PachamancaIn Peru, pachamanca isn’t simply a method of cooking; it is a celebration in and of itself. To partake in pachamanca is to be a part of a community, if for no other reason than the simple fact the means of preparation demands community involvement.
The symbolic overtones of earth, life and death are strong in every aspect of the feast. The name 'pachamanca' is derived from the Quechan words for 'earth' and 'pot' because it literally uses the ground itself as the vessel for cooking.
Unlike other methods of cooking that involve burying the food to cook, the coals are not present in a pachamanca or, if they are included, there presence is secondary. Instead, the heat for cooking is derived from rocks that are put over a fire prior to the cooking process. Peru has an abundance of rounded rocks that absorb heat well and these provide a more efficient heat source than simple coals.
The origin of the pachamanca goes back centuries and pre-dates the Incas. Originally, pachamanca’s were cooked using only vegetables but the introduction of livestock by the Spanish saw the seamless integration of meats into the style of cooking as well.
Typically, the pachamanca features several marinated meats such as chicken, pork and beef, numerous types of beans and potatoes, and corn humitas. In different regions bananas, corn and preferred local vegetables - notably the indigenous tubers oca and mashua - are included as well. All of it becomes infused with the smoky earthy flavors caused by the cooking method and the distinctive aroma of highland herbs such as huacatay and chincho that are invariably added.
I got the photos for this entry at a street fair in the Jesus Maria section of Lima this weekend. These guys all hail from the Central highland city of Huancayo, the area of the country this style of cooking originated. I have also been told there is a small city outside of Lima proper named Cieneguilla where pachamanca's are prepared every weekend.
Obviously, I have never had a chance to give this wonderful culinary adventure a try so take this more as an instructional guideline than a definitive guide of how to do this. The following recipe, which I derived from several different sources, is written for a much smaller pachamanca than pictured.
Replicating this outside of Peru will be a trick for a few of the ingredients, particularly for the marinade that depends on using chicha - a fermented corn drink. Another thing that might throw you ingredient-wise are the Peruvian broad beans. They really work well with this glorious repast but they are a specific type I have not seen outside of Peru.
24-30 rounded stones
8 lbs pork
8 lbs beef
4 lbs potatoes, various small types
4 lbs sweet potatoes
2 lbs broad beans
4 lbs ocas
10 aji's mirasol (Peruvian red pepper, more like paprika)
2 cups chicha (a Peruvian fermented beverage derived from corn)
1 cup oil
2 tbs vinegar
1 tbs red pepper
Mix together the marinade ingredients and pour over the meats. Allow to sit, refrigerated, for several hours.
Prepare 24 humitas and set aside.
Dig a hole between 1.5 and 2 feet deep and about three feet in diameter. It is also good to dampen the sides of the hole with water. An above ground oven like the one pictured can be made by using bricks whose outside is covered with a tarp and damp burlap to help insulate.
Light a fire in the bottom and let it burn until the flames die down and the wood is whitened by ash. Build a rude pile of the stones over the wood and let them become as hot as possible, sitting an hour or so.
Remove most of the rocks leaving a complete layer at the bottom of the pit. (Sometimes all the rocks are removed so the ashes can be taken out as well.) Take the marinated meats and place them on the rocks in an even layer with the tougher meats at the bottom and the more delicate ones above. Place some of the additional hot rocks around the meat to help maintain an equal temperature throughout.
After the meats, place the regular potatoes in a layer followed by the sweet potatoes. Continue to randomly place rocks throughout. Then make a full layer of the humitas. Put the beans in a net bag and lay them on top and cover completely with alfalfa.
Take all the remaining rocks and place on top and cover with a damp burlap bag. If the oven is below ground, cover it with a final layer of dirt. Let cook for between 1.5 and three hours, depending on the heat of the stones when you begin and the size of the pit (this is the part I am the most in the dark on since I have only seen very large pachamanca’s cooked).
Take the rocks off and set aside. Remove the beans and place in a covered container to stay warm. Pull the alfalfa to the sides of the oven. Take the humitas out of the hole and stack them on the edge.
Then remove the meat and set into covered containers to stay warm. Serve each plate with a bit of each vegetable and meat and a humita.
The other option used with large pachamancas is to remove the amount of meat needed for serving immediately but shift the rest to one side of the pit, place a pot with the marinade at the bottom and some fresh herbs to keep the flavor fresh.
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