The name Causa comes from the Incan Quechuan word ‘Kausaq,’ meaning “that which gives life.” During the colonial period in Peru, the newly arrived Spaniards adapted many of the native foods and combined them with foods they brought from Europe, creating the distinctive Peruvian cuisine that exists today. Causa is one of these hybrid dishes: a combination of the ancient potato, avocado and aji amarillo that are all native to Peru, and the lime, garlic, and chicken imported from Europe. Hearty yet refreshing, cool yet mildly picante, causa is an intriguing mix of the abundant flavors found in the region.
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 8.
- 8 yellow potatoes (about 3-4 pounds)
- 1 fresh aji amarillo chili pepper, or jarred aji amarillo pepper paste
- 4 limes
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 ripe avocado
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Black olives, parsley, one hard boiled egg (optional garnish)
- Place the chopped onion in a small bowl with the juice of 1 lime and season lightly with salt. Set aside to marinate while the potatoes cook.
- Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until soft. Peel the potatoes once they are cool enough to handle, then pass them through the finest disk of a potato ricer (or thoroughly mash them). Set aside.
- Remove the seeds from the chili peppers and coarsely chop them. Place them in a food processor or blender, along with the juice of the remaining 3 limes, the garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and salt/pepper to taste. Process until smooth. Stir the lime/chile mixture into the potatoes, adding it in parts and tasting after each addition, until potatoes are seasoned to your liking. Stir in the vegetable oil and season potatoes with more salt and pepper if needed. If using the jarred chile pepper paste, add the paste to potatoes 1 tablespoon at a time, until potatoes are seasoned as desired.
- Poach the chicken in water seasoned with salt, pepper until just cooked through. Shred the cooked chicken, and mix the shredded chicken with the mayonnaise and the marinated onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Generously oil a springform pan with vegetable oil. Press half of the mashed potato mixture into the bottom of the pan. Use a small offset spatula or knife to spread the potato mixer into an even layer. Cover with the chicken salad in a smooth layer. Top the chicken salad with slices of avocado. Layer the other half of the potato mixture on top and smooth the potatoes with a knife or offset spatula.
- Decorate the top with parsley leaves, slices of hard-boiled eggs, and sliced olives if desired.
- Serve chilled.
Variation: You can also shape the potatoes and filling into individual servings. Remove the top and bottom parts from a clean empty can to make a ring. Grease the inside of the can with vegetable oil. Rest the can on a plate, and layer the potatoes and chicken inside the can, pressing down firmly, then carefully remove the can. Or shape the causa by hand (without a mold or pan) onto a plate.