Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is It Cow or Chicken?

Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina
The Argentines observe their independence from the Spanish on the 9th of July every year. This celebration takes place in the middle of the Argentine winter, and as is the tradition with Argentines, they love to celebrate the special occasion with food.

The first Argentine Independence Day I celebrated in that country, I was travelling with an Argentine friend of mine. We were holidaying in Carlos Paz, in the province of Cordoba, and my friend was determined I’d take part in the celebrations, which included eating locro.

At the time, my Spanish was dodgy to say the least, and as his English wasn’t crash hot, we spent a lot of time drawing stick figures on serviettes and miming. It always gave us a good laugh, especially when we went to a restaurant on the evening of independence day and my friend tried to explain what ingredients were in Locro.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Locro. What’s in it?” I throw my arms thrown out in a questioning manner.

Him: “Es rico.” He rubs his stomach and rolls his eyes like he’s just tasted the best food on earth.

Me: “Yeah, but what’s in it?”

Him: He holds his arms out in a circle to signify a pot then makes a chopping motion like he’s murdering vegetables and proceeds to moo like a cow and oink like a pig.

Me: “So there’s no brrk brrk brrk?” I flap my arms like a chicken.

Him: He shakes his head and moos and oinks again and we both dissolve into laughter which causes the waiter to frown and tsk-tsk us.

The waiter eventually arrived with our dish and the aromas made me want to rub my stomach and roll my eyes just like my friend had done. We added chimichurri, a spicy sauce popular in Argentina and dipped bread into the casserole-like meal. That was the moment I fell in love with locro, and now, even after all these years, when I’m craving some comfort food, I make locro and it always does the trick.

For those of you heading into the cooler months of the year, here’s a recipe for Argentine locro. It’s easy, although a tad fiddly, but I promise you the effort will be worth your while. Just remember, the secret is to cook it slowly over a low heat for an extended period of time.

This recipe is borrowed from the wonderful blog, Seashells and Sunflowers.

Photo by Stevenge
1 cup dried white corn (hominy)
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2- ¼" thick slices of smoked pancetta or slab bacon, cubed
2 chorizos colorados or other slightly spicy sausage, sliced
2- 1" thick pieces of osso buco (beef shanks), or similar cut
2 ears of fresh yellow sweet corn, cut the kernels off the cobs
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 ½ c. butternut squash, peeled and diced small
1 ½ c. yams, peeled and diced small
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced small
2 plum tomatoes, cut in small wedges
chopped green onion for garnish (optional)
chili oil (see directions)

Soak the hominy in 2 cups of water overnight (a minimum of 12 hours).

The next day, prepare the chili oil in advance by soaking a teaspoon of ají molido (or crushed red pepper flakes) in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 hours.

Place the onions, garlic, pancetta, chorizo, and osso buco in a large stewpot. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the fresh yellow corn, cumin, paprika, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for roughly 10 minutes. Add the soaked hominy, including the soaking water. Add hot water to the pot to about 2 inches above the level of the ingredients. Add the remaining vegetables, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring every 15-20 minutes, for at least 2 hours.

At this point, uncover the pot and remove the bay leaves. Remove the pieces of osso buco and discard the bones. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, then return it to the pot. Continue to stir over low heat, and using the back of a wide spoon or spatula, press the ingredients up against the sides of the pot so that the starchy vegetables and tomato break down into the soup (the corn and meat will resist being mashed). As you continue to stir, mash, and cook; the soup should gradually thicken. Continue until the locro reaches the rich consistency of a stew. Add salt to taste.

Serve in bowls, and garnish with green onions and a touch of chili oil.


  1. This looks yummy! I'm not sure about finding fresh corn in winter months, but maybe frozen or canned could be substituted. Not as good, of course.

  2. Hi Patricia! Yes, it is very yummy and it's interesting how locro varies from country to country and even region to region throughout South America. I've been lucky to try a few variations and they're all delicious!

  3. Hi, Alli! Thanks for featuring my recipe here at Novel Adventurers. Locro is so hearty and delicious. It does take a bit of time to put together, but there's nothing more warming and satisfying in winter than a big, steaming bowl of this stew.

  4. Hi Katie! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, locro is well and truly worth the effort! Yummy!