Rick Cooks HomeCharquicán
Chilean Beef Stew

Chilean criolla (creole, or peasant) dishes are characteristically generous with New World vegetables (potatoes, onions, squash, beans, corn, ají) and stingy on protein (fish, poultry, meat), but you will always find some animal products, even if the proportion is meager, in even the most humble dish.

This is a beef stew eaten as comfort food in the homes of the campesino as well as the prosperous city dweller. In the countryside, it will have more ají, and in the city, more beef, but the ingredients are the same. Before refrigeration, the meat used was actually beef jerky, or charqui, from which the name is derived. Today, simple stew beef is almost exclusively used.

During especially hard times, when beef was either unavailable or extravagant, innovative cooks dug even deeper and found a high protein substitute for the beef: dried kelp (a type of giant Pacific seaweed) called cochayuyo. I'm sure it's nutritious, and even today many Chileans still enjoy Charquicán de Cochayuyo. If you're vegetarian, you should try it -- it could be a great discovery.

This recipe is from Mirtha Umaña-Murray's Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine, Lowell House, 1996. Another recipe may be found (in Spanish) at the web page of Dr. Roberto Marín Vivado.

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*Serves 6*

2 lb lean round beef rump or other inexpensive beef cut
½ c caldo (beef stock)
1 t paprika
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 c pumpkin, diced
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 pinch aliño (mixed dried herbs)
1 pinch cumin
black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
2 T olive oil
1 package fresh or frozen green beans (10 oz)
1 package fresh frozen corn kernels (10 oz)
salt, to taste
1 pinch fresh, flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped

Cut the beef into strips and simmer in 1/3 c caldo for 1 hour. Shred the beef and save the juices. Sauté the shredded beef with the paprika, onion, garlic, pumpkin, potatoes, aliño, cumin, and pepper in the oil. After about 10 minutes, add the rest of the caldo and the saved juices; simmer for 15 minutes. Add the frozen vegetables, check for salt, and cook for 5 minutes. Serve topped with parsley.

Vegetarian: To prepare Cbarquicán de Cochayuyo, replace the meat with about 1 lb of dry cochayuyo and the beef stock with vegetable stock. To cook cochayuyo you must soak it overnight in water and vinegar and then boil it in water and vinegar for about 1 hour until tender. Then cut it into 1-inch cubes, sauté and continue with the rest of the recipe.