“So, what are you bringing to the picnic?”
Papa a la Huancaina.
“Papa a la huanca-what?”
It’s a Peruvian potato salad, originally from the town of Huancayo.
“Oh. What makes it Peruvian, aren’t potatoes from Idaho or Ireland, anyway?”
No, potatoes are from Peru, there are hundreds of different varieties grown in the Andes mountains, and they have been a staple of the Inca diet for centuries.
“So, what’s so special about this salad?”
Well, the potatoes and greens are bathed in a spicy aji amarillo sauce made with yellow hot peppers, queso fresco, milk, and an onion sofrito — it’s served cold, so it’s refreshing and spicy at the same time, plus it’s garnished with hardboiled eggs and olives.
“Wow. I’d really like to try some.”
Of course, I really think you’ll like it, t’s pretty special because my Mom showed me how to make it. Here, this is her recipe so you make it at home.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE HUANCAINA SAUCE
- 1 red onion, peeled and diced, about 1 cup
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, turmeric
- 2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz. queso fresco, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 6 slices white bread, toasted, crust removed, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD
- 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled in water, peeled, and cut into rounds
- 1 head butter lettuce
- 2 hardboiled eggs, peeled, and cut into quarters
- 8 Kalamata olives, pitted
- parsley for garnish
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a skillet to make the onion sofrito and a blender to purée the Huancaina sauce.
- Sauté the onion in a skillet with cooking oil over medium to high heat for a couple of minutes while stirring
- Add the garlic, aji amarillo, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and turmeric, continue to stir and cook a few more minutes until the onions become translucent
- Remove from heat and transfer the onion sofrito to a blender
- Add queso fresco and milk, purée until smooth
- Add the toast, a few pieces at a time, and continue to purée until sauce thickens
- Pour the olive oil in a slow stream, while continuing to blend
- Transfer the sauce from the blender to a cup with a pour spout
- Arrange the lettuce leaves and potato rounds on a salad plate, and pour the huancaina sauce over the potatoes
- Garnish each plate with a quarter piece hardboiled egg, Kalamata olive, and sprig of parsley
- Serve cold and spicy
The Huancaina sauce yields about 3 cups, enough for more than 1/4 cup per serving. To make the sauce spicier, add another teaspoon or two of the aji amarillo sauce when cooking the sofrito. Depending on the bread and size of each slice, the sauce may thicken without requiring all six slices of bread, so add a few pieces of bread at a time when puréeing the sauce.