Recipe: Peruvian Causa makes inroads in North America

Causa, a traditional Peruvian appetizer or light meal, which is taking the United States by a storm.  Photo: LMRuth

WEST PALM BEACH, Fl, September 9 2012 - The North American palate is expanding exponentially, welcoming new flavors and ingredients to the traditional dinner table.

Peruvian dishes are some of the most newly popular tastes.  Arroz con Pollo and Empanada, which are found throughout Latin America, for example, or Peruvian Ceviche are increasingly accepted.

The newest addition to the US menu is causa, a traditional Peruvian appetizer or light meal, which is taking the United States by a storm.  Although initially reluctant to try a dish with a base of chilled mashed potatoes, Americans who try the appetizer are embracing it for its complex flavors and textures.

Peruvians have eaten Causa for hundreds of years, although the ingredients and presentation of the dish have evolved over time.  Originally, Quechua Indians ate the basic version of causa, consisting of boiled potatoes and chiles.  When the Spanish arrived, they incorporated new ingredients into the simple dish.  Like ceviche, there are numerous variations of causa, but all include some variation of potato, lime, onion, chilies and oil. 

Some American’s call causa a potato pie.  It is basically a layering of mashed potatoes , yucca and meat, seafood or vegetables.  It is an excellent summer meal or appetizer, and the combination of flavors creates an excellent overall taste.

The key to an excellent causa is balance in the ingredients.  Too much of one will overpower the others.  You can, however, alter ingredients depending on what is available and your personal tastes.  In the recipe below, for example, substitute eggplant and roasted red peppers or seasoned chicken for the seafood.  Try different varieties to find what works best for you!

Seafood Causa Limena

9 Appetizer Servings

 

Potato Layer

1 pound whole yellow potatoes

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

¼ cup chopped chiles (preferably aji chiles)

Salt

Pepper

 

Yucca Layer

1 pound Yucca (if you can’t find fresh yucca, you can use frozen, but make sure to drain it well before use)

¼ cup lemon juice

2 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablesppons vegetable oil

Salt

Pepper

 

Seafood Layer

8 ounces large shrimp, deveined and tails removed

1 red onion

1 Tablespoon vinegar

3 Tablesppons butter

¼ cup Peruvian brandy (Pisco)  You can substitute regular brandy if you cannot find Pisco

1 cup fish stock (can use chicken broth)

4 filets grouper (you can substitute any firm fish)

1 cup fresh crab meat

¼ cup lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup white wine vinegar

 

Guacamole

 

Garnish (some suggestions)

Sliced avocado

Shrimp

Crab meat

 

Start by making the potatoes.  Boil large pot of salted water.  Add unpeeled potatoes.  Cook about 20 minutes until tender.  Cool.  Peel potatoes and mash until smooth.

Add salt, oil, butter and chiles.  Blend well.  Set aside.

To make the yucca layer, boil a large pot of salted water.  Add lemon juice.  Add yucca and cook about 20 minutes until tender.  Cool.  If using unpeeled yucca, peel.  Remove the fibrous strings from the yucca.  Mash yucca until smooth.  Add salt, oil and butter and blend well.  Set aside.

Mince the red onion and place in bowl.  Add vinegar.  Fill with water and soak for 10 minutes.  Drain and set onion aside.

Saute the 8 ounces of shrimp in butter until pink.  If using additional shrimp for garnish, sauté and set aside.  Dice the 8 ounces of shrimp for the filling.  Set aside any shrimp you plan to use as garnish and dice the remaining shrimp.

Saute the onion until translucent, and deglaze with pisco or other brandy.  Add fish stock, vinegar, ¼ cup pisco, and bay leaf.  Bring liquid to a simmer.  Lay fish on top of onion.  Make sure the fish is covered by liquid.  If necessary, add additional stock to cover fish.  Cover the pan and poach the fish about 8 minutes or until firm.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish and onions from the pan.  Drain well, squeezing out excess liquid as necessary.  (Note:  It is fine if the fish falls apart.)  Mix the fish with the diced shrimp, crab, mayonnaise, and lemon juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

To assemble causa:

Lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish.  Line the dish with plastic wrap.  Grease the plastic wrap. 

Layer the yucca filing on the bottom of the dish.  Smooth layer to ensure it is even.  Place the seafood filling on top of the yucca.  Smooth layer to ensure it is even.  Layer the potato filling on top of the seafood filling.  Smooth layer to make sure it is even.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Remove top plastic wrap and spread guacamole evenly over the potato layer.

Refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and cut even squares.  Garnish with avocado slices, whole shrimp or crab meat.


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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth

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