From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Peruvian food is amazingly good. It's delicious, fairly easy to make and nearly as colorful as the parrot-like hues worn by the children of the country. One of the first dishes I wanted to share with you is this riveting appetizer that is made from freshly mashed potatoes. It's been estimated that there are over 4000 varieties of potatoes found in Peru, so it should come as no surprise to find that they play a large role in the staple diet of the country. What is surprising is the number of ways in which they are prepared. Tonight's feature, called causa, is served as a starter in Peru. It is a potato terrine that is layered with a mayonnaise based salad and other complimentary ingredients that add color to the dish. Causa, in its most primitive form, was made with potatoes and aji, a yellow pepper that is indigenous to Peru. Oral tradition elevated this humble dish and created a backstory to explain its creation. It's believed that the modern causa was first made by a woman who had to feed a battalion of soldiers intent on celebrating Peruvian Independence day. She had little food on hand, so she created a potato terrine using bits and bobs of what she had in her kitchen. The key element to a good causa is the quality of the potato that is used to prepare it. In Peru, a potato called papa amarilla is used. I suspect you won't find it in your local market, but the Yukon Gold variety can be used as a substitute and you'll be able to approximate the flavor, if not the color, of the Peruvian variety. The yellow aji chiles that are used in Peruvian kitchens will be even harder to find. Hungarian sweet paprika can be used in its place, though aji chili powder is available online and you can order it here. If you think Peruvian food will appeal to your family and you want to experiment, I urge you to order the real thing. It makes a difference. As strange as the combination of ingredients may sound, causa is delicious and really worth the small effort it takes to make it. I hope you'll give it a try.
Causa Rellena...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Chef Felix
8 yellow potatoes (about 2 to 3 pounds), peeled
3 fresh yellow chile peppers or 2 tablespoons aji chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
2 gloves garlic
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
2 ripe avocados
Salt and pepper to taste
Hard boiled egg slices
Red pepper strips
Black olive halves
1) Cook potatoes in salted water until soft. Smoothly mash or rice and set aside.
2) If using fresh chile peppers, remove seeds and membranes and saute peppers and garlic in vegetable oil until softened. Add peppers and lime juice to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. If using chili powder, add it to lime juice and mix well. Stir lime/chile mixture into potatoes. Adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
3) Poach chicken in water seasoned with salt, pepper. Shred the cooked chicken, and mix with
mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4) Oil 1 large or 6 small ring molds. Using 1/3 of potato mixture, spread a potato layer into bottom of each mold and top with a layer of sliced avocado. Cover with another layer of potato mixture and top with a layer of chicken salad. Finish molds with a final layer of potatoes. Smooth tops, unmold and chill. Garnish before serving. Yield: 6 servings.
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