancs.
The dish I ended up selecting was Cazuela. This dish is considered the second most popular Chilean dish, which you will rarely find in restaurants because it is considered home-style comfort food. The most popular dish is Pastel de Choclo and Empanadas came in third. But, what ultimately decided which dish I was going to make was an amazing quote from Sonia Montecino Aguirre, Chilean anthropologist:
On the symbolic plane, cazuela is a metaphor for life and the cosmos. The foods are cooked in water, within a concave vessel like amniotic fluid in the womb; they transform and express, in their variable whole, the plurality of the animal, vegetable and mineral elements. They constitute a chromatic spectrum, a relation of the solid and liquid, of the salty, the spicy and the sweet. … [cazuela] evokes, in turn, the universe within a pot.
Rarely do you find such a poetic description of food, but for each and every one of us there is a dish that exists, which is our "universe within a pot", while it might not be cooked in a fetal vessel, it will symbolize the unique connection to food we all share.
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces, with skin on and trimmed of excess fat
6 cloves of garlic (I used smoked garlic from Tears of Orpheus)
3 tbsp long-grain rice, rinsed till clear
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, cut into 1"/ 2.5cm half-moons
6 carrots, pealed and chopped into 1"/2.5cm
6 lg potatoes, cut into quarters
Bouquet Garni: 2 sprigs of fresh oregano and 4 sprigs of parsley, 8 whole peppercorns
1 cup red peppers sliced across into 1/2"/1.25cm pieces
3 ears of corn on the cob, cut in half
1 1/2 lb/ 680g fresh pumpkin, cut into large chunks,
Garnish: 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Let the salt dissolve and penetrate the chicken. Then add chicken to a large pot with 3 smashed of the cloves of garlic and 3ml of water. I had 700ml of chicken stock, which I substituted for 700ml of water.
Simmer for about 30 minutes. Skim the foam as it forms on the surface. Then strain stock through a sieve and set chicken aside.
In a large pot, heat oil, then add leeks, carrots and remaining garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes, pumpkin, rice, bouquet garni, salt and pepper.
Cook at a simmer for about 30 minutes till the potatoes are fork tender.
Add corn and cook for 5 minutes then add peppers and chicken and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and season.
To serve add a little bit of everything into each plate, then cover with broth and sprinkle with parsley.
A ravenous family and loss of natural light didn't give my the photos I wanted.