Concha y Toro

Ania Smolec 09/03/2017

Elephant garlic from the magical Chiloé Archipelago

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The Spanish settlers brought the garlic to America. But only in Chiloé it evolved towards what today we know as elephant garlic, with properties as magical as the island of the south of Chile. I invite you to discover more about this product, besides some tasty dishes and their pairings with wine.

Garlic belongs to the same family as onion, shallot, leek and chives. The product comes from Central Asia and its consumption began more than 7,000 years ago. Today it is used in all the cuisines of the world. How we could imagine some Italian, French, German, Thai, Indian or Chinese dishes without garlic playing a leading role? In Chile, garlic and onion (with a pinch of cumin and chili pepper) is the base of national cuisine, from soups and stews to meats and savory pies.

Although eating raw garlic can be a bit inconvenient, especially when we have job interviews, it is a product highly recommended for its healthful properties as a source of minerals and vitamins. Even in Ancient Egypt it was applied as medicine. Scientists today confirm its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It is also important for cancer prevention. For centuries our grandparents were forcing us to eat a clove of garlic to cure a cold.

Elephant Garlic and white garlic | CC Lin linao
Elephant Garlic and white garlic | CC Lin linao

The Chiloé garlic plant is much larger than the common one. That’s why it’s called elephant garlic. A clove of Chiloé garlic has a similar size to a shallot. The part we consume are the garlic teeth, which are yellow and of a very creamy texture.

To discover the Chiloé garlic I invite you to this wonderful archipelago of the south of Chile, composed of the main island and numerous small islands that can be visited easily by ferries. Surely the great reason to travel to this part of Chile is its virgin and endemic nature, which captivated even Charles Darwin.

But I would like to invite you to discover also the wonders of its cultural heritage. The archipelago presents a prolific folkloric wealth, like its music and dances, but mainly its religious architecture. In its many localities, among them Castro, Ancud, Dalcahue and Achao, you can visit the churches raised between centuries XVII and XIX. These churches, built with wood (some even use billets instead of nails), display vibrant colors and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tenaún Church, Chiloé | CC Robert Gould
Tenaún Church, Chiloé | CC Robert Gould

When traveling to Chiloé, you have to try its regional gastronomy, where garlic stands out for its particular flavors and delicious texture. Today it is so appreciated that we often find it in supermarkets. It is smoother and elegant than common garlic, but still has a lot of character. Its wine pairing will depend mainly on the principal protein of our dish, its way of cooking and accompaniments.

If you prepare a simple toast with butter, garlic, coarse salt and parsley (this is my favorite remedy for cold) it can be a perfect snack or appetizer. For this exquisite sandwich, so simple and so gourmet, I recommend a fresh wine like Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc. But if you want to add a fresh cheese, fine herbs, and more weight to the preparation, uncork Casillero del Diablo Rosé.

tostadas ajo

One of my favorite dishes, which I prepare when some friends knock on the door without warning, is linguini with chopped raw garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. I love this recipe with Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay. Or during the summer there is nothing more refreshing than the Provencal pistou soup based on fresh basil, raw garlic and olive oil. It is a wonderful terrace plate with Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection White.

But today I want to invite you to learn a very easy -but at the same time delicious and elegant- recipe. It is a chicken with Chiloé garlic, which I always serve with potatoes (hopefully from the same island, where there are more than a hundred varieties). That earthy touch of potatoes really fascinates me with Casillero del Diablo Pinot Noir.

Chiloé Garlic Chicken

Pollo con Ajo ChiloteIngredients for 4 people

  • 4 chicken legs with skin
  • 8 small Chiloé potatoes (of different colors and varieties)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 head of elephant garlic from Chiloé
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Place the chicken, potatoes, onion, garlic, thyme and lemon in a saucepan.
  3. Pour the oil and vinegar and mix everything with your hands.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Put the skin of the chicken upwards.
  6. Roast for about 50 minutes, until the chicken is browned and cooked.