Encuentro Gourmet, Puerto Natales
Tonight five of us are gathered to take part in a hands-on gourmet cookery workshop. Amandine will show us how to prepare Chupe De Centolla or King Crab Bake. A rich baked dish using fresh crab, cream, and cheese, spiced with Merken. King Crab, caught in the waters of the Magallanes region is one of Patagonia’s most iconic gourmet ingredients.
We retire to a bright, well- equipped kitchen to prepare the Chupe. Amandine runs through basic knife skills, as we chop a rainbow-spectrum of vegetables into fine strips. The vegetables are gently fried until soft, a kingly 1kg portion of crab meat is added followed by cream cheese and cream.
This fragrant mixture is decanted into pocillos de greda, traditional clay bowls, sprinkled with Merken*, decorated with whole crab legs, grated cheese then placed in the oven to bake.
The group shifts to the adjoining dining room where we share culinary tales over a delicious smoked trout cerviche and chilled glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. As tempting aromas carry through from the kitchen conversation flows easily.
Amandine happily shares her passion for Patagonian gastronomy with the group. The dishes she shares are not complicated to prepare, their beauty lies in using fresh seasonal locally sourced ingredients, simple preparation and clever seasoning.
She explains both the culinary use of Merken, the indigenous spice of Chile, and places it in a cultural context. Merken is a mild smoky spice mix prepared from smoked Ajo cacho de cabra (Goats Horn Pepper), salt, cumin and coriander. It lends its unique aromatic smokey flavour to many traditional Arancunian dishes. This ancient Mapuche ingredient is highly valued for its analgesic properties among others. Historically, during times of conflict the Mapuche applied the spice to wounds to provide pain relief and aid healing.
After twenty minutes we sit down to enjoy the delicious Chupe de Centolla , paired with another crisp white wine The atmosphere is one of easy camaraderie as we delight in savouring the dish we all contributed towards preparing.
Email us if you would like to include a cooking workshop in your trip to Patagonia. And watch this space for our new Culinary Journeys through Chile!