Latin Twist: Peruvian Treats Beyond Pisco Sours and Ceviche

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Yuca Fries with Peruvian Pepper Sauce from Acuario in Port Chester: the Inspiration for Today’s Recipe!

 

Don’t get me wrong! I love pisco sours (posted here in July) and ceviche (posted here in October)! But, mis amigos, Peruvian cuisine  has so much more…and we are so lucky to have access to the components (as well as the advice of many local experts!) needed to make Peruvian dishes and drinks. And if you’re looking to expand your cooking repertoire, and dive into the Latin American treasure chest of Peruvian treats, this is a great place to start!


Peru’s national cocktail, from Mambo Mixers ©2005, Arlen Gargagliano (photo by Dasha Wright)


Ceviche on Cucumbers

If you’re not familiar with Peruvian cooking,   ¡Bien venidos!  (welcome!) and, especially you reluctant cooks, don’t worry: this cuisine is accessible and user friendly, aside from being very tasty.

I fell in love with Peruvian food the moment I arrived in Lima, where I had the pleasure of living for one year. From their classic cocktails, served at every fiesta I attended, to desserts (like picarones, or Peruvian sweet potato donuts! YUM!) and with so, so much in between, I fell head over heels for just about everything I tried. And though I was sad to leave Peru, I soon discovered that, well, a lot of Peru can be found right here in New York.

Today I’d like to share a recipe with you for one of that country’s favorite comfort snacks: yuca fries. Like its cousin— the potato—it’s quite versatile and can be paired with a variety of condiments, though it’s nutty-buttery flavor is great on its own.

Here I’m pairing yuca fries with a peppered-cheese sauce (which I JUST had the pleasure of enjoying at Acuario in Port Chester!). This interpretation, from my book Mambo Mixers, is made with fresh-cut yuca BUT, my friends, don’t hesitate to make it with frozen; it’s faster, yet still tasty. Also, unlike pictured here and served at Acuario, I put the sauce on the side; I find that people like usually like to dip into the sauce and choose exactly how much they want to sample.

Peruvian Peppered Cheese Sauce (Salsa Huancaína) and Yuca Fries

Yield: Makes about 25 fries, and 1 cup sauce

Serving Size: Approximately 5

Peruvian Peppered Cheese Sauce (Salsa Huancaína) and Yuca Fries

(This recipe is from Mambo Mixers, by Arlen Gargagliano, ©2005.) If you mention huancaína sauce to a Peruvian in the States, you may see some tears of nostalgia; this much-beloved salsa is certainly one of Peruvian comfort foods. Served usually with boiled potatoes, here it’s served as a dip with very tasty yuca fries (which are a new favorite of my kids—and the kids in the neighborhood)!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 hard-cooked egg yolks
  • 8 ounces Mexican white cheese (or ricotta or feta cheese)
  • 3 teaspoons ají amarillo (sold in large supermarkets and Latin markets—like Viva Grande in New Rochelle)
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 saltine crackers
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 4 pounds fresh or frozen yuca
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. First prepare the sauce:
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic, stirring constantly for about three minutes or until onion has softened.
  3. In food processor, combine the egg yolks, cheese, ají, milk, and crackers. Add the onion mixture and process until well blended.
  4. Gradually pour in the oil and mix until the sauce becomes creamy.
  5. Squeeze the lemons and stir in the juice.
  6. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to two days.
  7. Return to room temperature before serving.
  8. Then prepare the yuca:
  9. Cook the frozen yuca in a stockpot of salted water or chicken broth.
  10. Boil and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender.
  11. Be careful because you don’t want it to cook too much or it will get mushy.
  12. Drain and let cool.
  13. Cut yuca in half, and remove the stringy core.
  14. Then cut into pieces of about 1/2-inch thick, and 2 inches in length.
  15. Heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a heavy pot.
  16. Fry yuca, in small batches, for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden.
  17. Drain on paper towels.
  18. Toss with salt, transfer to a platter and serve immediately with the sauce on the side.
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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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