food. life.

Category: Latin American Cuisine (Page 2 of 2)

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.

 

Ají de Gallina / Spicy Peruvian Hen Stew

Ají de gallina is the quintessential Peruvian dish:  it is a perfect fusion of Andean and European cuisines. It has some roots in pre-Columbian times: the Inca people cooked a breed of chicken called the “hualpa” (which was renamed after Atahaulpa, the last Inca ruler, who was executed by the Spanish) with hot pepper.  Ají amarillo was – and still is – the most commonly used pepper in Peruvian kitchens; and it is the key flavoring ingredient in this recipe.

However, it is also related to the Spanish precursor to manjar blanco, which was a cooked dish that included milk and almonds. The Spaniards added cheese and olives. French chefs who came to Peru in the 19th century may have changed the dish into more of a creamy fricassée, possibly adding the European use of a panada as thickening agent, and shredded chicken instead of the Quechua tradition of large chunks. Native chopped peanuts replaced the almonds as well. In short, each culture made its mark; and ultimately created an entirely new dish that is now uniquely Peruvian.

Ají de gallina is a treasured national dish. Every Peruvian home cook has this recipe in his / her repertoire, and adds a personal spin.  It was my husband’s childhood favorite, and he says that it is a common favorite of many Peruvian children. His mother made it for every birthday celebration. Unfortunately, I have corrupted him: he now requests my braised beef short ribs with my top-secret mango-tamarind barbecue sauce! But that’s another post.

This recipe is traditionally made with non-egg-laying hens. Hen is older and tougher than the regular frying or roasting chickens that are commonly sold here; but is much more flavorful. You’ll need to boil the heck out of it to make it tender… but I promise, the flavor is well worth the extra time. I’m not one to promote the big-box stores… but you can often find hen in the frozen food section of that megalomaniacal corporation that starts with a “W.” If you can get a fresh hen at your local butcher or grocery store, so much the better. Use a whole roasting chicken if you must – but don’t use chicken breast! Bone chicken is essential to create a flavorful stock and moist meat.

This dish is usually served as an entrée at home, with both rice and potatoes; and as an appetizer in restaurants, with potatoes only.

* * Please note – there are several steps which require advance preparation and waiting time. * * 

Please read recipe through before beginning!

 

Ají de Gallina / Spicy Peruvian Hen Stew
Servings Prep Time
8people 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3.5hours 3hours
Servings Prep Time
8people 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
3.5hours 3hours
Ingredients
Stock:
  • 5pound hen,
  • 2 1/2-3quarts water
  • 1large carrot,peeled and halved
  • 1large yellow onionquartered
  • 1stalk celery,halved
  • 2cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1Tbsp. cumin, ground
  • 1tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2tsp. white pepper
Stew base:
  • 1/4cup olive oilextra virgin
  • 1large yellow onionsmall dice
  • 4cloves garlicminced
  • 10slices white bread,crusts removed
  • 12oz. evaporated milk(1 can)
  • 2 1/2cups hen stock(as needed - from above recipe)
  • 1/2cup Parmesan cheesefreshly grated
  • 1/4cup ají amarillo paste
  • 1/4tsp. Kosher salt(to taste)
  • 1/8tsp. white pepper(to taste)
Garnish
  • 4medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 olives,Peruvian or kalamata, pitted and halved
Instructions
Mise
  1. Gather / measure / prep ingredients.
Stock
  1. Remove giblets from hen; thoroughly rinse, inside and out. Place hen in a large stockpot; fill with cold water until bird is covered.
  2. Add quartered onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, white pepper and salt; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat; cover partially (allow to vent) and simmer for at least 2 ½ – 3 hours (until hen is so tender that it begins to fall off the bone, and the legs / wings can be easily pulled from the body). Periodically skim surface oil and scum off the surface of the stock. If your pot is small and hen is not completely covered with water, turn after 1 hour.
  4. * While stock is cooking, prep stew base and garnish ingredients (see below).
  5. Add the potatoes to the stock for the last 25 minutes. (Remove when fork-tender, if done before the stock.)
  6. Strain; make sure to retain the broth in a pot, and keep it hot on the stove.
  7. Remove hen, and allow to cool. Discard remainder of strained ingredients.
  8. When hen is cool, peel off the skin and discard. Remove the hen meat from the bone, and shred finely by hand.
Stew
  1. Gather / measure / prep mise en place.
  2. Cut the bread first; allow to sit out for 1-2 hours.
  3. Soak the dry bread in the milk until saturated. Place in a food processor, and purée until smooth.
  4. Heat the oil over medium heat; sauté the onion until soft and translucent (4-5 minutes). Add garlic and ají amarillo paste; sauté 2-3 more minutes.
  5. Add bread mixture; stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until liquid evaporates and mix is dry.
  6. Add one ladle (½ cup) of stock at a time, stirring to prevent sticking. When liquid evaporates, add another ladle-full. Repeat, for a total of 4 ladles (or until a thick sauce consistency is reached).
  7. (Optional: at this point, you can purée the sauce, using a hand blender.)
  8. Add the cheese and the shredded hen meat. Add one more ladle of stock; mix well to combine. Remove from heat.
  9. Taste; add salt and pepper as desired. (It may not need any.) If sauce is too thick, add one more ladle of stock, and mix well.
  10. Serve gallina atop boiled plain potatoes; garnish with hard-boiled egg, black olives, and crushed peanuts or walnuts. You may also add arroz a la Peruana as a second side dish.
Recipe Notes

You can serve this as a main dish, or (in smaller portions) as an appetizer or first course.

Refrigerate or freeze the extra stock – it makes a delicious soup or stew base.

You can substitute 1 sleeve of Saltine crackers for some or all of the bread.

Evaporated milk is used in many Peruvian recipes. For a much thicker and richer sauce, substitute heavy cream for the evaporated milk.

Copyright © 2011 la vida comida.

Papa Rellena / Stuffed Potato Croquettes

No long-winded post today… just a long-winded recipe! These delicious potato croquettes are most likely rooted in French classical cuisine; it seems to have appeared in the 19th century, when many Europeans (and French chefs) immigrated to Peru.

The name is somewhat of a misnomer: it’s actually a combination of papa and yuca rellena. You can use all potato, or all yucca; but I think the blending provides the tenderness and sweetness of potato, as well as the firmness and distinctive taste of yucca – the best of both worlds!

Papa rellena make an excellent hors d’œuvre, or a delicious light meal or snack.

 

Papas Rellenas / Stuffed Potato Croquettes
Servings Prep Time
8croquettes 45minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Servings Prep Time
8croquettes 45minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Ingredients
Potato Dough:
  • 1pounds yellow potato
  • 8oz. yucca,frozen, defrosted
  • 1 1/2tsp. lemon juice, fresh
  • 1 1/2tsp. butter
  • 1/4tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8tsp. white pepper
Filling:
  • 2Tbsp. olive oilextra virgin
  • 1pound ground beef(or finely chopped sirloin)
  • 1pound ground pork(or finely chopped pork loin)
  • 1large yellow onionsmall dice
  • 5cloves garlicminced
  • 4medium plum tomato,small dice
  • 4large eggs
  • 1/2cup olives, pitted, minced(Peruvian or kalamata)
  • 1tsp. paprika
  • 1packet Goya Sazon seasoning
  • 1/2tsp. Kosher salt(to taste)
  • 1/2tsp. black pepper(to taste)
Breading:
  • 1cup flourall-purpose
  • 3large eggs
  • 1cup bread crumbs,homemade or panko, crushed
Instructions
Mise en place
  1. Gather / measure ingredients.
Potato dough:
  1. Peel potatoes; cut in eighths, and place in a bowl of cold salted water. Place the yucca into a pot with cold salted water and the juice of half a lemon; place the lemon itself into the water. Bring yucca to a rapid boil; after 10 minutes, add the potatoes and eggs. Boil for 15 more minutes. (If potatoes and yucca are not done, remove eggs and continue cooking potatoes and yucca. They should be fork-tender, but not mushy.) Drain potatoes and yucca; place hard-boiled eggs in cold water to cool. Remove fibrous strings from yucca. Run potato and yucca through a food mill (or mash finely with a ricer, or pass through a tamis). While still warm, mix in the butter, salt and white pepper (to taste). Blend well. Set aside to cool.
  2. When cool, flour your hands and a work surface; knead the potato by hand until it becomes a smooth dough without any lumps. Cover with plastic until ready to use.
Filling:
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Thoroughly brown the meat; remove with a slotted spoon, and reserve. Remove all beef fat except a thin coating on the bottom of the pan (about 2 Tbsp). Turn heat down to medium; sauté the onion until lightly caramelized (about 7-8 minutes). Add the garlic, tomato, paprika and Sazon; simmer until liquid evaporates (about 6-7 more minutes). Add beef back to the pan; stir to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a bowl; set aside to cool. Peel and dice the eggs. Dice the olive. Add to the meat, and mix well. Cool filling to room temperature.
Making Croquettes:
  1. Liberally dust all sides of a small, shallow bowl with flour.
  2. Place the scooped potato dough into the bowl. Make a well in the center.
  3. Place 1 Tbsp. of filling into the well. Do not overfill, and pack down gently with a spoon.
  4. Make a flat dough “hat” to cover the filling. Press gently to seal the edges. Invert the bowl, and pop out the croquette onto the floured surface.
  5. Flour your hands, and gently round the sides with your palms. The traditional shape is that of a football (though I make them in a “puck” shape to optimize the frying surface of the croquette). Dust the croquette with flour; place on a floured plate or sheet pan. Repeat until potato dough is used up.
Breading:
  1. Bread the croquettes using standard breading procedure (SBP); place on a plate.
Frying:
  1. Fry in about ½” of oil. Flip very gently with a fish spatula (using two spatulas if necessary) to avoid splashing the oil. Hold on a rack in a warm oven (200° F) with the door open a crack to vent condensation. Alternately, you can place in a paper bag (placed on a sheet pan) in a warm, open oven.
Serving:
  1. Serve immediately with salsa criolla (and mayonesa de ají, if desired)
Recipe Notes

Do not purée the potato – you will be left with glue! Mash and work the potato by hand.

If using fresh yucca, cook it separately. Remove the tough peel with a sharp knife; then quarter. Boil in salted water with the juice of ½ a lemon for 20-25 minutes / until fork tender. Cool, remove strings, then add to the potato dough.

You can can stuff peppers or top rice with the extra filling. Or, freeze the extra in a Ziploc bag for up to 1 month.

You can also freeze leftover croquettes, and reheat in a 350° F oven for 15-20 minutes.

You can omit the pork and use all beef, if you prefer.

       

Copyright © 2011 la vida comida.
Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

Tacu Tacu / Peruvian Rice Cakes

The Spanish nobility of the Viceroyalty of Peru had an immense variety of both Spanish and Peruvian indigenous ingredients to work with, and the money and leisure time to experiment with them.

These wealthy Spaniards brought African slaves, who in turn brought their own foods and cooking techniques. As they worked in the Viceroyalty kitchens, African cooks blended their own food culture with the Creole cuisine of the European Spaniards, as well as the indigenous Peruvians’ cuisine (which varied, depending on the region). Many of the recipes that comprise Peruvian cuisine today were created through this cultural fusion. Further, the African cooks found clever ways to use leftovers and less desirable cuts of meat. Tacu tacu is a perfect example of the ingenuity and creativity that Africans brought to Peruvian food culture. Their influence on the evolution of Peruvian cuisine cannot be overstated.

Peruvians generally still eat their main meal at midday, and have a very light meal for nighttime supper. Tacu tacu is a tasty way to use up leftovers: leftover rice and bean purée are combined, fried, and topped with an egg (which is soft, so that the runny yolk can break over the tacu tacu, and act as a rich sauce). Occasionally it is eaten as a fuller meal, with a breaded beef cutlet (see the full recipe for tacu tacu con apanado here); but usually, it is simply topped with a fried egg. It is sometimes eaten this way for breakfast as well.

 

Tacu Tacu
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Cook Time
20minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 10minutes
Cook Time
20minutes
Ingredients
  • 1cup white rice,long grain
  • 2cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1Tbsp. butterunsalted
  • 1Tbsp. olive oilextra virgin
  • 15oz. canary / mayacoba / peruano beans,pre-cooked (see below)
  • 4oz. pork belly,small dice
  • 1/4cup ají amarillo paste
  • 1/2cup onion,minced
  • 3cloves garlicminced
  • 4large eggs
Instructions
Mise en Place
  1. Gather / measure all ingredients.
Tacu Tacu:
  1. Bring stock and butter to a boil; add the rice, cover, and reduce to low heat. Cook the rice for approximately 15 minutes, or until just tender. Fluff with fork, then set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the pork belly until golden and rendered. Do not drain fat from pan. Remove pork with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add olive oil to pan; when hot, add onion, and sauté for 4-5 minutes (until golden and caramelized, but still soft). If the onions become dry, do not add any more oil; add a bit of water.
  4. Add the garlic; sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Add the ají amarillo paste; sauté 1-2 more minutes. Add beans, and cook 3-4 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Add the pork back to the mixture. Crush the mixture with a large spoon to make a paste, then set aside to cool. When cool, add the rice, and mix well.
  6. Form patties; usually these are the size of a large oblong pancake. (If you like, you can make them the size of a risotto cake or crabcake.)
  7. Fry in about ¼” of oil. Take care in turning; use a fish spatula (with a second spatula if necessary), and gently flip. Remove from oil; place on plate in warming oven.
Garnish / Serving:
  1. Fry egg sunny-side up in remaining oil. Place egg on top of tacu tacu, and serve with salsa criolla on the side.
Recipe Notes

Follow your favorite recipe for cooking dry beans. You can also substitute 1 15-oz. can of cannellini or white northern beans, drained and rinsed, for the canary beans.

For a vegetarian version of tacu tacu, omit the pork belly and use vegetable stock for the rice.

For a vegan version, use vegan stock, and omit the pork belly, butter, and egg. Add olive oil to the rice, and fry with vegetable oil. Top with your favorite salsa, avocado slices, and / or a dash of ají amarillo paste.

This is the scratch version, but it is intended for leftover rice and beans of any kind. Just mash the beans, combine with rice, and follow the instructions above for frying. Feel free to experiment!

 

Copyright © 2011 la vida comida.

Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

Seco de Pollo / Cilantro Chicken Stew

Seco de pollo is a very typical Peruvian entrée; it can be found in nearly every region of the country. “Dry chicken stew” is so named because the chicken is first fried (the “dry” part), then returned to the stew (the “wet” part). It is also because the liquid is reduced to a thick sauce – not dry, per se; but more so than a soup or many other stews.

It can be made with any meat (seco de res – beef; seco de cordero – lamb; seco de cerdo – pork; etc.). In the northern region, it is frequently made with goat or lamb; and is traditionally served with the corn tamales that are typical of that area. Wherever it is found, it is also accompanied by arroz a la peruana.

Estofado is similar to the seco dishes, except that it has tomato, paprika and only a little cilantro. I’ll include that recipe at a later date.

 

Seco de Pollo / Cilantro Chicken Stew
Servings Prep Time
4servings 20minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Servings Prep Time
4servings 20minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Ingredients
Browning chicken:
  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs and legs(about 8 pieces)
  • 2tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1tsp. black pepper, ground
  • 1/4cup vegetable oil
Base:
  • 2Tbsp. olive oilextra virgin
  • 1large yellow onionsmall dice
  • 5cloves garlicminced
  • 1/2medium red bell pepperseeded, sliced thinly
  • 1/2medium green bell pepperseeded, sliced thinly
  • 1/2small ají amarillo, freshseeded, minced
  • 1/4cup ají amarillo paste
  • 1quart chicken stock(enough to cover)
Vegetables / Seasoning:
  • 4medium yellow potatoespeeled and quartered
  • 1cup green peasfresh or frozen (defrosted)
  • 1cup cilantro, chopped(plus sprigs for garnish)
  • Kosher salt(to taste)
  • black pepper, ground(to taste)
Instructions
Mise en Place:
  1. Gather / measure ingredients
Browning chicken:
  1. Combine salt, pepper and cumin; sprinkle onto both sides of chicken. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken, then remove from pan.
Base:
  1. Turn the heat down to medium; add the olive oil. Add the onion, and sauté 7-8 minutes (until golden). Add garlic; sauté 2-3 more minutes. Add green pepper, hot pepper and pepper paste; sauté 2-3 more minutes.
  2. Deglaze with chicken stock, scraping bottom of pot to release the fond. Add the chicken back to the pot. Add enough chicken stock to nearly cover the chicken. Turn up heat until liquid simmers.
  3. Add the potatoes and chicken. Cook for approximately 35-40 minutes (until chicken is very tender). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Add peas, and cook for 2-3 minutes; then add cilantro. Cook for 1-2 more minutes only.
  5. Taste; add salt and pepper as desired (it may not need any) Garnish with cilantro sprigs, and serve with arroz a la peruana.
Recipe Notes

The liquid reduces to a thin sauce consistency as it cooks. If you would like it to be thicker, remove the chicken and potatoes when done, then reduce sauce to desired consistency.

Take care when handling hot peppers! Always use gloves, and wash hands and cutting surfaces thoroughly afterwards.

This recipe traditionally adds diced carrots; I leave them out. If you would like to include them, add ½ cup diced raw carrots with the onions. (If using frozen pre-cooked carrots, add them with the peas.)

 

Copyright © https://www.lavidacomida.com.

Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

Pollo a la brasa / Peruvian charcoal-roasted chicken

This was the first Peruvian dish I ever made… so it’s only fitting that it should be my first recipe post! We received a George Foreman rotisserie as a wedding present, and I used that thing until it fell apart. We found a brand new one on Craigslist last year, and we still use it today.

This dish is not an old Peruvian classic; in fact, it was created by Swiss hotelier Roger Schuler in Peru in the 1950s. It’s become a perennial favorite; and today, you will find this dish anywhere that Peruvian food is served. In fact, many Peruvian restaurants feature this dish – or serve it exclusively – and have huge charcoal-fired spits called rotombos to roast dozens of chickens at a time!

I’ll say right off that my version is not roasted in a rotumbo, and thus cannot have the same distinctive charcoal flavor. So it’s not 100% authentic. But it was developed based on my husband’s taste memory: Eduardo would taste each attempt, and say, “Close, but more cumin!” “Almost, but more salt!” – until he finally exclaimed, “That’s it!”

Pollo a la brasa can be made in the oven or rotisserie; I’ve included directions for each. But the only way to truly achieve the authentic flavor is by roasting it over charcoal.

(6/2018 – If you’re interested in a great site about purchasing and using electric smokers, check out ElectricSmokerGuy.com! And if you try making this recipe in an electric smoker, please drop me a line and tell me how it turned out!)

Pollo a la brasa / charcoal-roasted chicken
Pollo a la brasa / Peruvian charcoal-roasted chicken recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 30minutes
Cook Time
1.5hours
Servings Prep Time
4 30minutes
Cook Time
1.5hours
Ingredients
Marinade
  • 12oz. lager beer
  • 12oz. water
  • 2cups chicken stock
  • 1Tbsp. ají amarillo paste
  • 1packet Goya Sazon seasoning
  • 2tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2Tbsp. cumin
Rub
  • 1Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1Tbsp. Goya Sazon seasoning
  • 1Tbsp. Goya Adobo seasoning
  • 1tsp. black pepper
  • 1Tbsp. cumin
Instructions
Marinade:
  1. Combine all marinade ingredients together in a bowl large enough to fit chicken.
  2. Place chicken in bowl. Use a cover that will weigh down the chicken enough to submerge in marinade; otherwise, flip the chicken halfway through (if possible). Marinate the chicken 2-3 hours. One hour before cooking, remove chicken from liquid and pat skin dry. Place on rack, and allow to completely air-dry.
Rub:
  1. Sprinkle salt and white pepper inside chicken cavity. Rub skin with lime. Combine the rub ingredients. When the chicken is dry, truss it. Place on rotisserie skewer or roasting pan rack. Pat rub onto entire skin surface.
Roasting:
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F, or prepare rotisserie. Roast for 20 minutes per pound (160° F. internal temperature, where leg meets the body). If using oven, turn oven down to 350° F. after 15 minutes. Remove from oven / rotisserie; place on plate and rest for 15-20 minutes. Quarter chicken, and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Serve with fresh yellow potato French fries and trio of dipping sauces (traditionally, huacatay sauce, ají amarillo sauce, and fresh mayonnaise or aioli).

Use a lager beer – and make sure it’s good beer. I follow this rule of thumb: if I don’t want to drink it, I won’t put it in my food!

If using a rotisserie, make sure the chicken fits without hitting the element. You may find it useful to cut off the wing tips, so they don’t strike the element while the chicken rotates. (Tucking them really doesn’t work.)

The best way to mimic the rotombo flavor would be to use a charcoal grill fitted with a rotisserie (positioned several inches above the flame; the chicken should have a charcoal flavor, but not be charred. Try making it in a charcoal smoker (like the Weber Smoky Mountain “Bullet”) fitted with a rotisserie attachment, for a truly authentic flavor.

A Brief History of Peruvian Cuisine

The next several posts will be about Peru and Peruvian cuisine, since it’s closest to my heart (and mouth!). We will get to the recipes soon, I promise! But I thought I would be in remiss not to mention the rich cultural history that is behind this exciting cuisine.

Believe it or not, this is relatively brief overview of Peruvian food history! It would be impossible to cover the entire history of the Inca Empire, Spanish conquest and subsequent cultural development in a blog post (and not really relevant for our purposes!). I will, however, include links to websites that offer more in-depth explanations, for anyone who might be interested.

Peruvian cuisine is one of the most fascinating food cultures in the world. It is unmatched in both its diversity and individuality – in my humble opinion, anyway. It is a fusion of many different cultures; it retains unique elements of each, yet is a distinct cuisine all its own. Its main influences are the indigenous Inca peoples; the Spanish conquistadors; African slaves brought by the Spanish; and large waves of immigrants who became integral components of the cultural and culinary framework.

Peruvian Girls in Traditional Dress

Incas

The Inca Empire, at the time of the Spanish conquest, was a vast and complex civilization that – at its height extended into modern-day Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. This region was called Tahuantinsuyo, or “land of four regions.” The Tahuantinsuyos (the word “Inca” actually referred to the nation’s nobility, though we’ll use it because it’s familiar) were already a mixture of cultures and languages themselves, united through the conquests of emperor Pachacutec and his sons. After Pachacutec’s death, both brothers vied for power; as a result, the nation was greatly compromised by war between the two brothers’ factions. It is at this time that the Spaniards arrived; the weakened state of leadership, government, and army greatly contributed to the Incas’ downfall at the hands of the Spanish.

The indigenous peoples had a rich array of native foods, recipes and techniques when the colonizing Spanish arrived. Peru is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, and a multitude of important native foods were consumed throughout the country:  notably the variety of peppers, hot and sweet, which are an essential ingredient in many Peruvian recipes. Peanuts and many tomato and bean varietals were also cultivated and widely consumed.

In addition to these universal ingredients, local cuisines were – and still are – highly dependent upon the geographic area and climate of each region. While it is important to note that there is a considerable overlap of foods in each region, there are three main climatic (and culinary) regions:

The Andes Mountains and Highlands

Purple Corn

The mountain regions had a highly developed system of farming, which included terrace farming and its complex irrigation systems. Many mountain crops grow only at specific altitudes; these ancient farmers knew which crops grew best at which altitude, and had elaborate planting and harvesting systems in place for each crop.

Corn was a highly-prized staple of Andean cuisine; there were a multitude of corn cakes and tamales, each serving a different meal or cultural purpose (i.e. some were for ritual celebrations, some for everyday meals, etc.). Chicha morada is a drink made from purple corn; and chicha de jora is a fermented corn beer which held great ceremonial importance in ancient Inca life.

They also cultivated hundreds of tuber varieties indigenous to the region, especially the incredible diversity of potatoes; but also sweet potatoes and unique tuber varieties such as the olluca. Quinoa, amaranth (kiwicha) and other ancient grains were important for nutrition and culinary variety. While the majority of the common folk ate little meat, the Incas did hunt fresh game such as venison (most often in the participation of ritual hunts). They also domesticated native animals, such as llama, alpaca, and cuy, or guinea pig, which they also sacrificed.

The Inca people developed advanced preparation and preservation methods such as freeze-drying; these enabled them to endure times of scarcity and difficult weather conditions. Chuños / papas secas (dried potatoes) are still a staple, and a main ingredient in the stew carapulcra. The Incas also dried meat and freshwater fish; in fact, charqui (jerky) is one of the few Andean foods and Quechua words that have been adopted worldwide. Pachamanca is a huge celebration meal that is cooked in an earthen pit with hot stones. Native plants such as huacatay, a native herb related to marigold, and hot peppers, seasoned and flavored their foods.

Tropical / Amazon Basin

This region grows vast quantity of tropical fruits, many of which are not often found outside of Peru; they include camu camu, lucuma, cherimoya, and guanabana. Also found are yucca, yam, guava, passion fruit, granadilla, and avocado. The Amazon River provides an abundance of fish and wildlife. Wild pig and other jungle animals are hunted.

The Coast

Fish and seafood are obvious staples. Ceviche – raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice – is a regional delicacy; each area has its own version. Waterfowl such as duck was also common.

There are two subdivisions of the coastal regions:

The Northern Coast is extremely hot, with a desert savanna climate. In addition to an abundance of fish and seafood, Chicha de jora (corn beer) is used in cooking more frequently here. Also, maize tamales are more common, whereas corn tamales are made in Lima and the southern portion of the country. Goat and lamb, particularly in stews (secos), are common entrées in this region.

Lima and the Central / Southern Coast has a subtropical / desert climate. Once home to the Viceroyalty, Lima is now considered the gastronomic center of Peru, if not all of South America. The sheer number and variety of Peruvian restaurants is extraordinary. 

Spanish Conquest

When Francisco Pizarro and the Spaniards arrived in Peru in 1532, they not only found a state weakened by civil war; but they also brought smallpox and other epidemics, which wiped out somewhere between 60% to over 90% of the Inca population by the end of the 16th century… leaving few people to fight or to be conquered. The Spanish used the remaining Inca as slaves – frequently working them to death – and suppressed their culture and traditions to the point that few Inca artifacts or history remain. They also brought their own blended culture’s cuisine, which consisted of European and Moorish recipes, ingredients, and methods.

Aside from pestilence and oppression, the Spanish brought European classical cuisine and ingredients including: onions and garlic; cumin, cilantro and parsley; and fruit trees (especially grape, olive, citrus, apple, peach, and pear). They also brought domesticated livestock, such as chicken, cows, rabbit, goats and sheep. The Spanish contributed significant agricultural staples such as rice and wheat. The Spaniards’ contribution of sugar cane transformed Peru into a sweet-loving culture in a very short period of time.

Mestizo Cuisine

The Inca intermarried with the Spanish over many generations; and their descendants came to be called mestizo (mixed). This created a lower-middle class that took many generations to develop. This process began on the culinary level as well, as the two food cultures began to blend together along with the families. Over many generations, the two cuisines became intermingled, recipes marrying ingredients and techniques became commonplace; and the foundation of modern Peruvian cuisine was created. Criollo (Creole) literally means locally-born people of foreign descent; but the term came to describe Peruvian cuisine itself: the marriage of Spanish colonial cuisine with the foods and food culture of the indigenous Inca groups.

Immigrant Waves

Peruvian cuisine was later influenced by large immigrant population waves. The Spaniards brought African slaves as obviously unwilling immigrants. They contributed many culinary techniques and ingredients, often borne out of necessity (i.e. being forced to use less appealing cuts of meat, leftovers, etc.). They contributed African methods, particularly frying foods in oil; and made a significant contribution to the cuisine. A few notable recipes include anticuchos and tacu tacu. Also, as servants in the Viceroyalty’s kitchens, they helped transform Peru into a sweet-loving culture: they imbued Spanish desserts with African undertones. Picarones and turrón de Doña Pepa are a few examples.

Peru formally declared its independence on July 28, 1821. In 1872, the Peruvian government created the Sociedad de Inmigración Europea (“European Immigration Society”); it offered financial support to Europeans looking to emigrate to Peru. Many immigrants – most notably Italians, Germans, and French – soon arrived. Classical French cuisine and Italian ingredients (especially pasta) were readily incorporated into the food culture. Many settled in isolated communities in mountain valleys and lowlands; Italian and German enclaves in the mountain valleys and Amazon basin still exist today, and strive to maintain their ethnic heritage. (My husband is himself a descendant of the Tremolada family of Junín province, and he is one-quarter Milanese!)

Chinese immigrants arrived to build the railroads in the 1800s, and contributed tremendously to Peruvian food culture. Chifa – Chinese-Peruvian cuisine – blends traditional Chinese with native Peruvian ingredients. Peruvian cooks began to integrate Chinese ingredients into their meals; ginger, soy sauce, and scallions can be found in many Peruvian recipes. Chifa is quite different from Chinese-American cuisine – which has been altered to suit American tastes, and is not generally consumed by Chinese people (either in the U.S. or in China). It is a unique cuisine onto itself.  Lima and the larger cities hold the greatest concentration of Chinese immigrants, and consequently the greatest number of chifa restaurants.

Last – but certainly not least – the Japanese made their mark on the cuisine. Peru established diplomatic relations with Japan in 1873; emigration to Peru began soon afterwards. Today, Peru is home to over 1.5 million Japanese-Peruvians. (Former President Fujimori and his presidential-candidate daughter Keiko are notable, if dubious, Japanese-Peruvians.) Partly through the expertise of sushi chefs, ceviche – a traditional Peruvian dish of fish macerated in citrus juice – has been elevated to an art form in the haute cuisine kitchens of Lima. Tiradito – a sashimi-inspired dish similar to ceviche – was the result of Japanese influence.

The cuisines of the Inca, Spanish, Africans, Europeans, Chinese, and Japanese have been seamlessly incorporated into one unified Peruvian food culture. Spaniards’ own mélange of cultures, as well as the multitude of microcultures that made up the Inca people, may have set the stage for an attitude of culinary acceptance that might not have been possible elsewhere. The result is Peruvian Cuisine: an exciting, vibrant, eclectic mix of cultures, ingredients and recipes that continues to evolve today.

A note about Latin American culture and cuisine

Before I delve into regional food cultures and recipes, I would like to give a very brief explanation of Latin American cuisine – which is kind of a misnomer in itself.  There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about it, and I wanted to address them before I went any further.

Latin America (Latinoaméricaconsists of those countries in the Americas that Spain and Portugal conquered and colonized. Often, when people say Latin America, they really mean Hispanoamérica – the places that only Spain colonized.

Each Latin American country has its own separate culture – and as a result, its own unique cuisine.  Indeed, each region within each country has its own distinct culinary specialties – just as the countries of Europe do (and really, just about everywhere). So “Latin American cuisine” really is a collection of different cuisines, rather than its own entity. More about that in a minute.

The biggest misconception I’ve found here in the U.S. is that if something is Hispanic or Latin American, it’s labeled “Spanish.” Only people and things from the country of Spain itself are Spanish. An Ecuadorian restaurant is not “Spanish”; a Mexican taquería is not “Spanish”; a Chilean person is not “Spanish.” I imagine the practice developed because many people from Hispanoamérica speak Spanish as their first language.  But each Latino/a person takes great pride in his/her country of origin, as well as the traditions from that country (in the same way that our ancestors’ traditions are important to us Americans). Also, it doesn’t even make any sense, if you think about it. I’m Swedish and German and an American… but because I speak English, suddenly I’m “English?” See what I mean? It’s kind of bizarre, really.

Another misconception is that all people who speak Spanish eat tacos and enchiladas. Those foods are from Mexico. You will not find them in most other regions, and particularly not in South American cuisine. Only Mexican and Central American cuisines use tortillas. In fact, in Spain, a tortilla actually means an omelette. And authentic Mexican regional cuisine isn’t found in a fast food chain… though that’s for another time.

Some foods, like tamales and salsas, can be found in many regions; but they vary greatly, depending on what is found locally. Take beans, for instance. Rice and beans is a staple dish in many Latin American cuisines – but it’s made differently in every country.  For example: in Cuba, you’ll find slow-cooked black beans; in Peru, fava and white beans; in Mexico, pinto beans; in Puerto Rico, pigeon peas; etc. etc.

So every Latin American country has its own distinct cuisine, based on how the indigenous culture’s food blended with Spanish colonial food – and how that cuisine evolved over time (often absorbing the cuisines of immigrants as well, such as in Peruvian cuisine).

In short, it ain’t Spanish!

So why put all Hispanic Latin American cuisines together? Well, they do share some of the same ingredients; and they do share the contributions of Spain, the colonizing country. Part of the problem is that here in the U.S., we have not had the opportunity to learn much about different Latin American countries. So, for lack of knowledge, we’ve just lumped them all together in this “Spanish” group. I don’t think it’s intentional; I was guilty of the same ignorance. But I thought I’d do my part to clarify things, now that I’ve gained a bit of knowledge about this topic.

I am enamored with all Latin American cuisines; and while I’m going to focus on Peruvian food – my hands-down favorite – I couldn’t imagine concentrating on only one. I will concentrate on Hispanoamérica; but I’ll touch upon Spain, Brazil and Portugal as well. So here in this blog, it’s not a “lumping”… but rather, a (hopefully) tasty mélange that will retain the trueness of each individual ingredient. (Okay, that was totally cheesy, but sincere nonetheless.)

Anyway, thanks for indulging me. Time for some food!

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