Chilean Food on Christmas

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In many respects, Chilean Christmases are different from American or European ones. When celebrants leave midnight mass, for example, they are greeted by a lush summer night. Yet many staples of a Christmas table in Chile would not seem unfamiliar. The South American country boasts its own versions of such holiday classics as eggnog, mulled wine and even panettone.

Breaking Bread

  • Although panettone hails from Italy, the sweet cake-like bread is now a Christmas staple in other European countries, as well as in South America. Chile puts its own spin on the dish, however. Pan de Pascua, also known as Chilean Christmas bread, is similar to the Italian sweet loaf in that it has a rounded, vertical base and dome-like top. Joining the buttery, egg-enriched base in Chile's version are a variety of dried or candied fruits, including two kinds of raisins, as well citrus peel or sugared ginger, and a splash of brandy.

Gifts From the Sea

  • Seafood plays a major part in Chilean Christmas feasts. After midnight mass, a family might start off a hearty meal with caldillo de congrio, a spicy eel soup. The holiday meal itself sometimes centers around whole lobster, or a pit-cooked seafood meal known as curanto. In this dish, meat, seafood, herbs and vegetables cook together over coals placed on a bed of banana leaves or corn husks.

Midnight Feast

  • After caldillo de congrio, a hearty entree follows for those who have celebrated the midnight mass, or Misa de Gallo. This midnight feast sometimes features turkey, much as many American Christmas Day dinners do. But because beef is readily available in Chile, the main protein of the post-midnight mass meal can also be a beef roast. Vegetables also form part of the meal. Root vegetables are plentiful in South America, as are salads such as ensalada chilena, made from tomatoes and onions. In addition, squash is a key ingredient of the fried holiday dessert treat known as sopaipilla, a type of sweet fritter.

A Toast to Christmas

  • Chile's version of mulled wine, Vino Navegado, starts by boiling a bottle of red Chilean with sugar, cinnamon and cloves, then adding regional oranges. Another special Christmas drink, known as Monkey's Tail, is a rich concoction of cream, sugar, spices, coffee, and a dash of spirits, such as Chile's famous grape brandy, pisco. The drink, which is heated on the stove, then cooled, is similar to eggnog.

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