Themed nights seem to be turning into a regularity around here. And although our Peruvian night meal was more of a celebration and send-off, we definitely learned a few things.
A good friend and fellow foodie, who lived in Peru the better part of last year, offered to share a few things he’d learned how to cook there before jetting off on his next adventure. These recipes come straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak- right from the kitchen of some delicious and unknown restaurant in Cusco, and straight into your stomach!
I have found that while traveling, food can be the great equalizer and ice-breaker. Ask anyone to show you a favorite recipe and you have an instant rapport- not to mention an insight into their culture and a shared experience of enjoying a meal together. There are days when I think that if our world leaders just duked it out in the kitchen, we’d be a lot better off.
We began our evening with the traditional Peruvian cocktail- Pisco Sours. Pisco is a liquor native to Peru, made from grapes. It is not like Grappa- which is made from pomace- the pulp, seeds, and stems of leftover wine grapes. It’s more like vodka made with grapes.
Pisco Sours- 4-5 servings (about 1/2 pitcher)
3 parts (Shots) pisco
2 tbs sugar or simple syrup
juice from 1 lime (2 parts/shots)
1 egg white
handful of ice-cubes
Directions: throw all ingredients into a blender and mix until the egg-white gets frothy. Serve with a dash of bitters. We used Peychaud’s, but angostura bitters are more traditional.
I think this recipe is delicious-and has the potential for tons of variation. Add a flavored simple syrup, muddle with herbs…make your own version- you can’t really go wrong with good bones like this.
Next up on our list of Peruvian delights was the famous spicy-cheese sauce Huancaina, served traditionally over cold potatoes. This was flipping delicious and the sauce, downright addictive. I think it’s going to have to be my new nacho sauce. The leftovers were great on everything. It had never occurred to me that one could make a cheese sauce without melting the cheese, but that is exactly what we did, thanks to the addition of evaporated milk. My favorite flavor in this dish comes from the traditional Peruvian chile paste, Aji Molido. It ranks right up there with good New Mexican chile, and I will be ordering it in bulk. Of note: Traditional Huancaina is made with Saltines- and therefore, one of the few things in Peru that celiacs must avoid. Keep that in mind should you decide to travel there. We all liked this dish so much that it may have to make an appearance at our annual 4th of July Picnic!
Gluten-Free Huancaina Sauce (or Papas con Huancaina)
8oz queso fresco (any farmer’s cheese will do, or even a pressed ricotta)
1 bag Aji Molido (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can evaporated milk
6-10 gluten-free crackers depending on how thick you like the sauce. We used Glutino
splash of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Throw all the ingredients in the food processor and run until thick and smooth- about 1 minute. Add more crackers to get the desired thickness. For a traditional presentation, serve over cold potatoes. Can be used over rice, as a sauce to anything- stirfry, eggs, for nachos- you name it.
Lastly, we enjoyed the traditional street-fare Lomo Saltado – literally translated as “jumped loin”. This is basically South American beef stir-fry served over rice and with french fries. I was surprised to learn that populations from Southeast Asia began migrating across the Pacific and settling in Peru in the mid-19th century. With them came their food, and an early version of East meets West Food Mash-Up! The beef in this dish is traditionally marinated in soy sauce, so again- be aware should you travel to Peru- this dish is likely not for you. Again- I was surprised and delighted by the flavor in this dish. Spicy warm chiles meets soy sauce, garlic and vinegar. You could even add ginger!
Lomo Saltado- serves 8
1.5 lbs beef (Strip or skirt steak will work nicely here)
2 cloves garlic
3 red bell peppers (we used multi-colors)
1 large tomato
1 bag of frozen french-fries
1 bag Aji Molido or 1/2 a bag of its spicier counterpart Rojo Cojido
gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), vinegar, salt & pepper to taste
Cook french-fries in the oven according to instructions. While they’re cooking…..
Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper cover with a combination of soy sauce and vinegar. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
Chop onion & garlic, set aside. Chop peppers, set aside. Chop tomato, set aside.
In a large bottomed medium-hot pan (ideally a wok), sear beef to desired doneness, set aside. Drain pan, add a splash of oil, then add the onion. Briefly saute until softened (you can cook these down further if you prefer). Remove from pan, add peppers. Saute until softened (again- you can cook these to whatever level of doneness you prefer). Slice beef on the diagonal, replace all ingredients in the pan, give a quick stir and add the tomatoes. Turn off the heat- the residual heat from the pan and food will cook the tomatoes. Add the Aji Molido or the Rojo Cojido. Serve over rice, add the potatoes to the top, garnish with more spicy goodness if you so choose, and enjoy!!!