This Peruvian potato salad or Papa a la Huancaina is known for its spicy, creamy, and colorful dressing that is a wonderful vehicle for one of the most important ingredients in Peruvian cuisine — aji amarillo, or the Peruvian yellow hot pepper.
The key when making the Huancaina sauce is finding a good balance between all the ingredients. It also helps if you have an immersion blender and some patience to add a little of this and a little of that. And to taste it, until it’s just right. Though I started with recipes by Tony Custer and Gaston Acurio, I used aji amarillo paste instead of whole yellow hot peppers, which are not readily available here in San Francisco. The final measurements are my own.
This salad is usually made with Yukon gold potatoes, but to add a nice contrast to the sauce, I used purple potatoes and served them over mixed greens with a dollop of sauce on each potato and a drizzle around the plate. I also used turmeric, known as palillo in Peru, for added color.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCE
- 1 red onion
- 1 clove garlic
- canola oil
- 1 teaspoon aji amarillo
- 1/8 lb. feta cheese
- 3/4 cup milk
- pinch of turmeric
- 6 saltine crackers
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD
- 4 purple potatoes
- mixed greens
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a pot to cook the potatoes, a saucepan to cook sauce, and an immersion blender to make the purée.
- Boil the potatoes in a pot with water until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Peel and slice into rounds.
- Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and sauté in a saucepan with canola oil over medium heat until onion is translucent or about 5 minutes.
- Add the aji amarillo paste and sauté for another minute.
- Add 1/2 cup of milk and the feta cheese to the saucepan. Use an immersion blender to purée. When sauce begins to boil add a pinch of turmeric and stir until sauce is a bright yellow color. Remove from heat.
- Crumble the saltine crackers and add them to the sauce, add the remaining 1/4 cup of milk and purée while incorporating the olive oil a few drops at a time, until the sauce is creamy and smooth.
- Serve the sauce over a plate of mixed greens and potato rounds.
To make the sauce spicier, add more aji amarillo to the sauté. I used 1% milk, so depending on the milk and type of cheese you use, you may need less milk or less saltine crackers to thicken the sauce. Only a pinch of turmeric will do, otherwise too much may overpower the flavor of the aji amarillo. I found that the sauce didn’t need any additional salt after adding the feta cheese and the saltine crackers.