Friday, May 8, 2009

Papas a la Huancaina

Took me ages to learn how to pronounce it! The first time I had it I couldn't believe it was really made of potatoes - it tasted completely different than anything else I have ever tasted. It was delicious. When my friend Gissella gave me the recipe, I couldn't believe I will ever be able to create something as good, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Here's what they say about it:

The history behind this dish goes back many years ago, during the construction of a railroad from the capital city Lima to the mountain area. This enormous work was in charge of a number of crews that worked at 2000 m.a.s.l. You can imagine how a project of this magnitude can wear down even the toughest worker.In consequence, people (especially women) from the Huancayan population would approach the crews with meals for lunch. Among these people, one woman stuck out because of the dish she brought: nice potatoes with a delicious cheese-based sauce and some hard-boiled egg pieces. The sauce consisted of crushed cheese mixed with minced "rocoto" (a sort of aji) and diluted with some milk. This particular dish was a hit and crews would expect this woman's arrival, calling out:

"A que hora llega la papa de la Huancaína" (What time does the Huancayan's potato arrive?)

With time, the recipe evolved. Rocoto was changed for ají and oil began to be included in the preparation. With the advance of technology, the ingredients began to be mixed with the aid of blenders, in contrast to the original mortars. However, one thing did not change, and that was the uniqueness of this dish.

Interesting, ha?
OK, here's how to make it, courtesy of my Peruvian friend:
  • 4 small potatoes
  • 3-4 oz queso fresco
  • 3-4 oz feta cheese
  • 1/2 c milk (or so)
  • 4 saltine crakers
  • 2 T salsa de aji (pepper paste) OR 2 banana peppers
  • salt & pepper
Cook the potatoes, slice and arrange them over some lettuce.
Blend the other ingredients in a blender and pour over potatoes.
Serve with hard boiled eggs and black olives.
Best to eat at room temperature.

*Note: blending in yellow aji paste will make it very yellow, I used fresh pepper here.

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