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Cook This: Causa (Peruvian Layered Potatoes)

peruvian food dish causaAbout a month ago I took a cooking class with my partners in cooking crime (J & E). The class was put on by a local Peruvian restaurant called Andina– by far my favorite restaurant in town. Not only did one of the chefs teach the class but Mama Doris, the owner of the restaurant, was on site to talk about Peruvian food and history as well as her own experience growing up and eating in Peru. As if that weren’t enough, the restaurant sommelier also came to pair wines with each course prepared. The class and the food were absolutely sublime.

Tonight I got together with J & E and we prepared dinner for our families and a few friends. We made several dishes from the Andina class and a few others from a class at another local restaurant called Trebol. More about that class later as for now I’d like to focus on one particular dish from the Andina class. Causa.

One Peruvian cuisine website says this about causa: “Causa is one of the most popular dishes all along Peru’s coast. Besides being delicious, the traditional causa is fairly economic and easy to prepare, making it accessible to the rich and the poor, great chefs and terrible cooks. Moreover, it’s a versatile dish that allows for many variations, both in the purée and in the fillings.”

Of course we didn’t follow the recipe verbatim and it wasn’t as amazing as it was in the class. But it was good. Very good. And it was pretty easy to boot. A scaled down version could easily make it to a family dinner table. One of the cool things about this dish is that the potatoes can be topped with many different things. At Andina they have 3 versions on their menu: chicken salad, green bean and cheese, and spicy tuna with crab salad and crispy shrimp.

The one we made was vegetarian with piquillo peppers, roasted squash and onions per the recipe. But please note that below is a simplified version to make it a little easier to do at home.

Potato Base

  • 2 lbs purple potato
  • 1 lbs limes, juiced and strained through a sieve
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 T canola oil

Put potatoes in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Add a few pinches of salt. (Prep “topping” below while potatoes are cooking.) Cook potatoes until fork soft, drain, and peel while hot. If they are too hot to handle use a dish towel. Put the peeled potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer, add canola oil and mix well with your hands. Once potatoes are cool, add lime juice and salt. Taste as you’re going until the mixture is slightly salty and tangy with a dough-like consistency that can be easily formed into balls.

Topping

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1-8oz container of piquillo peppers (available at mexican or specialty markets)
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 Tbl kosher salt

Peel onion and take out root and stalk. Slice into ¼ inch rounds and place on cookie sheet (foil lined or not.) Cut squash in half and slice into ¼ inch rounds then peel the skin off. We used acorn but I think then neck of a butternut squash would work great for this dish. Put rounds on cookie sheet (again, foil lined or not.) Baste each round of onion and squash with olive oil. Flip and baste the other side. Cook about 15 min until soft and golden.

Sauce (Directly from the class…it was too amazing to mess with.)

  • ½ lb rocoto peppers (available in jars at mexican or specialty markets)
  • 1 lb quince paste
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt

Slowly blend the pepper, quince paste and 2 tbl of lime juice. Add 1 T oil then a pinch of kosher salt to the blender, continuing to blend slowly. Add salt and/or lime to taste. The sauce should be tart and spicy. Put in a squeeze bottle if you have one. Or you can put in a ziploc baggie and cut a tiny little hole in the corner so when you squeeze the sauce comes out as a thin ribbon.

Assembly

Divide potato dough into 4-6 servings and shape into hockey pucks. Plate each serving. Top with the piquillo pepper, roasted onions and squash. Decorate the plate with the sauce. We also put some on top and served it on the side. My 4 year old gave this dish a double thumbs-up.

Enjoy! (And go eat at Andina)

-Dr Samantha


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