Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I need something different to do with potatoes, any ideas?

These winter months don't leave us much to work with in terms of produce. We work our way through a repertoire of root vegetables pretty quickly, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep things interesting until spring.

This recipe hails from Peru, the birthplace of potatoes and, in my opinion, the home of the most underrated cuisine in the world. It's called papa a la huancaina, and it is simply boiled potatoes served cold with a special sauce of cheese, bread (or crackers), milk and aji amarillo. Aji amarillo is a pepper, usually sold in a puree, but you can find them whole in a jar or every once in a blue moon fresh. It has a very distinct flavor indicative on Peruvian cuisine.

If you live in new york you can score some aji amarillo at kaustyan's or in just about any bodega in sunnyside. If you can't find it, try a mix of a red or orange bell pepper and 1/4 of a habanero.

Papa a la Huancaina

2 Potatoes, russet or yukon gold
1 Medium onion, chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp Aji amarillo paste
1 cup Stale bread, torn into 1 inch peices (or 1/2 cup crushed saltines)
1 cup Evaporated milk
1 cup Cheese, mild soft cheese works best, (farmers cheese, pot cheese, even cream cheese, feta would also work or any combination of cheeses. I actually used part cream cheese part aged gouda {seen in the pic above})
Juice of half a lemon

1. To cook the potatoes, Peel them, halve them lengthwise and cut them into wedges. Drop them into boiling salted water for four and a half minutes, or until for tender. Drain and toss in olive oil with a pinch of salt and allow to cool.
2. Place the bread, milk, and cheese in the blender and let it chill out for a second
3. Over medium heat, sweat out the onions until they're translucent around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and aji amarillo and cook for another 3 minutes
4. Add the onion mixture to the rest of the ingredients already in the blender and puree well. Season with salt to taste.

The sauce should be rich and thick with a slight tang and decent kick from the aji. You be the judge, if it's too thick add milk, if its too thin add bread. If you want it spicier add more pepper paste

To serve simply spoon the sauce over the potatoes and garnish with olives and hard boiled eggs.

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