Papa HuancainaThis is one dish you are sure to encounter if you venture to Peru. The preparation is pretty straightforward and, because of its simplicity and classic structure, the dish is one Novoandino chefs have taken to bizarre extremes of experimentation.
According to the Diccionario de Gastronomia Peruana Tradicional, the dish appears in the 1800s as a hot dish called, very simply, papas con aji. It isn’t until the end of that century that the sauce became more complex, the serving temperature became chilled and the name changed to reflect the highland city.
Like a lot of Peruvian dishes, doing it right means having authentic ingredients. Which means this is tough to get done properly beyond these shores. You can switch Russet potatoes for Yellow Peruvian potatoes, Key limes for Peruvian limes, Romano cheese for queso fresco and sweet peppers for Ajíes Amarillos. But, obviously, you aren’t going to be getting the real deal.
Peel the potatoes and boil until cooked through. Remove and refrigerate.
Heat the oil over a medium-hot flame and sauté the onion and ají soft. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
In a blender mix the onion/aji, the crackers, white cheese, evaporated milk and salt, adding just enough vegetable oil to give the mixture a smooth creamy consistency. Add the juice the lime and blend for a few seconds more. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more salt if necessary.
When the sauce and the potatoes are completely chilled remove and cut the potatoes in half. Place two or three of the potato halves on a small plate and pour the sauce over them until covered. Garnish with leaf of lettuce, half an egg and an olive and serve.
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