Causa de Betarraga Rellena de Pollo y Palta
Summer seems to be about buying fresh ingredients and getting out of their way – charring and grilling, chilling and serving. Though suitable for the time and the produce available, I still miss getting lost in my kitchen and was looking for a project when I decided to try a variation on Peruvian causa I’d seen on Yanuq. In addition to the usual mashed potatoes, lime juice, and ají amarillo, pureed beets are added to the mix, making it all go pink – a potato salad in Batman technicolor.
Rather than folded into a log, jelly-roll style, the potatoes and fillings are layered into individual molds. A little awkward at first, by the time I had 2 or 3 down, I learned to measure out the same amount of filling to even the layers, was careful not to pack down the chicken so it’s absorbed into the potato and was using a spoon dipped in a canola oil to smooth out the layers without adding any pressure.
Unmolded, I had a neat cross section of the seasoned potatoes with herbed chicken and bright green avocado. Though it seemed like a lot of steps, the potatoes and chicken could be prepared beforehand then chilled so the only heat comes from the ají amarillo, more sun than fire. A little more involved than the usual summer salad but worth the effort when you can but don’t necessarily want to stay out of the kitchen.
Causa de Betarraga Rellena de Pollo y Palta/Beet Causa filled with Chicken and Avocado
Adapted from Yanuq. The potato-beet mixture can be made ahead and will be easier to work with when its had time to chill. The chicken can also be poached and prepared ahead of time (directions below).
Instead of individual servings, the causa can also be layered into a larger mold or springform pan. If you’re using a mold, it should be layered with lightly oiled plastic wrap and unmolded just before serving.
2 lbs. gold potatoes
1 medium beet
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1-2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 whole chicken breast, cooked and shredded (see below)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons culantro, chopped (cilantro can be substituted)
2 avocados, sliced
2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and sliced
Lime juice to taste
Additional slices of eggs, avocado, olives to serve.
Parsely, finely chopped to garnish
Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter (without handle; at least 2 inches high)
Lightly score each potato around its circumference. Place potatoes in a large, heavy pot with enough cold water to cover and a 2 heaping tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil then adjust heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size.*
In a medium saucepan, add beet with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 30-45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel skin. Roughly chop beets and add to a food processor or blender, process to a smooth puree (if needed add cooking water). Set aside.
Drain the potatoes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, peel the potatoes by pulling off the skins (scoring beforehand makes this easier). Pass through a ricer or food mill into a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable oil, lime juice, ají amarillo paste, salt and pepper and mix until well blended. Add the beet puree a little at a time until you reach the desired color without watering it down, about 1/4 cup. Chill until ready to use.
To make the filling, combine shredded chicken, mayonnaise, parsley, and culantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice the avocados and sprinkle with lime juice.
Set the biscuit cutter over the serving dish. Add two tablespoons of the potato-beet mixture and pat down to form an even layer. Top with avocado slices, egg slices and mayonnaise (optional). Add a second layer of the potato-beet mixture. Add a layer of shredded chicken. Top with a final layer of the potato-beet mixture. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon or offset spatula. Gently lift the cutter up and away. Repeat with remaining causa mixture and filling.
Serve with hard boiled egg slices, avocado, and olives.
Makes 8 individual causas or 1 large causa using an 8″ springform pan.
*To test, pierce the potatoes with a sharp knife. An undercooked potato can be pulled from the water with the knife but a cooked potato will drop off and remain submerged.
Cooked Chicken Breast
1 whole chicken breast
Salt to taste
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped
2 sprigs cilantro
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 cups water
Put the chicken, salt, garlic, onion, cilantro, mint and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer then lower heat and cook until cooked through – about 20 minutes. Allow the chicken to cool off in the broth. When cool enough to handle, drain the chicken and shred into pieces. Set aside chicken and reserve broth.