Location: South America on the Pacific Ocean
Population: 18 million
Geography: A long, narrow country encompassing mountain, desert, plain, and tropics
Signature flavours: Seafood, corn, potato, tomato, avocado
Was it ever hard to plan my menu for Chile! I’m a huge seafood lover, and Chile abounds with fishy dishes. I spent ages trawling through recipes, all of which sounded amazing. I opted for a fish soup that would include a variety of seafoods (why settle for just one?) and empanadas, because I kept running into them in different forms and that seemed like a sign (that they should be eaten).
Caldillo de Congrio con Vino Blanco: A fish soup (“caldillo” means “light broth”) with a cream, white wine, and tomato broth, starring whatever seafood and veg you want to chuck in there. Traditionally, this soup would have been made with Chilean eel (“congrio”), but the recipe I used called for shellfish and whitefish fillets.
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Scallop Empanadas: Pastry dumplings with a filling of scallop, onion, hot sauce, and oregano. The original recipe called for abalone, not scallops, but there were none to be found.
Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes
The Shopping List
I called half a dozen seafood markets in Toronto looking for abalone, a marine snail eaten commonly in Chile, but I learned it is not widely available in Canada. I finally ventured to Seafront Fish Market at Toronto’s St Lawrence Market in my search. They didn’t have abalone, but they had a beautiful array of fishes and shellfishes. It’s one of the most beautiful fish markets I’ve ever been to, so despite a dearth of abalone, I happily settled for scallops, and picked up shrimp and mussels for my caldillo.
For the empanadas, I opted to buy pre-made dough. I KNOW, I KNOW! — but I anticipated that the caldillo was going to take ages, and I have things to do, people! Anyway, I was stumped again when it came to finding empanada dough, but the recipe I was following suggested the use of phyllo or puff pastry as an alternative, so I got puff.
Eric would like it on record that the caldillo is his favourite meal of the Wooden Spoon Wanderer project so far. The soup turned out wonderfully, with a super flavourful broth, chunks of tilapia, tender shrimp and mussels, and melt-in-your-mouth potato. We had two helpings each, and I caught Eric dipping a spoon in there an hour after dinner. The empanadas were really good too. I’m not sure how authentic the puff pastry was, but it was flaky and buttery and everything you could ask of a pastry. The filling had a subtle flavour with a nice kick. It was no surprise that this seafood enthusiast finished her meal with a newfound love for Chilean cuisine.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.