Causa

As novoandino food begins its trek to English-speaking countries, one of the primary dishes carrying it forward is causa.

Peruvian causa is an appetizer or light lunch dish that I have seen it described as "a layered chilled potato salad" and "a mashed potato cake" neither of which is at all enticing or equal to what this dish can achieve. It is probably best described as "a layered torte with cool mashed potato" but even that kind of misses the mark.

It is tough to replicate an authentic causas outside of Peru since it is typically made using a very starchy yellow potato, papa amarilla, that is common here and the country's staple, aji amarillo pepper. The potatoes are broken down to the consistency of mashed potatoes but that is where the dish begins. They are then mixed with other ingredients to make an yellow-colored paste that is either used to hold the other ingredients together or to surround them completely.

The simplest causas are made with a plain filling of boiled chicken and served with served cold with hard boiled eggs and olives. The most complex are ornate sushi-style creations that are as much a wonder to behold as to devour. It follows that the ways for preparing the dish run the gamut from the disarmingly simple to the distressingly complex.

My recipe here is not an effort to be definitive, but rather, to give an idea on the basics of the dish. It is designed to adapt. Add different filings (tuna fish or crab meat), add interesting sauces (Béarnaise or Sauce American) and be creative in the presentation (use molds or roll the causa into sushi-style rolls).

Diego Oka, the chef at Lima's groundbreaking La Mar restaurant explained to me that a causa is a perfect dish to see how Peruvian cuisine can be adapted to other cooking traditions. The key is to always include the primary ingredients that define a causa; the causa itself, a mayonnaise sauce and avocado. Outside of that, the only limit is your imagination.

The Causa
Ingredients
  • 1 lb yellow potatoes
  • 1 tbsp ají amarillo paste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1 key lime
  • Salt and white pepper
Instructions

Scrub the potatoes and place them in a saucepan with plenty of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Strain and when cool enough to handle peel and mash them by pressing them through a fine mesh sieve with the back of a spoon. (Do not let the potato cool too much before mashing it. It is much easier to handle while still warm.)

Add vegetable oil, ají amarillo paste, lime juice and salt and white pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are well incorporated.

The Filling
Ingredients
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced thin
  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned, boiled and pulled apart.
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped fine.
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions

Mix the chicken, celery and mayonnaise together adding salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the potato causa mixture into halves. Spread half into the bottom of a small casserole dish so it is about half-an-inch thick. Add the chicken mixture in an even layer then cover evenly with avocado slices. Top with the remaining potato mixture.

The Garnish
Ingredients
  • 1 fresh ají amarillo, seeded, deveined and cut into julienne
  • 2-3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • black olives, pitted and julienned
  • Fresh white farmer cheese
  • Salsa criolla
Instructions

Cut out portions of the causa in 2-inch squares or larger. Place on a plate topped with salsa criolla and some of each of the garnishes.

more:  misc. | Peruvian Cuisine 

posted by kleph @ saturday, may 13, 2006 $formatted_time |

comment posted by: deidre on september 30, 2008 @ 12:19 am
mil gracias por proveer las recetas tan queridas. i appreciate your work! and i can't wait to taste the food ...
 
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