Potatoes with cheese, chilies and black mint sauce, serenaded by Caetano Veloso
October the 31st. Halloween! For us, it’s an even more important celebration: it’s the day of Creolle Music. El dia de la cancion criolla. Tonight we drink pisco sours until the sun comes out again, and listen to all the beautiful, poetic music that takes us back to our childhoods and puts goosebumps on our skin. What better way of celebrating than with a typical dish by Creolle food chef extraordinaire, Flavio Solórzano? Executive Chef of the restaurant El Señorío de Sulco in Lima, and specialized in Peruvian cooking, Flavio is not only an expert in regional cuisines, but also in desserts and artisan ice creams, using native ingredients from all over the country. As many other chefs and cooks here, he learned all the secrets of this cuisine at a very early age, from his grandmother, Julia, and his mother, the well-known Isabel Alvarez, whose work in the research field is remarkable.
Flavio‘s greatest assets are his passion, respect, and love for our gastronomy and our ingredients, which he transmits in everything that he does. His books Perú a la mesa!! (Peru on the table) and Cocina Tradicional Peruana (Traditional Peruvian Cooking) were bestsellers, and now he is working in a third book about empanadas, a product that he knows very well because he used to sell many varieties of these delicious turnovers (all of them his creation).
Here is his recipe for this traditional dish that has black mint, or huacatay, as its main ingredient. ocopa is very similar to a papa a la huancaína, but with added peanuts and huacatay, which completely change the flavor. In some places they still make the sauce with a stone mortar. Imagine all the extra work of turning those ingredients into a sauce just by the power of the stone and your own force! It’s well worth the effort though; connoisseurs believe this technique actually improves the taste and texture. We trust them, but we like to be practical too, so here you go with a simpler blender-friendly preparation. Happy Halloween and Feliz Día de la Canción Criolla!
Ocopa (serves 4)
- 1 lb yellow potatoes, boiled and peeled, and sliced (or any potatoes, if you can’t find Yellow)
- Lettuce leaves
- 10 black olives
- 2 hard boiled eggs, in quarters or slices
- ½ cup queso fresco (white cheese) finely diced
- 4 oz Mirasol chili pepper (or 3 tablespoons of Mirasol chili pepper paste)
- 2 tablespoons Ají Amarillo (or 2 tablespoons Ají Amarillo paste)
- 6 oz onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 4 oz peanut, toasted
- 2 oz nuts, toasted
- Huacatay leaves (black mint/optional), or 1 teaspoon huacatay paste
- 6 soda crackers
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup queso fresco (white cheese, diced)
*Roast the onion and garlic in a clean saucepan. Reserve.
*Boil the ají Mirasol, changing the water three times. Peel and discard the seeds.
*In a blender process chili peppers, garlic, onion, peanuts, nuts, milks, queso fresco, soda crackers, huacatay leaves or paste. Season with salt.
*In a dish put lettuce leaves, potato slices, cover with the sauce, and decorate with hard-boiled eggs, white cheese, black olives.