Archive | October 10th, 2010

Pachamanca! Dig It!

Pachamanca! Dig It!

When the stones turn white from salt water, they are hot enough for the panchamanca.

Mother Earth gives us her riches each harvest, so what better way to give thanks than to dig a big hole in the ground and bury the choices pieces?

Well, OK, to bury the potatoes, plantains, corn and yuca along with ribs, chicken and lamb in order to cook them.

That’s the idea behind the Andean pit roast known as pachamanca, and the demonstration of how to prepare this ancient culinary feast was a highlight of the recent Latin Flavors, American Kitchens seminar at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

The elaborate display showcased the school’s new fire pit area and it drew dozens of viewers to watch each step. Pearl Brewery owner Kit Goldsbury and his wife, Angie, were among the excited onlookers and were thrilled to be a part of the ceremony, by placing the cross and flowers on the final pit as the cooking started. The red and white flowers represented the flag of Peru, while the cross was a means of giving thanks — not to bury it, said chef Marilu Madueño of Huaca Pacllana in Lima, Peru.

Marilu Madueño adds layers of cork husks to the panchamanca.

She and her partner, Arturo Rubio, led the demonstration that included many of the school’s students preparing the pit, making the tamales, peeling the yuca and marinating the meats. In Peru, the whole town gets together to celebrate and everyone does his or her part to make the meal happen, Rubio said.

The process starts with placing the potatoes amid the ashes. Then the hot rocks are layered with the meats and vegetables, a process that has to be done quickly, Madueño says. That’s so the meat will sizzle and sear on the rocks.

Once everything is placed in the ground and covered with banana leaves, the whole pit is covered with damp soil so seal in the heat, Rubio said. The air around the rocks ensures the pit “works like a convection oven,” he said.

After the hour-long cooking process, someone pours a drink — usually pisco, but a beer or wine will do — over the mound as a blessing, Rubio said. The four corners of the earth are covered as the people give thanks for their cattle, their family, the harvest and Mother Earth. Cattle comes first, he joked, because without it the family would starve.

The food is removed from the ground with the same ritualistic care as it took to create. But once removed, it is time to dig in and enjoy.








1. CIA student Todd Martin heats rocks over a wood-burning pit used for the Peruvian pachamanca.

2. Peruvian chef Marilu Madueño pours potatoes onto the coals at the bottom of the fire pit.

3. CIA students Josh Calderon (left), Martin and Peruvian chef Arturo Rubio ready rocks while Madueño adds ribs to the pit.

4. A crowd of onlookers watch as the layering of the pachamanca continues.

5. Madueño adds a clay pot of Queso Pario, an aged Andean cheese, to the pit.

6. Fresh corn husks are layered on top.

7. A layer of banana leaves is placed over the food.

8. Hot rocks are placed over the banana leaves.

9. A tarp is placed over the banana leaves.

10. Martin and Calderon cover the pit with loamy soil to seal in the heat.

11. Pearl Brewery owner Kit Goldsbury places a cross on the pachamanca to bless the pit roast.

12. The soil dries and warms as it seals in the heat.

13. Rubio pours a beer over the pachamana as a gift of thanksgiving.

14. Madueño and Rubio pull the tarp, helping to remove the dirt and unearthing the cooked foods inside.

15. Removing the earth requires the help of many.

16. The banana leaves have baked during the process, adding flavor to the foods.

17. Trapped steam rises as the first foods are being removed.

18. Trays of baked tamales, ribs, chicken, potatoes, sweet potatoes and more are removed from the pit.

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Andean Pit Roast (Pachamanca)

Andean Pit Roast (Pachamanca)

Heat the rocks over the fire pit.

This is a Peruvian thanksgiving feast that requires the work of many to prepare and feeds many more. The entire feast is cooked in the same earthen pit.

It may take a couple of days to prepare, not to mention the time it takes to collect 80 river rocks and wrap 40 small corn tamales, but the meal cooks in an hour.

Andean Pit Roast (Pachamanca)

Ají panca paste, to taste (see note)
Huacatay paste, to taste (see note)
Garlic paste, to taste
Pimentón, to taste (see note)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Oregano, to taste

5 whole chickens, cut in pieces
6 racks of baby back pork ribs
2 legs of lamb

80 (6- to 8-inch) river rocks or stones

Arrange all of your ingredients, so you can assemble the pachamanca quickly.

Vegetables and fruit:
40 whole potatoes, various varieties and sizes
20 sweet potatoes
20 plantains
20 ears corn, shucked and husks reserved
20 yucas, peeled
3 pounds fava beans, unshelled

40 humitas or small fresh corn tamales
5 pounds queso paria, an aged Andean farmer’s  cheese
Banana leaves

For the pachamanca hole: The day before cooking the pachamanca, make a hold in the ground. The hole should measure about  2 1/2 feet in diameter and be about 2 feet deep. The earth must be damp in order to make it easier and more compact, and the walls of the hole should be pasted with clay to prevent dust from falling into the ingredients.

For the marinade: Make the marinade for the meats with the ají paste, huacatay paste, garlic paste, pimentón, salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Marinate the meats for at least 24 hours. Note: Check with ethnic markets like Las Americas Latin Market, 6623 San Pedro, for the chile and herb pastes.

For the preparations of the pachamanca hole the day before: “Cure” the stones,  build a fire in the hole, place a grate on top and assemble the stones on top of the grate. Let the stones cook overnight. Some stones will break, the ones that resist the heat will be ready to use in the pachamanca the following day.

For the day of the pachamanca: Sift through the stones, removing any broken pieces. Light a fire with wood in the hole. Please the grate on top and assemble the stones in the form of an igloo on the grate (leave a space between the wood logs and the stones). heat the stones for at least 2 hour. the stones must be extremely hot. Salted water is sprinkled on top in the form of a blessing of the rocks. This step also cleans the rocks and tests the temperature of the stones. When the stones turn white from the salted water, they are are hot enough for the pachamanca. Whent he stones have reached the desired temperature, remove the stones using a large pair of industrial tongs. Put them on a clean surface next to the hole. remove any excess burning wood from the hole prior to the next step.

Removing the food from the pachamanca is a ceremonial process.

For assembling the pachamanca: Place a layer of hot stones along the bottom of the pit. Place the potatoes on top. Add another layer of stones on top of the potatoes and place the pork ribs, lamb and yuca on top. Add another layer of stones and put the chicken on top, followed by the sweet potatoes, and plantains. Lastly, add the fava beans. Cover with a final layer of stones and place the whole corn, queso paria (nestled inside a small clay pot) and humitas, Peruvian fresh  corn tamales. (Do this quickly while the stones are as hot as possible.)

Cover the entire hole with fresh corn husks and then banana leaves and top with more stones, if you have them. Then top with a dampened tarp or a series of dampened natural fiber sacks (this helps create a hermetic seal). The pachamanca is then covered with dirt, flowers in the colors of the Peruvian flag and a cross to bless the pachamanca.

The pachamanca should take about 1 hour to cook. Once you begin to uncover the pit, the ceremonial removal of the food begins. Each layer of food is carefully taken out of the hole. Serve in rustic clay pots, if you have them.

Makes 40 servings.

From Marilu Madueño, Huaca Pucllana, Peru/Culinary Institute of America

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