Curanto, powerfood for the body and soul

Here’s a recipe to wake the dead. A recipe to fill your soul with exploding vibes and send you off like a raging madman into battle. I must warn you, after consuming this dish, chances are you’ll need a nap first.

Curanto, the original recipe from Chiloe, is made in mother earth’s embrace. One must dig a hole in the ground, place hot stones on the bottom. Meat, seafood and vegetables are layered upon each other, separated by Nalca leaves. (Giant Chilean rhubarb), then it is covered with more Nalca leaves and damp cloths and left to cook for an hour or two. In the meantime people dance and drink until the food is ready.

Curanto means hot stone in Mapudungun

The recipe I’m sharing with you is tweaked for home, or better garden cooking. Garden, because you’ll need a mega pot and a lot of people to eat this with you, so you might as well invite some kindred spirits and have a feast.

You can cook this in a pot over fire, or in a barrel on top of a grill. Whatever large equipment and heat source best suits you. The benefit of this recipe is A. you don’t have to dig holes in your garden and B. you get to keep the juices of the cooking process. In my humble opinion, the soup is the best part of it all, simply delicious.

There are typical Chilean ingredients in this recipe like supersized mussels and milcaos. Please don’t stress, use what you find and like or leave it behind.

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Choro zapato (literally shoe mussel). We simply refer to them as supersized mussels.

Special thanks to my personal Curanto Guru Andrea Ibera for cooking this for us and teaching me. Born and raised in Puerto Aysen, her family descends from Chiloe, she loves fishing, travelling, pampering guests and she’s a tremendously fun lady.

Ingredients for 8 hungry, soon to be warriors

  • 9 kilos of mussels, clams and supersized mussels if you can find them, keep them in cold water and debeard them if needed
  • 2 bottles of white wine for cooking
  • 2 bottles of white wine for drinking
  • 8 medium sized potatoes in their skin
  • Optional – 8 milcaos
  • 8 Chilean chorizos, if you can’t find them,  use 1 kilo of Spanish chorizos instead
  • 1 kilo of smoked pork spare ribs or pork chops
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 spoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground Cumin
  • A pinch of Paprika
  • ½ teaspoon Oregano

Utensils needed:

  • The biggest pot you can find with a lid
  • A long wooden spoon
  • A cloth or towel to cover the lid to keep the vapors in
  • Fire source

Method:

Layer 1 – the sofrito : Chop the onions and the paprika in long slices and gently fry in the olive oil. After a minute or two, add the sliced garlic.

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Layer 2 –Chop the chicken and pork in large, individual portions. Cut the chorizos apart, if they come tight up. Add the meat to the sofrito and gently brown all portions. Use your spoon to turn the meat over, keep an eye on it. Add spices and brown the meat on medium fire for about 10 minutes, keep on turning. (The smoked pork will be salty, be gentle with the salt).

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Layer 3 –Wash the potatoes and place them on top of the meat, then poor in the 2L of white wine and let it come to a boil over medium heat.

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Layer 4 –When the wine is gently boiling, add all shellfish to the pot and do not stir anymore.

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Layer 5 – Place every milcao on top of the mussels and co, they will warm up with the steam.

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Finally, cover the pot with the lid, then place your cloth or towel over the lid and fold it over the edges. Let it cook on medium fire for 15 – 30 minutes or until the shellfish opens.

How to serve

Place a milcao, two of every kind of shellfish (only the open ones, discard the closed ones), one potato, a piece of pork, a piece of chicken and a sausage on every plate. Poor some of the pot’s soup in a soup bowl for every person.
Serve a crispy cold glass of white wine per person and put some pebre on the table.

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Enjoy your feast.
To make the feast extra soothing for the soul, provide some hammocks for afterwards.

Warm regards from Chilean Patagonia,

Andrea x

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