Welcome back to the Cooking Corner! In this edition of “The Art of Making”, we are learning to prepare a mean batch of yet another traditional Peruvian cuisine: Causa. I am also excited to announce that back by popular demand is (imagine a boxing announcer saying all this) our teacher and Peruvian native, Tia! If you don’t know who Tia is, then you probably haven’t read the article: The Art of Making: Tamales, which is a read that I highly recommend.
–A quick recap of who this Tia is, for the TL;DR bunch, goes a little something like this: she is a former restaurant owner, who has been making meals for her house guest for over 20 years, I recently had the pleasure of learning how to make tamales from.
The day started like any other in Peru, a little coffee and a little avocado on pan (bread), along with some great conversation about the events that took place the night before. The day was different though because the big reveal was that it was time to learn how to make Causa.
Causa has so many different variations I could spend a lifetime trying each one.
For the sake of this article I will post a typical recipe, which is not the one we used to learn. The recipe below will provide a good base for making Causa. The original recipe that I used can be found at https://www.delishdlites.com/latin-recipes/peruvian-causa-rellena-tuna/. Please go and give them support as they are a great site and a quick reference point.
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1-2 tbsp aji amarillo paste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 pouches StarKist Selections EVOO Yellowfin Tuna
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp red onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- Prepare the tuna salad by combining the Starkist Selections EVOO Yellowfin Tuna, mayo, lime juice, onion, and parsley in a bowl. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate the tuna salad until needed.
- To make the potato layer, boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender.
- Drain the potatoes, then pass them through a ricer. Cool the mashed potatoes to room temperature.
- Once the potatoes are cooled, add the olive oil, lime juice and aji amarillo paste. Stir to combine, then season the potato mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- To make the causa rellena, line a casserole dish with plastic wrap.
- Fill the dish 1/3 of the way up with the potato mixture.
- Add a layer of sliced avocado, then a layer of tuna salad.
- Finally, top the casserole dish with another layer of potato.
- Wrap the causa rellena with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To unmold the causa rellena, flip the causa onto a plate and remove the plastic wrap.
- Serve the causa rellena with a sprig of parsley, or garnish with other traditional toppings, like sliced hardboiled eggs, black olives, or more avocado. Serve cold.
- Recipe Notes
- Aji amarillo paste is a traditional Peruvian chili paste that is bright yellow and medium-hot. It is found in many Latin supermarkets. If you’re unable to find it, add some of your favorite hot sauce to the potato mixture.
We were a few days out from leaving and I had packing on the back of my mind, but all of that drifted away as we stepped into the kitchen.
All of the ingredients laid out on the table and the smell of chicken being pressure cooked focused my thoughts on absorbing the lessons being taught. The recipe that Tia was using involved some unconventional ingredients namely: beats and sweat peas. Her and I had our system for communicating down path, thanks to our last cooking adventure. She would show me how to do something and then I would finish the task.
A minor side note, one of my favorite ingredients to work with is potatoes and one of the best places in the world for these carby treats is Peru. With something like over 4 thousand different variation picking just the right ones for the job seems like a daunting task… One that I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about for this dish.
There were Yukon golden potatoes in a bag of dirt on the floor and my first job was to get these suckers squeaky clean.
Now before this experience when I used to get potatoes from the store and there was dirt on them I used to get mad: ‘How could they put out such dirty veggies?’. After this experience though it really opened my eyes to just how fresh these potatoes were… pulled from the ground this morning and we get the pleasure of making them into something edible. Talk about a blown mind.
While I washed my way through the endless bag of potatoes, Tia continue to pressure cook all of the remaining veggies minus the orange chili peppers. She proceeded to de-seed the peppers and pointed to my stomach and laughed, saying that my stomach was a little too sensitive for the heat that those pepper seeds would produce. Stubborn I took a pinch of them and tried to not sweat or show signs of a struggle…. failing in the process and making her laugh even harder.
Fast forward to the two of us peeling pipping hot potatoes and smooshing then with what I would call a giant garlic press.
After about 10 minutes we had a big bowl of smashed potatoes. Tia told me to start mixing as she ran back and forth pouring oil, the blended chili peppers, and of course salt! Just when I thought that I couldn’t mix anymore she did what all great chefs do in my opinion, jammed a spoon into the mixture and made sure it tasted delicious. Of course it did!! Although the color of the concoction seemed way to bright the taste was smooth with a little nip at the end thanks to those peppers.
With the potatoes done we returned to the table where two bowls sat: one with cooked chicken meat and another with the blend of veggies and mayonnaise. The next step was to get all three of these into a brownie pan but not just in any order. Causa requires a base layer of potatoes another with filling and the third layer being potatoes again.
Causa is like revenge, it’s a dish best served cold.
Tia showed me how to make the base layer with a few example scoops of the potato concoction. She then instructed me to pull the chicken apart by hand into little sections. I thought I had the trick down and felt pretty good after and few pieces… boy was I wrong! She came up and couldn’t believe how big these pieces were! She instructed me that this is the filler so let’s make sure we fill the plater with chicken. So I had to take all of the chicken and essentially peel it into teeny tiny pieces, what a trip!
With the base layer of potatoes completed and the chicken in tiny pieces, Tia blended the chicken, veggies and some more mayonnaise together. Our filler layer was a bright pink bowl of what a would call, for a lack of better words, goop. Drizzle the pink goop onto to the base layer of potatoes and a game of patty cake later we had completed making a fresh pan of Causa!
Below are a few action shots after we let the dish chill for 30 minutes:
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