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