Pastel de Choclo

Fabulous South American Food #1

While Chile usually takes one´s belly off for a spin around the dancefloor, it initially took mine off to the futón to hang out foetus-like in the corner to suffer through the cramps and pains of the first meat I’d eaten in six months.  Once my tum had again become used to digesting carcass (!) I was able to get my teeth into some of the deliciousness the country offers:  pastel de choclo (crispy-topped, oven-baked corn and chicken with an olive or two hiding inside), humitas (the same corn mixture wrapped inside corn leaves), ceviche (raw seafood salad with garlic, onion, coriander and ají…disclaimer:  Peruvians, I know this is your national pride!).

Despite Cristian’s insistance that “no se cenan, los chilenos” I see lots of people eating dinner, albeit it a sort of strange oddness that I can’t even begin to imagine ordering in Australia!  What takes the cake was a plate of fatty ham, boiled cauliflower, potato and salted peanuts forked over by friends in The Clinic bar, Bellas Artes.  No one but me raised an eyebrow, of course!

Pastel de Choclo
A bit of chicken and a surprise number of olives are hidden in this tasty, baked corn dish.

Around this time, I was also introduced to the gift to the world that is machas a la parmesana.  Seafood is so prolific here in Chile – and in the south of Spain where I used to live – that I have ended up knowing more marine vocabulary in Spanish, than in English.

(Our good friend Google tells me that machas are abalone and/or clams.  This is a much more exciting realisation if they are indeed the latter, as I’d never seen those on a menu at home before…and there they were, sitting prettily atop a bed of ice – and, sadly of course, still trying to breath – in a normal Chilean supermarket.)

Machas a la Parmesana
Machas a la Parmesana: simple and almost heartbreakingly delicious

These were so easy to prepare that I almost cried.  The annoying part is opening them, scooping out all the flesh and cleaning the shells.  But once that’s over, it’s a simple as:

  1. Arrange shells on an oven tray
  2. Re-distribute machas, one on each shell
  3. Garnish each with a small knob of butter
  4. Douse them with white wine, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper
  5. Fire up the oven and allow them to cook gently in their own juices

Please, do yourself a favour and try them…

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