I showed up in El Chalten without lodging, or any other plans. It was the first time I had completely embraced the spontaneous nature of travel, and I was rewarded for it. When I first arrived, I walked around town, and found a hostel for the night. El Chalten is a very small town that you can walk across in a half an hour. While exploring the town, I came across a Chocolateria, which of course I had to enter. The wooden restaurant looked like it was barely holding itself up. It was how I imagined the Weaseley's hovel to be like.
Upon entering, I saw a familiar face, which is always a nice surprise when traveling alone. I had met Jules previously in Ushuaia, albeit brief. He had just returned from trekking in the mountains around El Chalten, and was terribly sunburnt. After joining him for a hot chocolate, he showed me around town, and Juan's house.
Juan's house is a local guy who rents out rooms in the trailer in his backyard. For $5-7 a night, you share a room, and have access to the full kitchen, dinning room, and bathroom. The house was full of climbers from the States, who were staying in El Chalten during the climbing season. There was also an Argentine family camping in the backyard. Every night was spent cooking together.
Even though I was staying at another hostel for the first couple nights, I spent my days at Juan's house, waiting for the weather to improve. The first night we made pizza together. The next night was a Japanese dish and crepes for dessert. There was also lots of spanish omelets and wine. I arrived after the climbers had recently come back from the mountains, and were beginning to prepare for their next adventure. During their break from climbing, there time is spent eating, sleeping, eating, and sleeping again. Hearing about their life threatening adventures was enough for me to settle for hiking. I spent my time hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy, a mountaineers paradise. At one point the sun even came out long enough for Jules and I to take a quick nap on the beach, with a view of the mountain.
Other than hiking, and eating, my days in El Chalten were also spent helping paint a mural on the side of Juan's trailer. The painter, David Russel, runs a mobile mural program (mobilemurallab.com) back in the states, that encourages learning and community through art. It was really neat to be a part of it. David organized, planned, and polished the mural, while helping everyone else contribute to the project. We all got to sign our names, leaving a little piece of ourselves in El Chalten. If you are ever in El Chalten stop at Juan's, the blue house behind the Waffleria. The sense of community and contentment made life easy.
Pears and Caramelized Onions at Juan's
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
This was one of my creations, based on pizzas we make back home in California. I was surprised to find all the ingredients, so I decided to give it a shot. And it was a hit!
- 2 medium pears
- 1 medium to large onion
- Blue cheese
- Olive oil
- Optional: goat cheese, raisins, walnuts
Start with a thin crust. Caramelize onions with olive oil. Before spreading them across the unbaked crust, lightly coat the dough with olive oil. Cut the apples into thin splices and place them on top of the onions like you are making a tart. Then top it off with crumbled blue cheese. I like to place the blue cheese in between the apples, so I don't add too much. When available, I also add crumbled goat cheese, raisins, and chopped walnuts.
We were baking the pizza in an oven without reliable temperature control, so I can't give correct temperatures or cooking times. However, I usually suggest something around 400 degrees, for 8-12 minutes.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
I have been given direct instructions to give credit to the chef, Jules Jassef, for this creation. We took a chance with this pizza, and it paid off. Thanks Jules!
- 1 small onion
- Blue Cheese
- Tomato paste
Again, this is best with a thin crust. I don't remember how much meat we used, but it was about 1-2 inches thick and a little bigger than my fist. Cut the meat into small cubes. Saute the onions until tender, and then add the meat cubes. Slightly cook the meat. You want bloody pieces that will continue to cook in the oven. Meanwhile, melt about 2-3 tablespoons of blue cheese in a small pot. Add milk and flour until it reaches a creamy consistency. I am not quite sure how Jules did this, but it seems easy to replicate with a little trial and error.
Spread tomato paste around the unbaked crust. Then add the blue cheese sauce on top of the tomato paste. Top of the pizza with the chunks of steak and onions. Once again, we were baking the pizza in an oven without reliable temperature control, so I can't give correct temperatures of cooking times. However, I usually suggest something around 400 degrees, for 8-12 minutes.