Potatoes and cheese. Is there a simpler combination of ingredients that is as satisfying on every possible level as this? Everyone may think Cebiche is the most popular dish in Peru, but I say that is debatable. When it comes to comfort food, our native potatoes, accompanied by a big slice of Andean (and in many cases homemade) cheese, are very high on the list. Eaten on a daily basis, sometimes as a snack, sometimes as the main meal, and either for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this staple of the Andean diet leaves no room for disappointment, and never gets old despite incessant repetition.
Of all the Andean regions of our country, Arequipa is the most famous for it’s spicy and colorful cuisine. Chupe de camarones, Escribano, Rocoto relleno, and Queso helado are just a few of the wonderful creations that have come out of Arequipa’s kitchens, and many people travel there only for the experience of trying its food (beautiful sightseeing becomes an added bonus).
I haven’t been to Arequipa in many years. I vacationed there with my family several times as a little girl, and was maybe 10 or 11 on our last visit. I can still remember the breathtaking natural beauty, the lovely white buildings and monasteries, and the special feeling of being out of the chaos of Lima for a few days. There is one more thing I never forgot from Arequipa, and I see it as a perfect example of the mysteries of selective memory. I was not a vegetarian the last time I was there, but out of everything I ate, there was one dish I could never forget despite never having eaten it again. I never even forgot it’s name either: Cauche de queso.
I honestly don’t know what’s so special about this appetizer. OK, I admit I have always loved cheese more than the average person, so maybe the fact that this dish was covered in semi-melted cheese (the way I like it best) had something to do with it. Whatever it was, this new and juicier way of eating potatoes and cheese in a hot plate mixed with a succulent tomato sauce, was something I could never forget.
Is there a dish you tried as a kid and could never forget?
- 2 red onions, julienned
- 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 fresh aji amarillo, seeded and ribbed, julienned (or 2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste)
- 1 cup milk
- 300-400 gr Andean cheese (or semi soft, mild cheese such as cheddar or queso fresco), cut in slices
- 4 medium potatoes, cooked and cut in thick slices
- Olive oil
- Saute the onion and aji amarillo in oil, over medium-high heat. When the onion is transparent (about 5 minutes) add the tomato, oregano, salt and pepper, and sautee for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the milk, bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Turn off the heat and put the slices on top, without stirring. Let them melt for a few minutes (you can put the lid on if you want).
- On a dish, serve the potatoes covered in the tomato and cheese mixture. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
- If you want, you can serve the cauche in layers, forming a layer of potato, then the tomato and cheese mixture; then another layer of potatoes and another of tomato and cheese.