21 June 2006

chilean spice

We went south. The rain subsided as a new swell filled in. At a little known left point, I got a three day tube-riding lesson of a lifetime from Marko a.k.a. TLS a.k.a. BarrelBoy.

Yes, that´s Prof. Marko in the tube, and me in the front row.

Of course I look relaxed - the bottom is sand.

There we met Chris, a friendly San Francisco surfer traveling by truck with his mellow old friend, the Griz. He had two extra seats and a huge rack that easily accomodated all six of Marko´s surfboards. (Marko is the same guy who teases me for traveling with knives and a little chopping block. TLS.) Griz graciously gave up shotgun, and together we explored over a thousand miles of coastline up through the desert in the north. Pine trees gave way to scrub, and the coast eventually became a rocky Martian landscape.

Even though we camp most of the time now, the towns we pass through keep us well provisioned. For lunch we make sandwiches heaped with cold cuts and vegetables. For dinner we make stew with sausage. Every few days we refill our water jugs, clean out a vegetable stand, and then hunt for a bakery and a butcher shop.

Like their European ancestors, Chileans are fresh bread fanatics. Bakeries are everywhere, from impossibly small storefronts to big city supermarkets. They all make the same two rolls: a flat disk laminated with a little lard, and an airier version with a crisp crust. The bread stales quickly, but when every bakery makes two or three batches a day, there is always bread for sandwiches.

Butchers are harder to find in big cities, but they still thrive in small towns. Take Gabriel at ¨Carnes Pucon.¨ He works six days a week and has two cell phones and a land line. Every Monday, two whole cows and four pigs are delivered to his doorstep. He was making sausages when I walked in.

Like most small butcher shops, Gabriel sells raw cuts of beef butchered to order from the carcass hanging on the wall behind him and a specialty product made in-house. Over the past month I have become obsessed with ¨arrollado de cerdo¨ (literally translated as ¨pig roll-up¨), a delicious cold-cut beautifully marbled with fat and flavored with a standard but magical spice mix. Sorry, no arollado, but he uses the same seasoning in his ¨longaniza¨ sausage and was sure I would like it. Following his instructions I cooked it till crispy, and was rewarded with a sausage that is sweet like Kielbasa but enlivened with savory bursts of fat and spice.

When I returned the next day, Gabriel generously laid out his entire spice rack for me to see. Ground cumin, ají (paprika), oregano, fresh garlic, and salt. No secret, he said, laughing when I recounted a previous experience with a tight lipped butcher. Everyone uses the same thing! (A week later I passed a guy on the street selling trinkets and snacks alongside a small display of garlic and three little spice packets.)

Over glasses of his homemade apple chicha – more bitter than the grape chicha, but no less alcoholic - we chatted about the future of small butcher shops like his in Chile. Twenty years ago butchers were everywhere. With the growth of supermarkets and large-scale meat processing, he predicts there won´t be any left in twenty years. What about a successor? His son doesn´t want to be a butcher – he´s working his culo off in the capital to become a chef.

If there is a secret to Gabriel´s longaniza, it´s that he makes it fresh every day. If you don´t have a butcher like Gabriel around the corner, it´s not hard to make your own. The most important ingredient for sausage is the meat. It may be hard to find ground pork with fat in supermarkets, but it´s worth the search. Look for markets that still do some butchering in-house. Whole Foods is a good place to start. Talk to the butcher. If you can´t find it, lean meat will work. You can also use turkey which also tastes wonderful when prepared with these spices. Dan, try it with tofu and post a comment!


2 lbs. GROUND PORK with fat

4 cloves GARLIC, smashed, peeled, and finely chopped

2 Tbsp PAPRIKA (If your local supermarket has a Mexican foods section, ¨Chile California molido¨is the closest approximation to the Chilean ¨aji¨)

2 Tbsp OREGANO (Mexican oregano is best here and will be hanging right next to the ground chile powder)

one half tsp GROUND CUMIN

1 Tbsp SALT

Gabriel passes the meat and garlic through the grinder together. You can approximate the effect by smashing the garlic with the broadside of your knife before you peel and chop it.

Thoroughly mix all the above ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 3 hours to let the flavors mingle. If you have the equipment and the knowhow to fill sausage casings, go for it. Otherwise form the mix into logs, patties, or meatballs.

If cooking sausage on the stovetop, open the windows, preheat the pan, add a tablespoon of oil, and carefully lay the sausage into the pan. Leave it alone for few minutes to develop a nice crust. Flip it. After a few minutes on the second side, cut off a corner to see if its done. Otherwise grill the sausage like a hamburger, cooking both sides till done.

The sausage is good with eggs, between bread, in lentil stew, or all by itself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

will try out the recipe. this august from sardinia will send you the spicy sausage recipe sardinian style... guess what? made a banana bread the other day.. as per eric's instructions... the places you are seeing are breathtaking! claudia

2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this surfing, puppies, and culinary enthusiasm. I hope you haven't lost your cynicissm. I think maybe you need a couple months pounding in a Peruvian prison, tossing a bunch of salads - Sonam

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric, the comment by Sonam was just too much. What a looser.
I love you baby,

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love you baby, I love you so amuch......cough cough hack hack

Now that I think about it, you've always been into cooking. I remember you telling me you wanted to start a quesadilla stand at Pomona and sell it to drunk people on the weekend. That would made a lot of bucks.


7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today I made lentil stew with longaniza 'medallions' (couldn't get sausage casings): fue increible: el sabor de Chile y surf. The longaniza was exactly how it should have tasted; good job on the recipe. I added some chopped apples because they're sweet and in season, and pan-fried the flattened meatballs, glazing with red wine. I couldn't bring myself to add the soft-boiled egg over top of it all: I think you need a 4 hour pre-eating surf session to pack in all that protein. Digest with mate.


7:24 PM  
Blogger Eric Wolfinger said...

What cynicism? Anyway I wonder what a Peruvian prison kitchen looks like. I sure don't envy the the cook... that's got to be a lot of salads.

Speaking of cute furry animals, I'm looking forward to my first roasted guinea pig. Thanks for the commentario, Sonam. -E

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the amounts of "secret" Chilean spices in your recipe, our grilled longaniza burgers still needed a spicy sauce (Hunt's Ketchup or Bull's Eye BBQ). Besides burgers are too thick to get the right ratio of crust to not-crust.

For July 4 we doubled the garlic & all the seasonings (except oregano) and then panfried thin 6" and silver-dollar patties ‘til very brown and crisp. We had a delicious breakfast of the silver-dollar patties with eggs, tomato slices & toast. But the 6" longaniza patty on its own tastes best!

M & D taste testers

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tell me again why I couldn't go...

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a beautiful country!Your pictures are breathtaking, and I'm so jealous of the surf.Great recipe
simple and delicious. I agreed w/ Mom and added some garlic and cumin.Made the sausage and cooked them a few different ways. My favorite was on your pizza dough, w/ roasted peppers, and a poached egg.Yum!Missing you,Soulfully!

11:10 AM  

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