Witch Potato Baked in a Long Rescoldo

This dish pairs one of southern Chile’s most unique ingredients with one of the region’s most emblematic cooking styles. The papa bruja, or witch potato, comes from the Chiloé archipelago, which hangs of the Pacific coast near Puerto Montt. The islands are rich in seafood, but also potatoes, such as this deep purple tuber, one of 400 that can be found in Chile. Rescoldo is a Mapuche technique of cooking food in the embers and ashes of a fire. – Editor’s Note


Adapted from Borago: Coming from the South by Rodolfo Guzmán courtesy of Phaidon. Click here to purchase your own copy. 

Ingredients

For the kolof root broth

  • 3 kilograms kolof roots

For the witch potato

  • 5 grams Chilean espino coal
  • 200 grams witch potatoes

For the kolof root and pajaritos cream

  • 200 grams kolof root broth

For the alfalfa oil

  • 200 grams alfalfa, leaves removed
  • 100 grams canola (rapeseed oil)

For the lovage oil

  • 100 grams canola (rapeseed oil)

To serve

  • 20 grams horseradish
  • 100 grams yellow oxalis flowers
  • 2 grams jasmine essence
  • 2 grams Cáhuil fleur de sel
  • 16 violet flowers

Serves 4

Preparation

  1. For the kolof root broth: Bring 3 kilograms water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, add the roots, and boil uncovered for 10 hours. After the broth has been reduced, cover the pot and leave the roots inside to steep overnight. The next day, repeat the process: Strain the broth and set it aside. Fill the pot with another 3 kg water, add the roots, and cook over medium heat for 10 hours until you get a shiny, dark broth. (You can use the same roots to repeat the process. You will get a second broth with different qualities from the first, but it will be very high quality.) Strain and store the broth separately. First and second batch broths can be used interchangeably.
  2. For the witch potato: Build an espino coal fire with red-hot embers and let it burn down until it has burned completely. Pile up the ashes, which should still have a very gentle heat, and insert the witch potatoes inside the ashes. Let them stay there until the following day.
  3. For the kolof root and pajaritos cream: In a pan, reduce the kolof root broth by 50%. Then mix it with the pajaritos cream, stirring well. Store in the refrigerator.
  4. For the alfalfa oil: Blend the alfalfa with the canola oil in a food processor at 150°F (65°C) for 15 minutes. Strain it through a fine cloth and reserve the oil.
  5. For the lovage oil: Blend the lovage with the canola oil in a food processor at 150°F (65°C) for 15 minutes. Strain it through a fine cloth and reserve the oil.
  6. To serve: warm 4 plates. Remove the witch potatoes from the rescoldo and brush the skin off each potato to remove the excess ash. Pour 10 g of the alfalfa oil on one side of each plate and 10 g of the lovage oil on the other side. Spread 50 g of the kolof root and pajarito cream all over the plate; grate the horseradish on another side and cover with yellow oxalis flowers. Using your hands, tear the potatoes in half; season them with the jasmine essence and the fleur de sel. Arrange them in a scattered fashion over the plate, keeping them at the same temperature as when they were removed from the rescoldo. Place 2 violet flowers on top of each witch potato.
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