Rick Cooks Home Pil-Pil

Pil-pil is a style of Chilean bocadillo (appetizer, tapa, or hors d'oeuvre) which reflects its Spanish heritage, as it uses lots of olive oil and garlic, but adds a uniquely Chilean ingredient: the cacho de cabra (kid's horn), which is a piquant red-ripe ají.

Pil-pil is usually associated with seafood such as prawns (gambas al pil-pil), shrimp (camarones al pil-pil), or the huge Chilean crayfish (langostinos al pil-pil). My favorite is scallops (ostiones al pil-pil), the recipe presented here.

The criollo origins of this dish are revealed by its name, its presentation (it's always served in an earthenware dish), and its association with the campo (countryside) or seacoast, as the genteel santiaguino is less enamored of spicy-garlicky dishes than are the campesinos.

pomaire.jpg (19738 bytes)To be really authentic, you would purchase some Chilean earthenware pailas from the town of Pomaire (left), famous for its kiln-fired black and terra cotta clay pottery. Pailas are small pans with two handles which do double-duty as plates, going directly from the stove to the table. They are usually made of metal, resembling a small paellera (paella pan), and used in every small, short-order eating establishment such as a casino (a combination snack bar and tea room in a school, office building, or factory). But the humble (and fragile) earthenware paila is more appropriate for serving guests at home. The typical quick "paila" is scrambled eggs and ham, since scrambled eggs are always served in a paila (and usually for afternoon tea, not breakfast).

If using the clay pailas for pil-pil, it's easier to prepare the dish in a skillet and serve in the pailas which have been preheated in the oven.

Serve pil-pil with a marraqueta and a glass of dry white wine from the Casablanca or Maipo valley.

Click here and scroll down to view recipe


Ostiones al Pil-Pil

Chilean Seafood Tapas

*Serves 4*

1 c olive oil
2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced (or to taste)
1 ají *cacho de cabra* or serrano chile, minced or dried (or to taste) 1˝ lb (ľ kg) bay scallops

Heat the oil in a sauté pan until almost smoking, and add the chile and garlic.
When the garlic is almost golden (about 30 seconds), turn the heat to high and add the scallops.
When the scallops are done (1-2 minutes) and before the garlic turns brown, remove from heat and divide the entire contents among the preheated pailas. Serve immediately with crusty bread and chilled white wine.