Last year when Rebecca (my daughter) and I visited Lima, I had the opportunity to have Causa a la Limeña at Panchita in Miraflores (a highly recommended restaurant!). This is yet another Peruvian dish that uses potatoes, but it is served cold. When I first bit into the dish, my face lit up in surprise at how good it was. But that was the only time I had causa until last week. I don’t know why—it is a very easy dish to make.
At the mercado here in Calca, I got my ingredients:
- Yellow potatoes: If you want potatoes here, you don’t buy them from a vegetable vendor. You look for the ladies sitting behind sacks full of different kinds of potatoes. I asked for a half kilo of “papas amarillos para haciendo causa” (yellow potatoes for making causa). She knew exactly what I wanted.
- From my casera, I got spices like aji amarillo (yellow chile), ginger, ajo (garlic), mayonnaise, and aceitunas(olives)
- From the chicken vendor, I got a nice large chicken breast (The chicken is very fresh and safe to buy in this market and you can pick out the individual pieces that you want—you don’t have to depend on whatever packaging the butcher puts out to sell.)
- From the vegetable seller, I got a red pepper and onions.
- From the women selling fresh herbs, I bought a huge bunch of perejil (parsley)
- On the way home, I stopped by a neighborhood tienda and bought eggs.
In my lovely kitchen at home, I boiled the chicken breast with onions (I would later use the broth for soup.), and made up some chicken salad with olives, and parsley. But you could also make your favorite chicken salad recipe, OR some people use tuna salad.
I also blended up a nice sauce by putting aji amarillo, garlic, ginger, and olive oil in the blender. (This is a great sauce to add to chicken or vegetable soup right at the end of cooking!)
At the same time, I boiled the peeled potatoes until they were pretty soft. Once they were drained, I took the ingredients upstairs to Mabel’s (my host’s) lovely kitchen and together we finished the dish. The potatoes were so soft, they almost mashed themselves—no need for a mixer. Mabel mixed in some of the aji sauce and salt into the potatoes and put half of them into a baking dish.
Next, we layered the chicken salad along with some slices of fresh red pepper, and then the rest of the potatoes.
Now, causa has to look pretty. So, for the last garnishing layer, I added a drizzle of mayonnaise, sliced avocado (The avocados here are amazingly delicious!), sliced hard-boiled eggs, red pepper, and ground black pepper. The dish needs to set in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
Serve with soup or salad. It makes a nice appetizer or light summer luncheon meal.
You can be very creative with this dish. A vegetarian central layer of steamed veggies, egg salad, or various cheeses, work well. The causa that I ate at Panchita in Lima had a very thick central layer of egg salad, tomatoes, and avocado. And you can use anything that sounds good for garnish: tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrots—just use your imagination.
At Cusco Eats, the reviewer, Hebert Edgardo Huamani Jara, upon eating causa for the first time, wrote:
I felt a celebration start on my taste buds. By the time I was finished I was absolutely fascinated with the combination of tastes of the causa.
I felt the same way.