The water of the Chilean beaches is famous for being freezing cold and for leaving your skin blue when one ventures into it. Coming from the Mediterranean, known as the great European soup down here, one can't help to be impressed by the Pacific and the concept of ocean. When the two words are combined together, the Pacific ocean doesn't sound placid at all, more like a challenge for sailors. However, it's not that cold everywhere in this ocean, but only in the Chilean and Peruvian coast because of the Humboldt current, which is originated by the deep water ascent. In its way, this enigmatic water drags nitrates and phosphates from the seabed, which feed the phytoplankton. This favors the zooplankton development, which at the same time feeds the fish and seafood in an exquisite cycle, making this maritime feast one of the purest of the world.
Like Brazilian fruit, Chilean seafood is unique to the country and almost unknown outside. Strangers like locos, machas or picorocos fill the coastal menus. Locos come from the rocks, as well as mussels (here choros), and they are snails actually although they look like oysters or scallops on the outside. Their blood is blue and they have a consistency like the meat one, mind you, royal! Machas look like white mussels or wide razor clams, although the edible part is the closest to a little pink tongue. For a first flirting the best is to ask for mariscal or paila marina, in which almost every kind of mollusk is gathered, raw in the first one, cooked in the latter.
RECIPE -Parmesan Machas-
by Paulina Silva
The Italians would cover their face with their hands if they saw how they melt here the cheese over seafood (they don't really like it). This recipe even dares to be called Parmesan Machas ! However, there's not a happier combination than Chilean seafood with cheese.
Parmesan Machas is one of those extreme dishes in which if it comes out alright is a delight, but if not, it's a chewy hell. The best I've tried in my anxious search have been Paulina Silva's ones, splendid cook famous for her Parmesan Machas in the most exclusive circles, and that I'm lucky enough to have as an aunt.
- Lemon juice
- White wine
- Parmesan cheese
- Cheese to melt (cheddar or mozzarella)
- Stem ginger
- Baby capers
- Salt, pepper
1. Open and clean the machas. You need to squeeze them and take the little sand bag away.
2. Beat or hit them with a wooden spoon so they are not chewy. Keep in the fridge.
3. Clean the shells and keep.
4. Beat together the cream, a splash of white wine, another one of lemon juice, some capers, a bit of stem ginger and a bit of the cheese to melt. The quantities depend entirely on personal taste.
5. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
6. Display the shells on the baking tray and put one caper in each one, then one macha, a splash of white wine, a spoonful of the cream we made before, a cheese piece and finally sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
7. Cook in the oven until the machas look pinkish and the cheese has melted.
8. Time to eat!