Papas a la Huancaina
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice, plus a little more for the sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, sliced paper-thin (about 1 cup)
  • 2 pounds new potatoes, red, yellow, or white
  • 1 1/2 ounces (1 cup, loosely packed) slightly stale bread crumbs (about 2 slices, trimmed)
  • 1 small can (8 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 5 ounces Monterey Jack or Muenster cheese, grated
  • 3 ounces mild goat cheese, Mexican-style queso añejo de Cotija, or all-natural cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (or more) mild vegetable oil
  • 1 fresh yellow chile (chile guero or yellow wax chile), seeded and minced (optional)
  • 6 small dried chiles, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Pinch of ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
Optional:
  • Lettuce leaves, washed and drained
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • Kalamata or other black olives, for garnish
Time Estimates

Prep time: 20 min  

Cook time: 50 min  

Total time: 1 hr and 10 min  

Directions

  1. Combine 1/4 cup lemon juice with a pinch of cayenne and salt to taste. Add the sliced red onion and let stand at room temperature until everything else is ready.
  2. Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender, 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. Peel if you like (peeling is traditional in Peru, but optional here).
  3. Combine the bread crumbs with 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk and let them soak until soft. Mix thoroughly with the cheeses. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a deep, heavy saucepan. Add the fresh and dried chiles and the garlic and sauté briefly to soften. Add the minced onion, oregano, and enough turmeric to give the mixture a golden color. Add salt and pepper to taste (bearing in mind the saltiness of the cheeses, which varies). Cook over medium-low heat until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the; cheese mixture and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat and add the raw egg, stirring fiercely. Gradually stir in the remaining evaporated milk, then add oil until the sauce is a little thinner than mayonnaise; finish with a little lemon juice.
  4. To serve warm, slice the potatoes and arrange on a platter or individual plates, spoon the sauce over the slices, and garnishing with well-drained pickled onions. For a salad, let the potatoes and sauce cool to room temperature and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves, topped with the sauce, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and onions.

Yield

Serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as an entrée

Good to know

This rib-sticking potato dish with its creamy, chile-spiked sauce strikes me as the Andean equivalent of Alpine fondue or raclette.

Which beer should I drink with this?

Anything but the most bitter pale ales or IPA.

Notes

I first encountered this dish in an Andean restaurant in Berkeley (long gone) and found this recipe in a book called Totally Hot! Well, a recipe something like this. When I got my copy from one of the authors, food writer Naomi Wise, she had made several changes to the recipe by hand, based on cheeses and other ingredients that had become more common since the book was written but especially because of a revelation that came to her after the book was published: "We were trying to duplicate the texture of the dish at home using fresh milk, but it didn't occur to me until some time later that we had never seen fresh milk during our travels in the Andes. What we did see everywhere was canned evaporated milk." So she retested the recipe with the canned milk, and voilà!

Here, thanks to Naomi, is the updated version, tweaked a bit to my taste. She serves it at room temperature, as a salad with romaine, eggs, and olives. But I prefer it warm, as an appetizer or side dish with simply grilled meats.

The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook 

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: David Wasserman/Jupiterimages