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Tag: pisco

Panchita

Criollo Peruvian cuisine

(3 / 5)

$$

review date: 1/2/2015

Menu: Facebook 

+51 1 4478272

Calle 2 de Mayo 298, Miraflores District, Lima

My husband's sweet cousin Mili brought me, my husband, daughter, and mother-in-law to Panchita for lunch. Panchita is one of renowned chef / restauranteur Gastón Acurio's casual dining restaurants, located in the Miraflores district of Lima. It has a fun vibe, with traditional ceramics and posters of Peruvian expressions throughout. The first thing you see when you walk in is the refrigerated case of marinating meats and fish, giving the impression that Acurio means to showcase the traditional criollio Peruvian food from the outset.

Our courteous server greeted the five of us immediately, and we while we perused the large menu, we ordered drinks: passionfruit and regular pisco sours, and a pitcher of chicha morada. The sours were good, with just the right amount of pisco and egg white froth. The chicha was very subtly spiced, and not too sweet; I don’t care for it personally, but my husband and daughter really liked it.

As we had walked to our table, we’d passed the huge bread oven, a red-mosaic monstrosity with a concrete wall around it. It glared with heat and promise. We were told that all the restaurant’s breads were baked in this oven, and I could not wait to try them. We were quickly served a variety of breads and condiments on a wooden tray: a large, fluffy loaf of potato bread; two round, crusty white rolls;  an unleavened bread made of beans; and another bread made of corn.

What a disappointment.  The potato bread was sweet and cottony-soft, but nearly flavorless, and reminded me distinctly of store-bought potato bread. The other breads had a nice chewy texture, but also lacked flavor, with barely a trace of the earthy stone-hearth aroma I would have expected from that oven. Even more, I was shocked to discover (after the fact) that we had been charged $7 soles per person for the one tray of bread we’d all shared, which was never even refilled! That makes $35 soles for four rolls and one four-serving loaf of bread. That’s outrageous. Though the price is on the menu, many people (especially Americans, including myself) would just assume bread was free, especially when it’s simply plunked down on your table without a comment. (Note 7/2016: apparently this “bread tax” is a common practice in restaurants; so you may wish to check the menu or ask the server at each restaurant you visit in Peru.)

We decided to share an assortment of appetizers. We began with Piqueo Doña Pancha, a sampler plate of appetizers: anticuchos de corazón; causa; chicharrón; tamal verde; choclo a la huancaína; and a papita rellena, accompanied by salsa criolla and fried sweet potato. We all agreed that each appetizer was exceptionally good. The tamal verde – moist and delicate, full of fresh cilantro flavor – was one of the best I’ve had. The anticuchos de corazón – marinated, skewered, and grilled beef hearts – stole the show: so tender, with a taste like a cross between a ribeye steak and a mild liver, and just a slight hint of game in the aftertaste. Add hot pepper paste, spices, and smoky char from the grill… simply amazing. Try them. You won’t be sorry.

Next came Jarana Criolla, or an assortment of stewed dishes which were largely created by Peruvian African slaves: olluquito (a stew made with olluco, a root vegetable that tastes to me like a cross between white potato and cabbage); ají de gallina; carapulcra (dried potato and beef jerky stew); cau cau (tripe); sangrecita (fried beef blood); patita con maní (pig’s feet with peanut); chanfainita (an organ meat stew); and frijoles con jugo y arroz (black beans with rice). All were very good, but the star was the pig’s feet – the meat was rich and sweet, and the peanut was a perfect accompaniment. However, a few of these were extremely salty, especially the beans.

We also ordered a plate of anticuchos de paiche, with tostones. Paiche is a massive South American river fish that is white and sweet, much like cod (indeed, it’s sometimes called the “cod of the Amazon”); but has a bit of chewy bite to it, making it strong enough to withstand the grill. It was marinated in lime juice, pepper paste, and spices, and cooked absolutely perfectly, plucked off the grill just at the point when it was cooked through. It was juicy, bursting with flavor, yet still delicate. This was one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten, bar none – and I don’t say that lightly.

My daughter ordered a plate of pesto pasta for herself; she said it was good. I tasted it and thought it was decent. (This might work for a vegetarian, as well as the breads / condiments, and possibly the bean stews – but ask which dishes are made with meat stock; I bet most are.)

For dessert, we all shared a plate of picarones, deep-fried beignets/doughnuts made of pumpkin, sweet potato, and sweet spices like cinnamon and clove. They were fresh and light, with most of its sweetness lent by the generous pouring of miel (molasses syrup). It was a perfect end to our lunch.

The service was excellent: friendly, knowledgeable, prompt, and unobtrusive. They cheerfully obliged our every request, even when I (very annoyingly) asked to take pictures of everyone and everything. They even took pictures on each of our phones.

Overall I found Panchita provided a very good meal for a reasonable price (with the exception of the bread). The entire meal for 5 people, including drinks, came to just over $400 soles – about $130 American dollars. Now that is a bargain, even with a steep “bread tax.”

Keep in mind this is more casual fare. It’s a good place for a fun lunch or happy hour with friends. We’ll definitely give it another try next time we’re in Lima, and sample some of the main dishes. I would recommend it.

Pimientos o Rocotos Rellenos / Peruvian Stuffed Peppers

I’ve never liked American stuffed peppers. The flavorless pepper, tinny meatloaf filling, and powdered cheese topping always made me think of a decrepit diner’s Monday night leftover special.

But these Peruvian stuffed peppers are vastly different. This recipe is based on Tony Custer’s, from The Art of Peruvian Cuisine; but I’ve altered it quite a bit, through trial and error. I use diced meat (over ground), and macerate the raisins in pisco. The peppers are par-cooked; this not only makes them fork-tender, but also allows the filling’s flavors to permeate the pepper during the baking process. The hot pepper’s fruity heat, combined with the sweetness of the pisco and raisins, create a rich meat filling that far surpasses its American Hamburger Helper counterpart – almost reminiscent of a cream-less moussaka. The Crema de Rocoto – which I’ve also altered by using pisco instead of wine – is a perfect complement. After all, what isn’t better with pisco?

I’ve used bell peppers here, rather than the traditional rocoto – the fiery red Peruvian pepper – which are very difficult to find fresh here in the U.S. You can use canned whole rocoto, if you can find it at your local Latin market; or use poblano, if you prefer. Rocotos are a little smaller than bell peppers; rocotos rellenos are sometimes used as an appetizer.

There are several steps (prepping the peppers and filling, stuffing, and baking); but the beauty of this dish is that you can make the filling (and even the peppers) a day ahead, chill, then stuff and bake the next day. I assure you that it’s worth the effort!

Pimientos o Rocotos Rellenos / Peruvian Stuffed Peppers
Servings Prep Time
4servings 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30minutes 1hour
Servings Prep Time
4servings 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30minutes 1hour
Ingredients
Peppers
  • 4medium bell peppers(or 8 rocoto peppers)
  • 4quarts water (2 times)
  • ¼cup sugar (2 times)
  • ¼cup apple cider vinegar (2 times)
  • ½tsp. kosher salt (2 times)
Meat
  • ¼cup vegetable oil
  • 1tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1tsp. black pepper
  • 1tsp. ground cumin
  • 1pound beef, bottom round, visible fat trimmed, small dice
  • 1pound pork loin, visible fat trimmed, small dice
Filling
  • 1large red onion, small dice
  • 5cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2medium plum tomatoes, small dice
  • cup tomato paste
  • ¼cup ají panca paste  
  • 2Tbsp. ají rocoto paste (*see below)    
  • 10each olives, Peruvian or kalamata, small dice  
  • 3each hard-boiled eggs, small dice  
  • ¼tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
  • ¼tsp. black pepper (to taste)
  • ¼tsp. ground cumin (to taste)
  • 3oz. raisins (2 small boxes)
  • ½cup pisco (as needed)
  • 8oz. cheese, shredded or crumbled (mozzarella, queso fresco, etc.)
Instructions
Eggs and Peppers
  1. Hard-boil the eggs in advance; shock in cold water, then dice when cool.  Cut the tops off the peppers, and reserve. Scoop out the seeds and veins; discard.
  2. If using rocoto or other hot pepper: heat water, sugar (1) and vinegar (1) to boiling; add peppers, and parboil for about 3-4 minutes. Change the water, then repeat the process once more, and boil for about 2 minutes. (This process will reduce both the heat and the bitterness of the pepper, while partially cooking the peppers so that they will be more tender after baking.) Remove the peppers and immediately shock them in ice water (or under cold running water) until cool. Drain upside down on paper towels or a wire rack.
  3. If using bell peppers: boil the water with the sugar and vinegar as above; but cook for only about 5 minutes / until just slightly tender. Do not change water. Remove; cool and drain as above.
Meat
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the meat; season with 1 tsp. each of salt, black pepper, and cumin. Mix well.
  3. Heat the oil on medium-high heat in a large sauté pan; add the meat, and sauté until browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and reserve.
Filling
  1. If the pan is very dry, add 2 Tbsp. more vegetable oil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add onion, and sauté for 6-7 minutes (until very soft and golden).
  3. (After this point, avoid adding extra oil, if the mix is too dry; the filling will become greasy. Add a splash of water when needed.)
  4. Add garlic; sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add tomato; sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add tomato and pepper pastes; cook until darkened to a brick color, and the mix has a strong tomato aroma (3-4 minutes).
  7. Drain the raisins, but do not discard the pisco.
  8. Deglaze the pan with the pisco; when the alcohol scent evaporates (2-3 minutes), add the raisins, and mix well.
  9. Add the meat and mix well. Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely.
Stuffing Peppers / Baking
  1. When both peppers and filling are cool, place peppers in a Pyrex dish. Stuff the peppers; pack firmly, but take care not to rip the peppers. Leave a small space on top for the cheese.
  2. Place a layer of cheese on top of the filling; press firmly, so the cheese is level with the top of the pepper.
  3. Place the reserved pepper top on the cheese as a lid. Cover with foil; “tent” the top, so the foil does not touch the peppers.
  4. Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes / until the internal temperature reaches 160° F.
  5. (Optional) Remove the foil; broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese (watch closely).
  6. Remove from oven; serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Pepper Tips

* When working with rocoto (or any hot pepper), be sure to wear disposable gloves. Use a separate cutting board and knife, and wash them separately from your other dishes. Pepper oils remain on the skin, even after washing; and if you touch your eyes or sensitive mucous membranes – well, let’s just say you won’t forget to wear gloves the second time around. Especially if you wear contacts. (Think pepper spray.) Trust me on this one.

* If using rocoto peppers, do not add rocoto paste to the mix (unless you are a suicide wing alumnus, or have a breakup revenge meal planned).

Variations

If you wish to omit the alcohol, use half white grape juice and half water (with a touch of apple cider vinegar) to macerate the raisins.

You can substitute ground beef; but it will render out more fat. If so, ladle out all but about ¼ cup before sautéing the onions.

You can use mozzarella; Peruvian quesillo; or Mexican quest fresco - whichever you prefer.

For a vegetarian meal: omit the egg; and use your favorite ground meat substitute. Follow the recipe the same way, except brown the meat substitute only lightly; and add ¼ cup vegetable oil before sautéing the onions. (The baking time may also be shortened; check the temperature frequently.) Either omit the cheese topping, or add your own favorite cheese substitute. This looks like a good vegan queso fresco recipe! (I'd add it after baking, though.)

The History of Peruvian Pisco

* For those of you who’d rather skip the history and get right to the Pisco Sour recipe – click here.!

pisco sour

Pisco is clear Peruvian grape brandy, made by distilling the fresh musts of specific varieties of grapes. It is the national spirit of both Peru and Chile. There has been an ongoing battle between Peru and Chile for credit for its creation; but it is internationally recognized as originating in Peru. Pisco probably began to be produced in Chile after its occupation of southern Peru in the late 19th century.We’ll concentrate on Peruvian pisco, which is universally believed to be the gold standard.

The name pisco itself has an interesting history. Pisqu or pissqu means “little bird” or “seagull” in the Quechua language. Legend has it that an Ica Valley tribe was renowned for its skilled potters. Chuquimanco, the tribe’s chief, saw a flock of pisqu seabirds, and was inspired to name the potters’ village after them.  This Incan tribe produced amphora-style clay vessels to store liquids, as well as to ferment chicha (corn mash beer), which is the only alcoholic beverage attributable to the pre-Colombian Incas. These vessels came to be called piskos, after the tribe that made them; this eventually evolved into the word pisco.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they imposed their lifestyle upon Peru. Wine was a basic component of daily life (and the Catholic Church); so the Spanish quickly imported Iberian grapes to Peru. European black Muscatel grapes were planted throughout Peru’s southern coastal valleys in the mid-1500s. These grapes, which had been previously used to make raisins and brandy, became the grape of choice for Peruvian winemaking. Advanced Incan irrigation canals were already in place in the Ica Valley, which carried melted snow down from the Andes Mountains; as a result, viniculture was able to flourish in this hot, desert area.

These Muscatel grapes came to be known in Peru as quebranta, which means “broken-in.” As the grapes acclimatized to their new environment, they developed into a genetic mutation, becoming their own discrete variety. Quite fortuitously, this mutation rendered quebranta grapes resistant (though not immune) to the phylloxera insect that all but destroyed European grape stock in the 19th century.

quebranta grapes

Peruvian wine trade thrived; and the Ica’s capital city and main port, Pisco, bustled with wine exports. In fact, during the 1600s, Peruvian wine production became so lucrative that King Felipe II of Spain banned Peruvian wine imports altogether, to eliminate competition with Spain. Consequently, grape farmers increased production of aguardiente (fermented alcoholic beverages) throughout the Viceroyalty in the mid 16th century – especially Peruvian grape brandy. Peruvian brandy soon became popular among travelers to the region. Its popularity spread; and exports from Ica’s capital city and main port, Pisco, increased considerably. It became widely known as pisco because of the double reference (to both storage vessel and port).

Pisco even made a brief appearance in U.S. history during the California gold rush era. Ships bound for California stopped in Pisco, picking up pisco and other liquors, which they then traded in California ports. Pisco became extremely popular in San Francisco; the Bank Exchange & Billiard Room created Pisco Punch: a potent brew of pisco, pineapple and lemon or lime juice, gum Arabic, and distilled water – so potent, in fact, that several celebrated writers (including Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling) wrote about it and helped spread its popularity, until Prohibition closed the Exchange’s doors.

So to recap: the name pisco refers to the region, the port, the clay vessels, and the beverage itself… which clearly shows pisco’s great importance to Peruvian culture.

Pisco Today

Peruvians take exceptional pride in their pisco. To preserve its quality and reputation, a series of policies and laws have regulated the production, classification and appellation of pisco from the 19th century to the present day. Today, Pisco is produced in legally designated areas of origin, and production is closely monitored. Proof is not regulated, though it is usually about 42%. Pisco must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels that do not alter the pisco in any way, and no additives whatsoever are permitted.

There are four recognized grades of Peruvian pisco:

puro (non-aromatic)

Made primarily from Quebranta grapes (considered to be the best), but sometimes from Mollar, Common Black, or Uvina grapes.It is produced exclusively from one single variety of pisco grapes, which is indicated on the bottle label. It is the most exported and sought-after grade of pisco, as it is considered to be the highest quality.

aromático (aromatic)

Fresh musts fermented from the blending of ‘aromatic’ pisco grape varieties, such as Muscat, Italia, Torontel, and Albilla.

italia grapes

acholado (also called “half-breed”)

Made from blending any varieties of Pisco grapes, both aromatic and non-aromatic.

musto verde (green must)

Partially fermented fresh must that is distilled before the fermentation process has completely transformed all the sugars into alcohol. Not necessarily sweeter; but exceptionally smooth.

Each grade has its own unique flavor profile; but I would say that the unifying characteristics of good pisco are smoothness and clean, fresh flavors. It is so smooth that it’s difficult to taste the alcohol… which has both benefits and risks! The best piscos are meant to be sipped neat. I prefer to drink pisco in mixed cocktails (see my Pisco Sour recipe, and look for more pisco drink recipes coming soon!). I personally like puro for Pisco Sours, and aromático for fruitier drinks. Sample different varieties to see which you prefer.

Pisco does have its detractors, who say that it’s just a clear brandy… but they don’t know what they’re missing. I think it’s a truly unique addition to your beverage repertoire.  I hope you’ll give it a try!

Even though pisco is surfacing on the U.S. radar again, it can still be difficult to find in the U.S. But ask your local wine and spirit merchant – many are very willing to order special items for their customers.  Here is a list of some great Piscos – hope this helps.

Salud!

Causa Limeña / Peruvian Potato Casserole

The first time I ever ate causa, I was a newlywed, just beginning to learn about Peruvian cuisine. My husband’s brother Ricardo came to visit; I knew that in addition to being a professor, author and journalist, he is also an expert gourmet cook in his own right, and has contributed to the Spanish-language Gourmet magazine. So I was very excited that he had offered to cook for us.

But once I heard that he was making causa – and found out what it was – I was disappointed… and slightly horrified. As an American who never cared for hot mashed potatoes, I wondered how, for the sake of politeness, I was going to choke down a plate of cold lumpy mush. And even with my minimal familiarity with marital politics, I knew this would be required.

I was more a little surprised after my first bite. Causa was absolutely delicious! It was nothing like I’d imagined. It’s a perfect metaphor for Peruvian cuisine itself: it takes humble ingredients, marries them uniquely, and presents them in an entirely new light.  Muchas gracias, Tio Richard!

This is a beloved and ubiquitous Peruvian dish. There are conflicting tales of its origin. One story states that it originated in pre-Colombian times: kausay in Quechua means “what nurtures you” or “what gives you life,” which many believe was the name of an Inca meal of papa amarilla and ají amarillo.  Another story asserts that causa originated from the time of the War of the Pacific. When food for the troops ran short, Peruvian women ran from door to door, seeking supplies. Most people offered the abundant potato, along with whatever they could spare; so the women prepared the hodgepodge ingredients in a kind of sandwich, for convenience and portability. As the women fed the troops, they are said to have declared: “Por la causa!” (“For the Cause!”) Thus, according to legend, causa was born.

Whatever its origins, causa can now be found in all facets of Peruvian life – at home, in restaurants, at parties and events – with unlimited variations. I would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect summer meal than causa. Cool and refreshing, yet loaded with flavor and just a touch of spice, it matches wonderfully with a slightly sweet Riesling. Just in time for the hot weather!

This is my own version of causa limeña. It combines two of my favorite things: seafood and pisco. I urge you to give it a chance!

 

Seafood Causa
Servings Prep Time
8servings 1hour
Cook Time
55minutes
Servings Prep Time
8servings 1hour
Cook Time
55minutes
Ingredients
Potato Filling
  • 1pound yellow potatoes
  • 2Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4cup ají amarillo paste
  • 1/4tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/4tsp. white pepper (to taste)
Yucca Filling
  • 1pound yucca, frozen
  • 1/2each fresh lemon juice
  • 2Tbsp. butter
  • 3Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper (to taste)
Seafood Filling
  • 1large red onion, minced
  • 1Tbsp. rice wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 8oz. shrimp, deveined, 31-35 count
  • 3Tbsp. butter, unsalted
  • 1/4cup (1) Pisco
  • 4fillets white fish (cod, sole, flounder)
  • 1cup crab meat, lump
  • 1/2each lemon juice, fresh
  • 1each lemon zest
  • 1cup mayonnaise, fresh
  • 1/4cup (1) rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/4tsp. white pepper
Poaching LIquid
  • 1cup fish or vegetable stock
  • 1tsp. (2) rice wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4cup (2) Pisco
  • 1each baking soda
  • 1/2tsp. Kosher salt
Garnish
  • 1recipe mayonesa de palta
  • 1whole avocado
  • 4oz. shrimp, 31-35 count, cooked
Instructions
Potato Filling:
  1. Place potatoes, skins on, in a pot; fill with enough cold salted water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil; simmer until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). Cool slightly, then peel.
  3. While still warm, run through a food mill or sieve, or mash with a ricer, until smooth and without lumps. You can also work by hand. (Do not process in a food processor; you will wind up with glue!)
  4. Add salt, oil, butter and ají amarillo; blend well. Set aside to cool.
Yucca Filling
  1. Place yucca in cold salted water in a pot; fill with enough cold salted water to cover. Squeeze half a lemon into the water; then add the lemon itself.
  2. Bring to a boil; simmer until fork tender (about 20-25 minutes). Cool slightly. Remove fibrous strings; discard.
  3. While still warm, run through a food mill or sieve (or mash with a ricer) until smooth and without lumps. You can also work by hand.
  4. Add salt, oil and butter; blend well. Set aside to cool.
Seafood Filling:
  1. Place minced onion in a bowl; add vinegar (1), then fill with water. Soak for 5-10 minutes; then drain.
  2. In a medium pot with a lid (or small rondeau), sauté shrimp in butter (including garnish shrimp) over medium-high heat until pink. Set aside to cool. When cool, reserve garnish shrimp; remove shells and dice the remaining shrimp.
  3. Sauté onion until soft and translucent. Deglaze with pisco (1). Taste; add salt and white pepper as desired. Prepare Mayonesa de Palta; set aside.
  4. When alcohol evaporates, add stock, vinegar (2), pisco (2), and bay leaf. Bring liquid to a simmer.
  5. Maintain heat at a very low simmer. Gently lay fish on top of onions, but make sure it is submerged in the liquid.
  6. Cover and poach fish for about 6-8 minutes / until fish is firm. Remove fish and onions from pan using a slotted spoon. (Don’t worry if it falls apart!) Drain well – squeeze out excess liquid if necessary – and allow to cool.
  7. Mix fish with diced shrimp, crab, mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest.
  8. Taste; add salt and white pepper as desired.
  9. Prepare Mayonesa de Palta; set aside.
To Assemble:
  1. Lightly grease a Pyrex dish with vegetable oil. Line it with plastic wrap, then lightly oil plastic wrap once again.
  2. Layer fillings into the dish. Start with yucca on the bottom; then seafood; then potato.
  3. Smooth each layer with an offset spatula.
  4. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  5. Remove top plastic wrap; spread avocado mayonnaise evenly over the top. Refrigerate ½ hour to 1 hour more.
  6. When chilled, cut 3 x 3, to make 9 squares. Clean your knife in between each cut.
  7. Garnish with avocado slices and whole shrimp.
Recipe Notes

Tips

Court bouillon is the traditional liquid for poaching fish. But there are enough steps with this recipe already! If you poach fish frequently, and want to have court bouillon on hand (it keeps for a long time), you can find an easy recipe here.

Variations

Causa variations are limited only by the imagination! Substitute your favorite chicken or tuna salad for the seafood. For a vegetarian option, replace the seafood with diced roasted vegetables (eggplant and roasted peppers are particularly good).

For a boost of flavor, reduce the poaching liquid until there is just a small residue in the bottom of the pot. Cool, then add ½ to 1 tsp. to the seafood filling (but make sure to omit any added salt).

For a pretty presentation, lightly oil a ring mold; layer as above; remove and garnish.

 

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