The wealth of the “Mar Chileno”
Over a hundred recipes based on the wide variety of native products from the sea is what Gloria Frugone offers in her recent book entitled “Mar Chileno”. The author speaks about her inspiration in creating this work and the relationship of her recipes with Chilean wine.
With more than 4,700 kilometers of coast, Chile offers a wide variety of algae, fish and shellfish, many exclusive to the Chilean sea and of the highest quality.
It is this cultural and gastronomic heritage, often not appreciated, that Gloria Frugone wished to rescue in her book “Mar Chileno”, using simple recipes and based mainly on native products taken from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
“Mar Chileno”, published by El Mercurio-Aguilar and sponsored by Viña Concha y Toro, is a book focused on sea products so, in addition to its more than a hundred recipes, it has a section covering the various varieties of fish in Chile, another explaining how to choose the fish and shellfish when buying, and one that covers the indispensable ingredients for seafood cooking.
What led you to write this book of recipes of Chilean sea products?
It occurred to me last year that we had no register of our sea, which is very curious given the extent of our coast. “Mar Chileno” is a proposal for recovering the recipes for traditional Chilean sea products in order to bring seafood cooking closer to our homes and recover that heritage that belongs to all of us, which is the sea.
To some degree, I am in a position to be able to do this, to show to the world how we Chileans are. Sea products are much sought after by Chileans and foreigners, but curiously we consume little in our homes. We Chileans should leave aside trash food and eat more healthy and nutritious food like seafood. The recipes in this book are therefore easy to follow and use mainly Chilean ingredients.
How do you feel about the end result?
I feel very satisfied with this book, it was a duty for me to show the Chilean sea and I feel that there is much more to do in this wish to recover our heritage.
How do you see the relationship between your dishes and wine?
Cuisine and wine are an inseparable marriage for me. Cuisine is for wine and wine for the cuisine. I therefore included in my book a chapter where I explain the basic principles of how to combine fish and shellfish with the different varieties of wine (see inset).
How do you feel about your book in relation to Concha y Toro and its wines?
I believe that Concha y Toro, the largest and most important Chilean winery, is very conscious of the need to rescue the terroir, to show how we are as Chileans through wine. The winery thus takes Chile to the world. I therefore think that we are very connected with Concha y Toro and this is why I sought the support of the winery in preparing this book.
What is your favorite Concha y Toro wine?
I like the Chardonnay of Marques de Casa Concha very much, and the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir of Maycas del Limarí. These are my four favorite wines. I also believe a lot in the potential of Casillero del Diablo. In price-quality terms, I find it by far the very best Chilean wine. What I most like about Casillero del Diablo is the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is strong, potent and also delicious, very appetizing and very rich. I believe it could compete perfectly with much more expensive wines and beat them.
Have you always been a fanatic of fish and shellfish?
I have always been a fanatic of seafood and that mainly due to the influence of my parents. Since I was a child, I have eaten, red sea squirt (an edible seaweed), abalones, barnacles, sea algae; I was never fussy, I always tried everything. I live for the pleasure, flavors, aromas, this is natural for me and this is the way I have been since a child.
What is your favorite place for eating them?
There are many traditional Chilean restaurants. You can eat excellent fish and shellfish at Infante 51; its chef Xabier Zabala is an expert in Chilean sea products. Coco Pacheco is also a great promoter of Chilean seafood cuisine and I love it.
And needless to say, the dishes of Guillermo Rodríguez are marvelous and I value him highly as a chef who is rescuing Chilean cooking. I also like Tomás Olivera’s CasaMar. These are all places for good eating.
There are also other alternatives that are more accessible to the pocket, competitively-priced restaurants. Exquisite products can be found in Santiago’s Central Market; Donde Augusto, for example is very good.
And if you go to Puerto Varas, I recommend a visit to a restaurant called “La Olla”, which surprises you for its cooking which is simple, abundant, colored and fresh food, which is the way we Chileans like to eat.
From whom did you inherit your good cooking skills?
I think that I learned these skills from my mother. She is an excellent cook and has been a great example with respect to Chilean cooking.
My father is of Italian descent, so they educated me in that way; I went to the Scuola Italiana and my grandmother prepared marvelous pastas.
But my mother never lost her north and the cooking was always Chilean. Unconsciously she transmitted this to me as I liked cooking, and it became engraved in me.
We used to cook several products that are seldom used today, like sea algae. I remember my mother cooking “cochayuyo a la jardinera”, “budín de cochayuyo”, fried conger eel, “pejerreyes” (silversmelt) and a wide variety of sea products.
You are the co-author of the books Cocina Ya 2 and Cocina Ya 3 and the guide “Descubra Chile en 200 datos” Is this your first book that is completely your own?
This is my first book to be published by El Mercurio-Aguilar. I also prepared a very ambitious book on the desserts of Chile called “Entorno” for the company Iansa, for which I am the writer and editorial director. The recipes in that book are by Rodolfo Guzmán, who also focuses the preparation of his desserts on traditional dishes. This book will be on sale in six months’ time.
Do you plan to continue writing?
I have other plans within the idea of recovering tradition but I prefer to keep them secret in order to keep them more as a surprise (she smiles).
Wines for pairing with seafood:
- Raw shellfish and fish with lemon or cebiches
Variety: Sauvignon Blanc or some dry Riesling.
Our recommendation: Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Sauvignon Blanc
- Steam-cooked shellfish and fish like abalones, mussels and white fish
Variety: Chardonnay without wood, i.e. a fresh wine without storage in casks.
Our recommendation: Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay
- Grilled shellfish and fish, sautéed in butter or olive oil
Variety: Chardonnay with wood, i.e. a more complex wine which has been kept in oak barrels.
Our recommendation: Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay
- Red-meat fish like sealed or grilled tunafish
Variety: Pinot Noir, a delicate and exquisite variety that pairs perfectly with this red-meat fish, with flavor and an intense structure.
Our recommendation: Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir
About Gloria Frugone…
Degree in education from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and also graduated in hotel management, specializing in food and beverage, from Inacap. She has been writing for the Cooking Supplement of El Mercurio’s Ya magazine for over ten years.