Al Campo Marfa brings Chilean comfort food to the Trans-Pecos

When Tatanka Guerrero of Al Campo Marfa invited us to dinner, we knew we were in for something very special. Tatanka was introducing his new executive chef, trying out menu items and unveiling the newly renovated dining room at his wine garden and rustic bistro in Marfa.

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Chef Juan Guerrero, Tatanka’s uncle and recent cancer survivor, brings four decades of bakery experience to the table, as well as an incredible flair for Chilean comfort foods, found nowhere else in the Trans-Pecos region. “Juan the Baker,” as he’s known, spent 20 years in Chile and 18 years in the United States, crafting his skills in bakeries, and is now Al Campo’s executive chef.

Having recently dragged his father, Carlos Guerrero, out of retirement and enlisted him in the Al Campo crew, Tatanka’s work now is more of a labor of love than ever before.

Chile spans over 2500 miles along South America’s southwestern coast, and is known for a wide variety of foods, including seafood, beef, fresh fruit, and vegetables. Despite the country’s name, Chilean food isn’t necessarily spicy, but is fresh and flavorful.

Our meal consisted of the favorites of Chilean comfort foods. We were first served bowls of delicious soup called Cazuela Chilena. It’s known as the Chilean meat-and-potatoes meal, and is every day comfort food. With homemade bread along with two different colorful salsas, it was the perfect start.

Cazuela Chilena and homemade bread - a traditional Chilean comfort food.

After the soup and bread, our table filled with platters and bowls of other Chilean comfort foods, served family-style for all to share.

One of the most-loved traditional Chilean comfort foods is Pastel de Choclo, a corn casserole made with vegetables, chicken, and beef and baked in a clay pot. This dish is usually served with Ensalada Chilena (Chilean salad).

Empanadas and Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo and Empanadas

A small portion of the food we were served. Salads and flatbread with beef.

We also dined on Ensalada Chilena (salad made with tomatoes, sweet onions and parsley), Empanadas, a hearty roasted cauliflower, beet and edamame salad (one of Tatanka’s personal favorites), and Churrascas (a traditional Chilean flatbread) served with beef. It was all so wonderful.

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Following the delectable meal, we were treated to a house concert by Alpine’s own Neal Trammell on vocals and guitar, Chef Juan on cajon box drum, and Fort Davis’ JP Schwartz on harmonica.

While we knew several other Fort Davis folks there, we were seated with people that were strangers. By the end of the evening, we were friends.

The new Al Campo menu will feature Chilean comfort dishes, with more rustic dishes adding to the mix in March. Chef Juan will also wear his Juan-the-Baker’s hat as the new bakery plans to be open at around the same time.

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The Guerrero Men are a force to be reckoned with… left to right, Tatanka, Carlos and Juan.

Do yourself a favor and check out Al Campo Marfa. Order dishes you wouldn’t normally order for yourself, and eat it family style, rather than sticking to your own plate.

Al Campo Marfa is located at 200 South Russell Street in Marfa, and open from 4-10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For reservations, call (432) 729-2068. Visit www.alcampomarfa.com for more.

Pastel de Choclo

  • 3 to 4 medium onions (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup whole milk (divided)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons basil (finely chopped)
  • /2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped black olives
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs (chopped)
  • 1 cup roasted chicken (shredded)

Sauté onions in oil until soft and translucent – 5 minutes. Add ground beef, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the beef is crumbled and browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the corn kernels in a food processor or blender with 1/4 cup milk. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, until the corn is blended and looks creamy. Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and the blended corn mixture. Add the remaining 3/4 cup milk and simmer, constantly stirring, until the mixture thickens about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh basil.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Place the drained ground beef mixture in the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the raisins, olives, and hardboiled eggs over the beef, then layer the chicken on top.

Spread the corn mixture over the top of the casserole so that it covers the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake the casserole in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling hot and the corn mixture is golden brown, and serve warm.

Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche

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