Karencita de Perú

I Cooked Something Peruvian! – ¡Cociné Algo Peruano!

Posted on: May 7, 2010

Wednesday night was my first experience cooking an actual Peruvian dish.  It is called Causa. There are many different types of causa but the type we made was Causa Rellena Con Camarones (filled with shrimp).

Generally, causa is not eaten as a main dish.  It is normally served as a starter or “entrada” at lunch.  Something interesting that I have learned since being here is that certain dishes are eaten at certain times of the day and not at others.  For example, Ceviche is only eaten at lunch and not at dinner.   Apparently it is common that all the food for both lunch and dinner is prepared during the day and therefore things that spoil quickly are not eaten in the evening.

So, what exactly is causa anyway!   Basically, it is a type of potato dough which is layered with a filling in between.  The dough or “masa” is made of yellow potatoes, olive oil, ají amarillo (ají is a hot, yellow pepper which is pureed to make a thick, yellow, paste-like substance called ají amarillo.  It is somewhat spicy), lime juice and salt.   The fillings can vary and generally include a protein like chicken, shrimp, tuna or even lobster plus diced vegetables along with “palta” (avocado) and mayonnaise.  It is then garnished with parsley, sliced hard-boiled egg and black olives and lettuce.

The dough… well first of all there are a lot of types of potatoes here.  You must use yellow potatoes for causa which, thankfully, I bought.  However, the part I didn’t know is that you are supposed to boil them with the skin on and remove it after they are cooked.  This is to keep them from getting too moist.  First mistake… I peeled the potatoes before boiling them.  Second mistake… I didn’t add quite enough ají and salt to the dough so it was a little bland, or at least that is what my two Peruvian dinner companions, Luis & Angel, politely told me.  At least it was edible and as far as I am concerned it tasted fine.  Here is the dough in the bottom of the dish before we added the filling.

The filling… as I mentioned our causa was filled with shrimp.  In addition to shrimp, the filling contained diced onion, red pepper and of course avocado and mayonnaise.   Here is the filling prior to mixing everything together.

The filling was pretty good, but there were a few too many onions!

Finally… the garnish… Well, we kind of fell down on this one.  We bought black olives but forgot to use them and didn’t cook the hard boil the eggs in time.   So, our only garnish consisted of parsley, which was strategically placed compliments of Luis.

And here is the final product… Causa Rellena Con Camerones

For our first attempt our causa didn’t turn out too bad, although we can do better next time.  With a few improvements and a bit of practice we will be cooking causa like the pros in no time.  If any of you ever come to visit me, I will cook causa for you!  How’s that for incentive.

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