POTATOES WITH VERSATILE CHEESE AND AJI AMARILLO SAUCE.
Very high in the Andes, the beautiful city of Huancayo is the flourishing commercial emporium of the region. It has fantastic food and is abundant in fresh produce, especially artichokes. Papa a la Huancaina, (potatoes Huancayo style) are boiled yellow potatoes covered with an even yellower spicy and creamy cheese sauce, and accompanied by hard-boiled eggs and black olives. This easy recipe is so popular that you can find the Huancaina sauce everywhere: as a dip for crudites, quails eggs, corn, or fried yucca, as a sauce for spaghetti or risotto (surprisingly good), over Causa Limeña (I love this one), with steak…you name it. If it was up to me, I would have it even for dessert.
Creamy or lumpy, depending if it´s made in the blender, or by hand with a fork or in a mortar, its texture and flavor charms either way. But modern cooks rely on the blender because it´s easy and they can have the sauce ready in a minute. The food processor is another good idea, but here instead of queso fresco try to use cottage cheese or cream cheese. If the sauce is too dense add more milk. When it´s ready, it should have the consistency of custard.
It can also be made in the blink of an eye if you have Aji Amarillo paste at hand. Just process about 2-3 tablespoons of it with all the other ingredients, y listo!
It is a fact that some cooks like the sauce extremely spicy, and it can be overpowering and make it difficult to appreciate the sensations of this unpretentious and satisfying dish. Do I make it spicy? Of course! But I enjoy a nice kick that is not excessively hot.
Papa a la Huancaina (for 4)
6 yellow potatoes, boiled and peeled
5 aji Amarillo chili pepper, seeded and ribbed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 soda crackers
8 oz. queso fresco (fresh white cheese)
1 cup evaporated milk
Iceberg lettuce leaves
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in slices
* Cut the aji and take out the seeds and ribs. Boil in salted water for 15 minutes, strain and peel: the skin will be easy to remove.
*Put the aji in the blender, add oil and milk and process with the crackers, white cheese, and salt, until creamy.
*In a plate put a lettuce leaf, some thick potato slices, and cover with a few tablespoons of the sauce.
* Decorate with black olives, hard boiled eggs and parsley.