From Savannah to Santiago and Back Again

2011.Feb.16 Wednesday · 2 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“The rate of human invention is faster, and the rate of cultural loss is slower, in areas occupied by many competing societies with many individuals and in contact with societies elsewhere.”

– Jared Diamond, scientist and author

With two themes competing for my attention, it came down to either picking one or doing a mashup. The more I thought about it, the more I thought the mashup was the way to go – and it was interesting how similar some of the cuisine from the State of Georgia and that of the City of Santiago, Chile, is. February 12th is Georgia Day, the commemoration of the arrival of the first European settlers to that state, in what was to become the city of Savannah, when 113 folk aboard the British ship Anne set foot on the shores in 1733. Two centuries earlier, in 1541, the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo was founded by the conquistador Pedro de Valdiva. Having played around with food from both places in past dinners, the combining of ideas came quickly….

Sausage and Corn Fritter

Corn is a common ingredient in both places, as are various pork products. A sausage and corn fritter seemed a good starting point – freshly made sausage meat with some smoked merkén pepper from Chile gave a nice twist to the sorts of links one might find in Georgia. And of course the Chilean national condiment trio of avocado, mayo and tomato had to come into play – a tomato and red onion salsa, and an avocado mayo made perfect accompaniments. A slightly heavy start to the evening, but then, the food of these two locales is not noted for being light….

Conger Chowder

A good fish chowder from the coast of Georgia and the classic caldillo de congrio from Santiago are, in many ways, the same soup. The caldillo brings in a bit of tomato, the use of conger eel as the staple fish, and cream rather than milk; the chowder brings in the roux and the bacon. The combination is as good or better than either is on their own.

Pappardelle Mac ’n Cheese

I’m not sure that there’s anything Chilean in the influences of this dish when it comes right down to it. My intent, as the last time I played with this particular plate was to do an upscale twist on mac ‘n cheese. Silky, freshly made pappardelle tossed with a white cheddar bechamel forms the base, and then a spicy, crunchy topping of sauteed garlic, chilies and hazelnuts, followed by some sauteed asparagus (a much better choice than last time’s tempura asparagus).

Jambalaya

I’m a big jambalaya fan, regardless of what part of the south it comes from. I learned to make it Cajun style, but of course, there’s nothing like andouille sausage or tasso ham to be had here. So for my meat base, a mix of smoky fuet de Tandil, some spicy cantimpalo, and cured bondiola. A good dose of the Chilean merkén pepper to liven it up, some chicken, prawns, and, of course all the other good stuff like peppers, onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, oregano and bay.

Fried Peach & Dulce de Leche Pies

A proper Georgia fried peach pie isn’t all that different from an empanada, those these tip the scale towards the latter side. And, in addition to fresh peaches cooked down in butter and brown sugar, I went into overdrive with a good dollop of dulce de leche inside, and then butterscotch syrup pooled on the plate. The second night I did the same but baked the “pies” instead of fried – it’s a tossup. Both work.

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