As someone who lives in the northern hemisphere, my most typical temperature association when eating potatoes is warm; mashed or baked or fried, but always warm. And I feel like many people eat their potatoes warm, with maybe the exception of a potato salad.
My dad is Peruvian and I have been lucky enough to have this great food influence as a part of my gastro-heritage. For some reason, most of my favourite Peruvian potato dishes are served cold, like papa a la huacaina and this dish; causa.
Potatoes are native to Peru and the Incas built an empire off of this vitamin-rich carbohydrate. They were brought back to Europe by Columbus, where they took years to catch on, with many believing them to be poisonous, due to their being a part of the nightshade family. However, after many years of attempt, they, like tomatoes and chocolate (other imports from the new world) became staples of the European menu.
Most people who have a bit of familiarity with the Peruvian food scene equate it with ceviche, empanadas and pisco, and they wouldn’t be wrong! If you haven’t heard of it before, causa is a traditional Peruvian dish made of layered and seasoned mashed potatoes, avocado and a ‘salad’ of tuna, chicken shrimp or seafood that is served chilled, often garnished with sliced hard-boiled eggs and black olives. Typically it’s made in a terrine type mold in a large format, but can also be made individually, which is what I have done here.
It is unbelievably simple, versatile, and a perfect dish for lunch on a hot day, or proportioned in smaller sizes, as a side dish.
Makes 4 entrees or 8 side dishes
1 pound (450 g) of Yukon gold potatoes
½ cup (125 ml) of olive oil
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of aji Amarillo paste
1 tablespoon (15 ml) of lime juice
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) of salt
1 pound (450 g) of frozen pre-cooked cold-water shrimp (the tiniest shrimp you can find) defrosted
¼ cup (60 ml) of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of Old Bay seasoning
½ cup (125 ml) of chopped red onion
½ cup (125 ml) of chopped parsley
1 ripe avocado, cut into thin slices
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water.
Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium and simmer until they are tender to the touch, about 15 minutes. It’s a god idea to cook the potatoes with the skin on. It imparts a better, more potato-y flavour and helps the integrity of the texture.
Remove the potatoes from the pot and let them cool until they can be handled easily. Once the potatoes are cool, peel off the skin and place the skinned potatoes into a large bowl, or back into the empty pot.
Add the oil, aji Amarillo paste, lime juice and salt and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Chill the potato product in the refrigerator until cold all the way through, about an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp. Rinse the shrimp under cold water until fully defrosted and spread out on a cutting board or tray in a single layer and pat dry with a paper towel. Be sure to get the shrimp as dry as possible.
Once the shrimp is dry, place them in a large bowl and add the mayonnaise, Old Bay, red onion and parsley and stir well to combine.
You can assemble in a two of ways: individually, using a ring mold (or cookie cutter), or in a terrine-like mold (or using a loaf pan, lined with plastic wrap) but the principles are the same.
Using your mold or plastic-lined loaf pan layer in the potato mixture and pat down. Next place the avocado in a thin layer. Lastly, top with the shrimp salad mixture. Chill until ready to serve.