Serve a Peruvian Take on Potato Salad at Your Next Party
If you ever have a hard time deciding between potato, chicken or egg salad for a summer cookout then a Peruvian causa, from the Quechen, might be your best bet. Bright yellow potatoes are blended with oil, lime juice and, most importantly, Peru’s ají amarillo, and then layered with a variety of fillings like tuna or trout, shredded chicken or shellfish, tomatoes, avocado, hard boiled eggs, beets, and corn in countless combinations. Basically, a causa offers anything you could want of summer rolled into a peppery potato mash.
Whichever way you enjoy potatoes, mashed, baked or fried, you have the Incas to thank, since all of the world’s varieties (including Peru’s 3000) can be traced back to the Andean region in what’s now present-day Peru (although Chile and Bolivia have strong opinions about this). In the States, Yukon Gold can be substituted for Peru’s native yellow potato, the traditional base for many causas, and purple and red varieties can also be thrown in to bring a little color to this pre-Colombian dish
How to Make a Causa de Atún, Palta y Tomate, or How to Make Causa With Tuna, Avocado and Tomato
Shrimp, crab or tuna seasoned with lime or shredded chicken with fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro (The below steps are made with tuna)
To start, lightly score each potato along its circumference. Add to a large pot with enough cold, salted water to cover. Bring to a boil then lower heat to a steady simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size. Pierce with a sharp knife to check for doneness. Drain and set aside.
When cool enough to handle, slip off the peel, which should have loosened during cooking. Pass through a potato ricer or food mill into a large mixing bowl.
Add vegetable oil, lime juice, ají amarillo paste, salt and pepper to taste and mix until thoroughly combined. Chill until ready to use.
Combine oil-packed tuna, lime juice, mayonnaise and chopped onions in a large bowl and mix well. Chop the tomatoes and sprinkle the avocado with additional lime juice. Set aside until ready to use.
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using an offset spatula, spread the potato mixture in an even layer. Top with tuna salad, tomatoes and avocadoes or other desired filling, leaving a two-inch border along the sides.
Starting with the long end closest to you, lift the causa using the plastic wrap and roll the loaf tightly and evenly, enclosing the filling as you go, jelly-roll style. Wrap the rolled causa in plastic wrap, seam side down. Transfer to serving dish. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
As an alternative, you can make individual causas by using a cookie cutter (at least 2” high) or the outer ring of a springform pan. Add alternating layers of potato and filling (ending with a layer of potato). Gently lift the cutter up and away to serve.
Serve cold as an appetizer or light lunch alongside sliced hard-boiled eggs, avocado dressed with lime juice, pimentos, olives and fresh cheese.
Ana Sofia Peláez covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine on her blog hungrysofia.com. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.