For a while now I was craving one of my favourite Peruvian dishes; Causa. Causa is dish that is popular as an appetizer and commonly shared at pot-luck dinners. The first time I tried Causa was at the first Christmas with my husband’s extended family. I remember being pleasantly surprised by the velvety texture of the mash potato and the briny flavour of the seasoned tuna followed by the creamy avocado. It was a refreshing change from all the heavy “wintry” dishes warm and decadent in their fatty meats and savoury gravies. Causa is served cold and dressed with a creamy, spicy feta sauce called Huacaina.
Traditionally you layer all the ingredients; mash potato, avocado, seasoned tuna, hard-boiled egg and mash potato. To change things a bit I deconstructed the ingredients and made it something new. I call this dish – Deconstructed Causa – Causa Nuevo. Instead of layering the ingredients I decided to mold the mashed potato in a kind of croquettes with a seasoned tuna and egg filling, pan fry and blend the avocado into the Huacaina. The result was delicious and very successful. Usually, my husband is a purest when it comes to Peruvian food. He wants the steak to be cut in a particular width and length for Lomo Saltado. The Ceviche must have the right balance of zest and spice. The sauce for the Aji de Gallina has to have the right colour, consistency and flavour. To my delight Rafael was surprised that one of my experimentations with his beloved Peruvian cuisine was hit. I sat with bated breath waiting for his reaction as he took forkfuls of Causa Nuevo in his mouth. I breathed a sigh of relief when he gazed lovingly at me and commented softly,”Rico. Esta muy rico.” That was enough for me to go into new-dish-euphoria.
Here is how a transformed the traditional Causa to the Deconstructed Causa Nuevo.
Step one: As the potatoes and eggs were boiling, I prepared the tuna by mixing in 2 tbsp mayonnaise, juice of 1 lemon, thinly diced red onion, minced garlic, chopped cilantro (half of a bunch), coriander powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
Step two: After the potatoes cooled for 10 to 15 minutes I mashed them with 2 tbsp butter and salt until they were creamy. I placed them in the fridge until I was ready to form the croquettes.
Step three: After the eggs boiled for 10 minutes I peeled and sliced each one with my handy-dandy egg slicer. Those were set aside along with the tuna mixture.
Step four: Before forming the croquettes I prepared the dredging station. In a shallow bowl plate I whisked one egg and in another shallow bowl I combined 1 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of masa harina.
Step five: To form the croquettes I started with pressing out a small portion of the mash potato (palm size), spooned in the tuna mixture, placed a slice of hard-boiled egg and topped it with another portion of the mash potato. Gently sealing the top and bottom portions of the mash potato I turned the croquettes over in my hands a couple of times until the filling was snug in the centre.
Step six: Next came the dredging and frying of the croquettes. First I gently rolled the croquettes once on each side in the egg and the rolled them in the flour mixture before placing then in the frying pan. Once the in the frying pan, each side of the croquettes was fried for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown.
Step seven: To keep the Causa croquettes crispy, I placed each croquette on lined baking sheet and placed in the oven for 15 minutes at a temperature of 350 F. Since dinner wasn’t going to be for another couple of hours I kept the croquettes in the oven on “warm” setting. I wanted the Causa Nuevo to be perfect when it was plated.
Step eight: The last and final step was preparing the Huacaina sauce and serving. In addition to the traditional ingredients for Huacaina I blended 1 ripe avocado and half of bunch of cilantro to create an addictive new sauce. To serve my Deconstructed Causa I arranged the croquettes with a dollop of Avocado Huacaina and garnish of Pickled Peruvian red onions.