I come from a long line of atypical Latin American women who don’t really know how to cook. (My mom won’t be happy I’m divulging this information. Sorry mamita, I still think you’re an amazing woman!). I don’t have pangs of nostalgia for my grandmother’s arroz con pollo or for my tía’s empanadas. Growing up, my father was the one who cooked in my house, so the mouth-watering cravings are for his food.
Having said that, my mother – with the help of a very popular Peruvian cookbook called ¿Qué cocinaré hoy? – does make a delicious Papa a la Huancaína, a cold dish made with papa amarilla (did you know that the potato originated in Perú and that there are thousands of varieties and that there’s even an International Potato Center?), ají amarillo and queso fresco. It is truly delicioso, and I don’t say this lightly and only because she’s my mamá… Truth be told, this is not one of my favorite Peruvian dishes. I have a bit of an issue with dishes a base de queso, but that’s a story for another post.
If you’ve ever been blessed with eating Peruvian food, you’ve probably had this dish as an appetizer. Whenever people find out I’m Peruvian, I’m immediately asked if I can make ceviche and papa a la huancaína – to which I respond by whispering a humiliating no! But, I do know my mom’s recipe and know I’m sharing it with all of you!
- 1 lb of boiled yellow potatoes
- 2 teaspoons of jarred ají amarillo (the recipe actually calls for fresh ají amarillo, but that’s virtually impossible to find in the States)
- the yolks of 2 hard boiled eggs
- 16 oz of queso fresco
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- lime juice
- Olives (preferably the Botija kind) y lettuce leaves
Cut the potatoes in 1/2 inch rounds and set aside.
Put all other ingredients, except the olives and lettuce leaves, in a blender and mix until you get a creamy, smooth sauce that you can pour. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water until it becomes thinner. If it’s too liquidy, you can add galletas de soda or saltines, the next best thing. (To avoid this, my mom says she usually pours the milk last into the blender and she basically uses just enough to cover all the other ingredients.)
Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter, place the potatoe rounds and pour the sauce over them. Garnish with olives and slices of hard boiled eggs.
**Note: My mom doesn’t use salt because the queso fresco she uses is already salty and she doesn’t use oil either like the orginal recipe calls for. Also, if you don’t want to use ají amarillo, you can use something called Bijol condiment to get the yellowing coloring. By the way, if you’re interested on another variation, you can go here.
The Huancaína sauce can be used not only on this particular dish, but in my country it’s also popular just as a dip!
I hope you all enjoy this recipe and that if you decide to go ahead and try it, you come back to tell us all about it!