Curanto Al Hoyo (Recipe): Chiloe’s Signature Dish
The curanto is a traditional form of food preparation in the island of Chiloe, a true Chilote classic. Its name derives from the hot rocks used in its preparation, in which a variety of meats, shellfish, and potatoes are cooked over heated stones in an earthen pit. First the rocks are laid down, then the shellfish, meats, potatoes, milcao, and chapalele, followed by the giant nalca leaves (giant Chilean wild rhubarb) used to hold in the steam. The whole pit is covered with chunks of earth and left to cook for a couple hours, steamed by the juices released by the shellfish and meats.
When the meal is ready, the nalca leaves are removed to reveal heaping mounds of basically every meat you could ever imagine eating. As the curanto produces an obscene quantity of food, this meal is generally cooked in the countryside, and is always meant to be shared by a healthy number of friends and family members. The meal is traditionally enjoyed eating straight from the hoyo (pit), accompanied by un buen vinito (a glass of white wine), but can also be served on plates at the table.
For those not wanting to dig giant holes in their yards to recreate this recipe, there is also the version cooked in a pot, known as curanto a la olla or pulmay. I learned how to make this with a family in the south of Chile, and while this recipe might not be the most traditional preparation, it’s undoubtedly authentic and, most importantly, delicious:
Curanto a la Olla Recipe
Coriander seed, ground (optional)
Merkén (Chilean smoked chili powder)
White Wine, for cooking
Chapalele (recipe below)
Milcao (recipe below)
Lemon Wedges to serve
- In a bowl, mix meat with spices, to taste. Brown the meat in a big soup pot (to about medium done). Sauté onions in frying pan and add to meat.
- Cover with white wine. NO WATER ALLOWED. Simmer covered on low for 15 minutes (or until meat looks about 20 minutes from being ready).
- Add mussels and clams, lay chapalele and a single whole potato on top, add more wine if necessary, cover and simmer ~20 minutes, or until mussels open.
- Curanto is done when mussels open, chapalele is firm enough to scoop up with a spoon, and the whole potato is tender.
- Add cilantro, let sit 2-3 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and wine. Enjoy!
Combine mashed potatoes with flour to form a thick dough. Divide into balls and flatten into palm-sized discs about 1 cm thick.
Combine equal parts mashed potato with shredded raw potato, first squeezed to remove excess liquid. Salt to taste. Form balls and add a piece of chicharron (fried pork fat) to the middle before flatting into a pancake similar in size to the chapalele.
- Meat can be anything of preference, in strips or whole thighs. Adjust cooking times accordingly.
- Use your hands to really get the seasonings and flavor into the meat. Don’t be shy on the spice.
- Use real potatoes for the chapalele and milcao. No instant mash!
- Chapalele can be separated from the liquid–and from each other–with wax paper.
- Use any white wine that comes in a big bottle (or box). Drink whatever’s leftover with the meal!
- I personally prefer a more simplistic version of the recipe, with just two meats and one form of potato: clams, sausage, and chapalele. Feel free to adjust the recipe per your preferences!