I’ve always wanted to learn how to make a savory sauce, so for this week’s recipe I thought I’d try making Ocopa for the first time. Ocopa is an appetizer of cooked potatoes with a creamy and spicy green coloured sauce made from Huacatay, a mint-like herb from Peru. The sauce can also be used as a dip with your favorite vegetables.
I read recipes by Tony Custer and Gaston Acurio and my adaptation is really a combination of both with my own measurements. Since Huacatay is not readily available, I decided to use mint, basil, and coriander as a substitute. Also, my mom simmers the sauce to thicken it before serving, so since she is my favorite chef, I decided to do the same.
The challenge was figuring out the measurements that would produce the desired taste, color, and consistency. At first, the blended sauce didn’t have enough green color or mint-like flavor, so I added more minced mint and basil until it seemed about right. While I was tasting and adjusting, I was reminded of the Cordon Bleu students in the memoir The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. Whenever they plated a dish, the chefs always gave them tips on salvaging a dish gone wrong.
This recipe is in many ways an experiment but the extra hour spent adjusting was a good experience. And though there is still much to learn about making sauces, I am pretty happy with how it turned out and look forward to using my saucepan more often.
- 1 red onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon aji amarillo paste
- fresh mint (small bunch, enough for 1/3 cup minced)
- fresh basil (small bunch, enough for 1/3 cup minced)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 4 saltine crackers
- 1/2 cup 1% milk
- 6 potatoes (3 Yukon Gold and 3 purple)
- 6 cups of water for boiling potatoes
- pitted kalamata olives
- Boil the potatoes in about 6 cups of water, covered until cooked, about 25 minutes. Set aside to let cool. Peel and slice before serving.
- Dice the onion and crush the garlic. Mince the mint and basil.
- Add canola oil to sauce pan over medium heat and saute onion, garlic, aji amarillo, mint, basil, coriander, salt and pepper until onion is translucent or about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Puree the sauteed onion and spices with the roasted peanuts, feta cheese, saltine crackers and milk in a blender.
- Simmer blended sauce in a saucepan until it thickens slightly, about 8 minutes.
- Serve over sliced potatoes and garnish with olives.
Divide potato slices into 6 small servings, and pour some sauce over each potato.
During step 4, I added more minced mint and basil as needed to get the desired taste and color. The 1/3 cup in the recipe is a good starting point.