A Cazuela Kind of Day

Some days are just made for comfort food, and for me, when in Chile, that means cazuela… That steaming bowl of colorful vegetables, meat, and broth that’s just perfect for a gray and dreary mid-winter Sunday, like today.

Cazuela de ave, french fries with hot sauce, vegetarian sandwich at Lomit's

Cazuela de ave, french fries with hot sauce, vegetarian sandwich at Lomit's

Eileen at Bearshapedsphere got me thinking about comfort food this morning when she declared it a perfect day for arroz con leche (Chilean style rice pudding). I agreed. This was a comfort food kind of day, and then I remembered the Liz Caskey’s recent post on comfort food from “home-home” vs. comfort food from our adopted home. She’s right too. Somewhere along the way, my list of comfort foods has grown from typical gringo fare (macaroni and cheese, crispy oven-fried chicken, scalloped potatoes with pork chops, meat loaf and mashed potatoes, beef stew, hot roast beef sandwiches au jus, corned beef and cabbage, chicken noodle soup, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, grilled cheese on rye with dill pickles, a patty melt from the diner, spaghetti and meatballs in homemade tomato sauce, a big fat juicy burger on the grill, fried fish on Friday, corn on the cob, steamed clams dripping in butter, watermelon on the back porch… Arrgh! Make me stop! The list goes on—and has absolutely nothing to do with MacDonald’s—much to the disbelief of most Chilean’s I know, by the way! My list of comfort foods now includes such Chilean staples as costillar con pure picante (ribs with spicy mashed potatoes), plateada con puré picante (braised beef and okay, so I like the spicy spuds!), papas rellenas con queso (potatoes stuffed with cheese) and my all-time personal favorite: cazuela.

Cazulea (pronounced kah-SWAY-la), whether beef (cazuela de vacuno) or chicken (cazuela de ave), is part soup, part stew, and 100% pure heart-and-soul-warming goodness. Ask for a cazuela in Spain and you’ll end up with an empty casserole dish, but in Chile it’s the finished product that gets the attention. The ingredients are all familiar to the American table, although presented in their very Chilean way—almost always in steaming hot individual-serving dark brown Pomaire clay bowls. A whole potato (peeled), rice, french-cut green beans, a large chunk of squash (zapallo, often with the skin on), a 3” chunk of thick-kerneled corn on the cob, a hefty portion of beef (bone-in is best) or chicken in a rich broth and liberally dusted with fresh chopped parsley and/or cilantro. And on a gray winter day, all that color does wonders to drive the blues away!

This is a 3-utensil dish: fork, knife, and soup spoon required. Traditionalists insist that the steaming broth be slurped up first along with some hearty bread and spicy pebre (salsa). Then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get serious about downsizing—slicing, peeling, chunking, and savoring—the rest. There’s nothing dainty or bite-sized about this dish, and when Chileans think hearty, they mean it. This is some serious Chile-style down-home eatin’ … and if that ain’t comfort food, I don’t know what is!

15 responses to “A Cazuela Kind of Day

  1. I made cazuela the other day, though it is HOT here, we were both just feeling it (y me salió espectacular). I have to say though, that I cut up everything before I eat it… as a soup/stew. it just makes more sense to me, I guess I am just “gringa” that way. I like little pieces of everything on my spoon.

  2. Cazuela in the summer! Well- comfort food is comfort food ANY time of the year!
    And yes, I do cut it up before I eat it… but not before I serve it (that would be sacrilege!) It would turn it into a kind of vegetable beef soup, wouldn’t it?

  3. Peg,
    I’m not ready for “winter” food yet but your recipe sounds great! You’ll have to make it for me when I come to visit!

  4. You’re on!! You come visit and I’ll serve you all the Chilean comfort food you can handle!! Would love to have you!! How about a Murphy sister LONG distance road trip to Chile!

  5. as you know, I’m not of the meat-eating variety, but I love the look of this soup. And you can be sure that everyone gets the same amount of everything, because like you said, it’s half a cob of corn, a piece of squash and the meat. My money’s on charquicán for Chilean comfort food though. Or porotos granados, it’s still warm when that’s in season.

    I’m sure you had a great meal!

  6. I’m not so crazy about charquicán… too mushy, but porotos granados… now THERE’s a dish worth getting nostalgic about… especially since it’s so seasonal!

  7. aahhh, I love Cazuela during Cazuela weather 🙂

  8. Yeah… it’s still cazuela season here! Not that you would know it with the heat we’ve had lately!

  9. I have to disagree here. I cannot handle Chilean food at all. Those Cazuelas are to my English palate just over boiled flavourless mush.

    Ok the UK food is not great, but compared to Chilean cuisine it ROCKS

  10. Ahh! Then maybe you’ve just never had the right cazuela!
    The best I ever had was on a photographic trip north with Hernan Maino-we stopped to talk with a local guy and Hernan convinced him to get his mother to fix us lunch (paid of course). We came back a few hours later and to discover one chicken less in the yard and the tastiest cazuela de ave I could ever imagine!

  11. Pingback: Chile’s Fiestas Patrias: Fondas for September « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  12. oh i can’t believe what Matt is saying.
    British cuisine is basically unexisting..
    The North of europe has the least developed cuisine, and there is just nothing to eat!
    Most of the food comes packaged already, and all flavours seam to me so fake.
    Thank god you can find good deals to flight to Spain or Italy, or even France, coutries with an international and recognised cuisine.
    Britain, mmm not so much.
    I have been there, and my boyfriend is british, and even he agrees.
    If you hate a cazuela, just think how is it for us foreigns a british breakfast.
    I don’t find a word in english to descrive it so i’ll say it spanish. REPUGNANTEMENTE ASQUEROSO..
    Maybe you should just go back Matt.

  13. Hahaha- thanks for the chuckle Javi–and I’ll let you in on a secret… Matt confessed to me just recently that he had actually tried a cazuela that he liked! He’s getting there…
    And even as a true cazuela-lover, I have to admit that some are much better than others…

  14. Hahahah I love it when Chileans defend their terrible food.
    Ok so if you like over cooked veggies, meat burnt to a crisp with a kilo of salt, raw potatoes or milk boiled with sugar then come to Chile.

    Yes I did have an edible cazuela recently, but mostly they are oily goo.

    Chile has fantastic natural resources, just the people here put up with it being badly prepared.

    Also bringing a god into the equation! hahahaha Ok lets also bring in Santa Claus.
    We stop believing in Santa Claus at 7 why continue to believe in another myth?

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