Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Most will be twists on dishes you’ve seen before: stuffing with my favorite fall fruit, brussels sprouts prepared using a new-to-me technique, a cocktail for a crowd, but today I’m bringing you a Peruvian dish that you might not be familiar with. This dish appeared on my Thanksgiving table every single year growing up. My mom, who was born in Peru, treated Thanksgiving as a time to make all of her favorite foods, American and non-American.
This appetizer usually calls for whole aji amarillos, which are incredibly difficult to find in the states. I find that aji amarillo paste is much easier to come across at Latin American markets. If you’re unable to find the paste, you can substitute a habanero pepper, though be aware that if you’re adverse to spice, start with half of the recommended amounts below and work up according to taste.
This dish is served at room temperature. The thick spicy cheese sauce is poured over the potatoes and the dish is traditionally garnished with olives and a sliced boiled egg. I always cross my fingers there is some sauce leftover because I love to put it on everything!
I remember growing up watching my mom add saltine crackers to the blender and I thought it was the strangest thing in the world–but the crackers act as a thickener for the sauce. I tend to think they’re not all that necessary, but I stick with it because my mom knows best.
Papa a la Huancaína
- 4 yellow or russet potatoes
- 12 ounces queso blanco (alternatively, queso fresco can be used), cubed
- 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 saltine crackers
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4-5 leaves butter lettuce
- 1 hard boiled egg, quartered
- 2-3 olives, halved
- Over high heat, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in a few pinches of salt and carefully drop in the potatoes; cook until tender when poked with the tines of a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the water and transfer to a cutting board to cool. When the potatoes are room temperature, peel the potato skins off with a paring knife. Slice the peeled potatoes into 1/4-inch slices and set aside.
- To a the jar of a blender, add the cubed queso blanco, evaporated milk, aji amarillo paste, ground turmeric and saltine crackers. Turn the blender on medium, and slowly drizzle in the oil until it reaches the desired consistency. Salt to taste. Note: I added no salt due to the salt content of the cheese I used; this will vary depending on the brand.
- To plate the dish, arrange the leaves of lettuce on a large plate. Fan the sliced potatoes atop the lettuce, and pour the sauce over the potatoes. Garnish with eggs and olives.
Yield: 4-6 servings as an appetizer
Adrianna Adarme is a food blogger and author living in Los Angeles, California. She writes the blog A Cozy Kitchen, where she shares comforting, everyday recipes from her kitchen. She recently authored her first cookbook, PANCAKES: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Perfect Stack. She’s a lover of breakfast, pie (and sometimes even pie for breakfast), corgis and cute things. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.