Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chilean Cazuela

For the next Project Food Blog challenge, we are to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, but being outside of my culinary comfort zone is the zeitgeist of my blog.  After my obsession with cooking African recipes this past May, I find I won't actually be challenging myself, but I would just be searching for another reason to delve into the unknown. However, what I found difficult about this task was not moving away from the familiar, but narrowing down the choices.  The world is a smorgasbord and I didn't know where to begin.

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.
Cazula de Ave adapted from Eat Wine

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.

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