The humble potato was first domesticated in the Andes Mountains region, and today you’ll find more than 3,000 varieties of the starchy tuber in Peru. “Papa,” the Spanish word for potato, is actually a Quechua word that we get from the Incan civilization. For most of us, a potato recipe means boil, mash, or bake, but that can be oh-so-boring. In the Andes Mountains, potatoes have a rich creaminess unlike anywhere else on the planet – but you can approximate the unique Peruvian potato at home with this popular potato recipe.
Papa a la Huancaina is a favorite potato recipe in Peru and the Andes Mountains. A cold potato salad in a spicy cream sauce, this potato recipe is usually served over lettuce. Hailing from the Huancayo region in the country’s central highlands, this tasty dish is often served as an appetizer at home, on picnics and in restaurants, on holidays and every day. Peruvian cuisine is currently muy caliente, and it’s easy to try this new trend when you make papa a la Huancaina at home.
Creamy Andean potatoes are nearly impossible to find outside of the region, but for this potato recipe, Yukon Gold potatoes will give you much of the same flavor and texture. Aji amarillo is a yellow pepper from Peru that can be found around the world in jars, but you can also use fresh serrano or habanero peppers from your garden instead.
Papa A La Huancaina – A Peruvian Potato Recipe
(Makes 4 servings)
1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled or unpeeled)
2 cups crumbled queso fresco cheese (or feta)
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup evaporated milk
½ lime, juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1+ tablespoon seeded and minced peppers (aji amarillo, serrano or habanero)
4 large lettuce leaves (iceberg, bibb or romaine)
2 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
12 black olives, pitted and sliced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
1. First, boil your potatoes. Place them in a large pot, cover with water and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your potatoes), or until you can cut them easily with a knife. Drain the water out and let the potatoes cool off briefly, then slice them into ½” circles.
2. Next, make your spicy cream sauce. Combine your crumbled cheese, oil, milk, lime juice, garlic and pepper in a blender or food processor and whir away until the mix is creamy and easy to pour. You may have to add additional water or milk to achieve the correct consistency.
3. Now arrange one lettuce leaf on each plate and dish out the sliced potatoes on top. Pour an equal amount of sauce on each plate.
4. Finally, top your papa a la Huancaina with slices of black olives and boiled eggs and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley, salt and pepper. Equally enjoyable served chilled or at room temperature – and best paired with a Pisco Sour!
Note: You’ll find many varieties of papa a la Huancaina around Peru, with a slightly different dish in every region. Alternative toppings to try include crushed crackers or breadcrumbs, toasted peanuts, fresh tomatoes and fried onions. Enjoy!
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