Disclosure: My cooking class was provided courtesy of Uncorked Cooking Workshop, however I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.
It’s one of the dishes that I’ve tried up and down the continent of South America and have pretty much loved in all its variations – although some more than others. After having an ungodly amount of ceviche in Lima, I gave it a rest for a bit as I headed back up into the mountains of Peru and Bolivia.
So I was thrilled when I saw that ceviche was one of the dishes we would be making in my class with Uncorked Cooking Workshop! Just reading the menu made me salivate for the sour-citrusy seafood goodness. (Say that ten times fast!)
Our day started with a mercado tour lead by our guide, Matias, who is a born-and-raised Santiago foodie. As he deftly led us in and out of stalls first at not just one but FOUR mercados, he frequently stopped to say hello or to joke with a vendor or to give us a bit of history or background on some of the characters we met in the markets.
He described the scene at 4am – prime time – when the loading dock is full of sellers and I could barely imagine it being busier than the crowd that we were weaving through. Chile has the benefit of a range of climates, its boundaries spanning from the arid desert of the Atacama in the north and down to Patagonia in the south – so fruits and vegetables growing seasons are quite long and something delicious is always available.
With miles and miles of coastline, there is also amazing seafood, like the reinata (in Hawaii, we call this monchong) that Matias picked up for our soon-to-be ceviche! Matias’s passion for telling the stories of the mercado really brought it to life and I loved being able to ask questions about anything and everything, including varieties of fish, berries and camote (pumpkin) that were easily the largest I’d ever seen!
After a short cab ride to the Bellavista neighborhood, we arrived to our kitchen and classroom for the afternoon, which was modern and well-equipped for a small group to get a hands-on experience in making and tasting the dishes. The other four guests and I enjoyed a lesson in making our own pisco sours – learning the slight differences from the Peruvian version of the spirit (which in Chile is aged, giving it a darker color than in Peru) and also the serving styles – in Chile, the pisco sour is served in a champagne flute!
Next, we learned how to season and prepare the filling and to roll out and fold our own dough for another iconic Chilean dish, empanadas de pino. I’d had these before with a ground beef filling, but for our class Matias had selected a cut of beef similar to stew meat, which was chopped, then stirred together with onion and a mix of spices and simmered until the meat is cooked through but still juicy. Boiled egg and pitted black olives were tucked into the pastry to complete each empanada.
As our masterpieces were whisked away into the oven, we moved on to a last minute substitution for our dessert from Matias’s grandmother’s recipe for turron de vino. Mercifully it had been switched with the usual desert, leche asada, so we would avoid turning on the oven in the summer heat.
Finally, it was time for us to move onto the ceviche! We took turns helping with the prep – peeling and grating ginger, chopping avocado, squeezing lime juice and then mixing it all together with a blend of chiles and cilantro. For me, the addition of avocado was absolutely delicious and something that set this version of ceviche apart those I’d tried in Peru – they really love their avocados in Chile and all the ones I had were so buttery and delicious!
Matias guided us with tips about how to plate up our ceviche – we each used a mold to give a bit of height to our dish, then garnished it with a crispy plantain chip and a pile of fresh watercress. We ladled a bit of “leche de tigre” or the juice that is leftover from mixing up the ceviche, into a shot glass to accompany our dish, and voila – it was time to enjoy the finished project with a beautiful reserve Sauvignon Blanc from nearby Casablanca Valley.
Overall, I was very impressed with this class and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Each course was expertly paired with Chilean wines (the company does wine tours as well) and you leave with detailed recipe sheets and your apron! One thing to note is that in the FAQ on the website it says the class typically takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours, but mine took nearly 7 hours! This just goes to show how enthusiastic Matias is about sharing his love for Chilean cuisine. Be sure that you come hungry as you will be eating (and drinking) throughout the day! I even took home leftover empanadas, which were fantastic as a late night snack.