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August 7, 2008

Aji amarillo peppers, a Pantry Special (Recipe: potatoes a la huancaina) {vegetarian}

Pantry Specials are great ingredients that find their way into my pantry from time to time, but not all the time.

Aji2

I never find aji amarillo (also called Peruvian yellow hot pepper) in my local grocery store, so when I get to one of the large Latino markets in Boston or Providence, I always buy a can of whole peppers or a jar of yellow pepper paste. Native to Peru and fundamental to Peruvian cooking, aji amarillo is hot, in the range of 40,000-50,000 Scoville units (a jalapeño is 2,500 Scoville units). It's easiest to find in paste form, but also available fresh, dried, canned or ground (I don't recommend this; as with all ground spices, the quality degrades quickly). I love to chop the whole peppers and add them to peach, mango or tomato salsa.

Is this Pantry Special new to you?

More information:
Make your own aji amarillo paste

Where to buy online:
Whole canned peppers (Amigo Foods, Kalustyan's)
Whole dried peppers (Chelsea Market Basket, Amazon.com)
Aji amarillo paste (La Tienda, Amigo Foods, My Latin Food, Kalustyan's)

How to use aji amarillo:
Zucchini and sausage frittata with aji amarillo sauce
Aji de gallina (chicken in yellow pepper sauce)
Tree tomato hot sauce
Octopus ceviche, Nobu style
Shrimp enchiladas with aji cream sauce
Hanger steak and hot sauce
Salsa criolla

Aji amarillo peppers

Potatoes a la Huancaina

I learned the recipe for this famous Peruvian dish from Rose, who ran a food pantry at a large Boston hospital many years ago. It's served on a platter and often decorated to look like a face -- a big hit with children. The sauce also would be delicious on egg noodles. Serves 4.

Ingredients

3 giant potatoes (or 5-6 small), any type
2 ears corn, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 lb feta cheese, cut into cubes
6 oz evaporated milk (or more, if needed)
1-2 aji amarillo peppers
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
White pepper, to taste
3 hard-boiled eggs
6 Spanish olives (stuffed with pimiento)
1/4 fresh red bell pepper, julienned (cut into long, thin strips)
1 Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large pot, and boil the potatoes (in their skins) until almost tender. Add the corn to the pot, and cook for 4 minutes. Remove corn and potatoes, and set aside to cool while you make the sauce. 

In a blender, combine the feta, evaporated milk, aji amarillo, oil, lemon juice, salt and white pepper, and blend until a smooth sauce; if necessary, thin with a tiny bit more evaporated milk. Peel and slice the potatoes, and arrange on a large platter. Top with the sauce. Decorate (in the shape of a face, or not) with the corn, eggs, olives, bell pepper and parsley.

[Printer-friendly recipes.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Shrimp etoufee
Roasted halibut tacos with mango salsa
Mock guacamole

Comments

I bought some dried peppers online called "aji mirasol", they look like they might have been yellow before they were dried. I wonder if these are the same peppers...and I still don't know what to do with them...

To answer your question: definitely news to me! The recipe sounds delicious. Potatoes with something hot and something creamy -- how could you miss?

In the tapas class I took earlier this year, we worked with a long, narrow red pepper that we filled with a puree of potatoe and codfish. Much milder, but I like the color of these even better!

Yes, this is new to me. You are so lucky living in Boston with the ethnic grocery stores and food availability. That is one draw-back of Charleston. We have almost no ethnic foods available in stores or to dine out for that matter.

Good idea for a series and yes, this pantry special is totally new to me! It's also the most gorgeous shade of yellow although as someone who finds jalapenos hot I'm a little wary of eating something that's...what...almost 20 times hotter than a jalapeno? Yikes!

Oh, the addition of evaporated milk must make this dish so creamy.

This is off topic for the post, but on topic for the blog.

We are in the process of rearranging our panty to bring a lot of canned goods upstairs. My wife thinks that if they are upstairs there is more chance we will use them. I'm talking home canned pickles, mustards and stocks.

We accopmplished making the space by installing a row of four 2 drawer units under the prep table. The top drawer on one end holds all the spices and the top two on the other holds sugars and flours. The remaining top drawer holds various liquids used in cooking.

A post should be up on my blog on Saturday.

You've given us some good ideas about 'handy' and ease of use.

Thanks so much for highlighting aji amarillo - they're very popular down here in the Texas Hill Country. Chef's use them a lot for making sauces. I love your recipe!

You may already know about this - but this site offers a great aji sauce.

Go to:

http://www.bistro-blendstexas.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=99

All the best,

Mary (Mary's Nest)

what an unusual and delightful combination of flavours. i've seen a fiery orange mole with these peppers. gorgeous. and delicious.

I love this new feature! Can't wait to see what you have in store.
BTW - I'm mesmerized by the photos of your herb garden. So jealous that mine is kapoot since hubby forgot to water while I was on vacation!

A big thumbs up to your new series! What a great idea and we really look forward to more of these fun and informative finds.
Wow, more chili's to feast on. Did we ever tell ya that we just HEART chili's? We're growing 9 varieties now, can't wait till the fruit is ready.
The octopus ceviche looks really exciting with these wonderful aji amarillo. That's a must on our list too.
I wonder if there are some aji amarillo seeds available? Hmmm, will have to check!

I love hot peppers.
Unfortunately we don't have a lot of selection here in Ontario.
I never think to look in the canned section though. I will keep an eye out next time I hit the city!

I've never seen these before, but I'm a sucker for any kind of pepper I see for sale that I haven't seen before. The photos for these look great (really vibrant) and the potatoes sound like a delicious way to enjoy it (I've never had anything quite like that--on the to do list!).

Lydia - When used in a sauce and poured over the starches (the potatoes and corn), is the heat of these peppers toned down a bit? I love hot peppers, but remember scorching my mouth with these some years ago at a Spanish restaurant where I believe they were served as a garnish to my meal. Then again, perhaps I'm confusing these beauties with another pepper, but I definitely remember my mouth being on fire. Ahh... good times.

Whew, just looking at those peppers and I start sweating! These are new to me and I think I'll wait until i stop breastfeeding before I try them!!

http://www.foodsubs.com/Chilefre.html
Bloggers have greatly expanded my pepper vocabulary, and here's a place to sort them out -- but I don't think it includes this one. They're beautiful!

Vicki, the peppers I know as aji mirasol are similar, but usually a bit milder than aji amarillo. You could definitely use them in this recipe.

Mae, I hope you'll give them a try -- isn't it fun to discover new things?!

TW, I'm guessing the peppers you used were piquillo, as they're often stuffed with cod, or crab, or cheese. These aji amarillo are much hotter!

Kim, one of the reasons I've started this series of Pantry Specials is because there are wonderful ingredients that are not easy-to-find in all parts of the country (or outside the US), but are available now through online ordering. I'll always list some sources with each Pantry Special post.

Julie, thanks -- I'll write about these Pantry Specials from time to time and hope you'll have a good time with them.

Susan, it is creamy and not spicy -- and seeing the plate decorated with a face is really fun for young eaters (maybe a way to get them to eat their veggies).

Ntsc, thanks -- and glad you are finding inspiration here for reorganizing your pantry.

Mary, thanks so much for recommending another great source for aji paste. I'm updating the post to add this to the list.

Bee, a bright orange mole must be a thing of beauty. I love spicy peppers!

Kristen, I'm a bit behind in adding herb garden photos -- but I have more coming this week.

White on Rice, you're growing 9 chiles?! I want to come breathe in the vapors in your garden!

Natashya, one of the reasons I started this series of Pantry Specials is to highlight ingredients that are available by mail, even if you can't find them in the stores near you. Here in Rhode Island, the variety of items in the stores is limited, so I love discovering online sources for some of my favorite ingredients.

Mike, I'd never had these peppers either, until Rose taught me some recipes for Peruvian cooking.

Sandie, the peppers don't tone down very much when they meet the potatoes, so best to go very easy on them if you are sensitive to heat. Of course you can remove the seeds and ribs, which will help. These are nowhere near as hot as habaneros, and perhaps that's what you had at the Spanish restaurant. But it's worth being a bit cautious on your first time with these.

Aimee, good idea, unless you're ready to introduce your baby to spicy food already?!

Susan, the color is seductive, isn't it? Thanks for the link to chile info, too.

Hello, I am Peruvian and live in NH, Just a comment, the peppers as aji mirasol are really delicious but you have to boil it first and then peel it, be careful when you peel it, try to use gloves on your hands, sometimes are so hot that can burn your hands but if you are really careful you will have a delicious ingredient.
For me is really hard to find this in NH so when i go to Peru I bring some or sometimes my mother send me, I am so glad people likes peruvian food...

Enjoy it!!

I love to chop the whole peppers and add them to peach, mango or tomato salsa.

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