Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

This month’s challenge provided the Daring Cooks the opportunity to dish up some exciting Peruvian cuisine. The first option was to try our hand at making ceviche. Ceviche is typically made with fresh fish or seafood that is marinated in citrus juices. The citric acid in the juice “cooks” the fish – either partially or completely, depending on how long it is marinated. The second option was to create papas rellenas. This traditional Peruvian dish is comprised of a potato “dough” that is stuffed with a filling (usually made with beef) and then deep fried. The dish is also usually accompanied with a “salsa criolla.”

For the challenge we had to make at least one of the aforementioned Peruvian dishes. Always a fan of the carbs, I opted to make the papas rellenas. For the filling I used a vegetarian recipe that was provided by our hostess. The recipe for the vegetarian filling was really wonderful, and would be great just served as a dish on its own. I also chose not to fry my papas rellenas and baked them instead. I was really nervous about having to bread all of these little potato balls; breading and I have not always meshed (use the tempura challenge as a case in point). I usually end up with globs of gooey breading on my plate and fingers, so this time around I read up on some breading techniques, and I’m happy to report that they worked brilliantly. I am now a breading master (at least more so that I was before this challenge). I do have to admit, these little guys are truly a labor of love. It took me a very long time to stuff, shape, and bread all of the dough balls, so if you plan on making these be sure to allot yourself plenty of time. In the end though, I have to say they were definitely worth it. I loved the crunchy outer texture, and as our host recommended, they are definitely best served with the salsa criolla.

This challenge certainly provided a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine, and I hope to have the opportunity explore some more Peruvian dishes in the near future.

You can view the recipes used after the jump.

Salsa Criolla

2 medium red onions, cut in half and very thinly sliced (as half-circles)
1/2 chili pepper (your preference)
1 tablespoon vinegar
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the onions in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the onions to macerate and the flavors to combine

Papas Rellenas (vegetarian/vegan):

makes 10 [I think this number can really vary depending on how you shape them. I stopped rolling at 10 and still had some dough and filling left, but I also may have started with more than 2.5 lb. potatoes.]

For the dough:
2.5 pounds russet potatoes
½ cup cornstarch (called corn flour in some countries) [I omitted this and had no ill effects]
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Lots of pepper

For the filling:
1 cup diced onion (any color)
4 cloves garlic
½ chili pepper (Aji recommended)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 cup cremini mushrooms, small dice
½ package tempeh, thin cut and quasi crumbled [I used 4 oz of cooked black beans, next time I would mash them so they bind better with the filling]
½ cup raisins, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes, then minced
1 handful spinach
1 cup quinoa (Or you can use another cooked grain, like buckwheat)
¼ c. white wine, water or beef stock for deglazing
Salt and pepper to taste

For the final preparation:
1 large egg, beaten (for vegetarian version) OR egg replacer equivalent to one large egg (for vegan version) [I used about 1/4-1/2 c liquid egg whites]
1 cup all-purpose flour [I used whole wheat]
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash salt
1 cup dry bread crumbs (you can use regular, panko, make your own or use store-bought) [I used panko]


For the dough:
Boil unpeeled potatoes whole until tender when stuck with a fork. Let potatoes cool. [I peeled and cut my potatoes into chunks before boiling.]

When potatoes are cooled, peel them and either mash them with a potato masher or force them through a potato ricer (preferred).

Add cornstarch [if using], salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly to ensure that ingredients are well combined and uniformly distributed.

While potatoes are cooling, make filling:
Caramelize onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and chili pepper and cook.

Add the cumin and paprika and cook briefly (a few seconds).

Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.

Add black beans and raisins.

Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add spinach and wilt.

Add the quinoa and season with salt and pepper.

Allow filling to cool before forming “papas.”

Finishing the dough and forming the papas:
Preheat your oven to 450F.

Use three small bowls (or other shallow containers) to prepare the papas. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, combine the egg replacer and water. Put bread crumbs in the third.

Flour your hands and shape 2 T of potato into a patty. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center. Shape potato around filling, forming a ball. Repeat with remaining dough.

Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in egg whites, then roll in bread crumbs.

Bake the papas at 450F for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Serve with salsa criolla (or other sauce of preference) immediately.