As a part of our Thanksgiving festivities this year, DH and I went to a party at some friends' house where there were people from all over Latin America. Many people brought dishes to share, and the result was a very interesting feast, with a wide variety of authentic, native American dishes, none of which happened to be dishes that are traditionally eaten for Thanksgiving! There were many Peruvians at the party, so of course, there were Papa a la Huancaina. Papa means potato in Spanish.
Our friends kindly gave me some aji chiles, as I expressed interest in wanting to try to make the dish at home. I am sorry I didn't take a photo of the aji chiles, but they are bright, deep orange and look similar in shape and size to banana peppers but are very spicy. They can sometimes be found in bags in the freezer section of Latin American specialty grocery stores.
The recipe below was given to me years ago by a classmate in one of my Spanish classes, who got it from her Peruvian mother-in-law.
Papa a la Huancaina
2 tablespoons oil
2 aji chiles, seeds removed or 1 jalapeno, seeds removed (or more chiles depending on how spicy you like it)
2 cloves garlic
4 oz queso fresco or feta cheese
4 soda cracker squares for texture (I admit I omitted them but still liked the results)
1 cup milk or half-and-half or evaporated milk, or amount needed for sauce-like consistency
salt and pepper to taste
Blend in blender the first three ingredients to make a nice paste. Then add the cheese and crackers and pulse to combine. Keep blending and pour in the milk, bit by bit, until blended into a sauce of a nice consistency.
Hard boil eggs. Boil potatoes and sweet potatoes until tender. Slice the eggs and potatoes. Arrange the eggs and potatoes and some olives on a lettuce-lined platter. Pour the cheese sauce on top and serve.
Note: in the photo above, I roasted potatoes, onions and butternut squash instead of boiling potatoes and sweet potatoes. I also admit that I roasted the aji peppers and garlic before blending them into the sauce, with great results. And, I topped my dish with ground toasted pumpkin seeds, as my own personal touch.