Aji amarillo peppers, a Pantry Special (Recipe: potatoes a la huancaina)
Pantry Specials are great ingredients that find their way into my pantry from time to time, but not all the time.
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?
Make your own aji amarillo paste
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
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.
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
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.