During our stay at Rancho La Puerta, we had the opportunity to meet and cook with visiting guest chef, Liz Caskey. Liz gave up her career as a Wall Street investment banker to pursue her passion of food and wine. She moved to Chile where she and her husband host luxury culinary and wine tours throughout Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. Their Signature Journeys take guests deep into South America's terroir to mingle with local food artisans, chefs, winegrowers, bakers and fishmongers, and to explore bucket list locations like Machu Picchu. Sign me up!
Two highlights of our stay at Rancho La Puerta included the early morning 4-mile Organic Garden Breakfast Hike, with a tour of the garden led by Executive Chef Denise Roa and a lovely breakfast on the patio, and the late afternoon cooking class and dinner with Liz Caskey.
|Organic Garden Breakfast Hike|
|Tres Estrellas, the organic farm|
Later that afternoon, John and I returned to Tres Estrellas to take a few more photos before joining the other guests for the Hands-On Cooking Class at La Cocina que Canta ("The Kitchen that Sings").
|Man of the Corn|
Chef Liz put together a Peruvian menu and recipes for the class, including: classic Lima-style ceviche, chilled avocado soup, fava bean salad, quinoa and hearts of palm salad, Andean-style purple potatoes with a duo of sauces, marinated vegetable escabeche, and roasted figs with honey, whipped ricotta and lemon balm. John and I were assigned the task of preparing the Andean-style purple potatoes with a duo of sauces.
|Chef Liz picking fresh herbs|
|Rancho La Puerta Hands-On Peruvian Cooking Class with Liz Caskey|
Salsa Criolla and Huacatay-Yellow Chili Sauce
Huacatay, also called black mint, is an herb belonging to the tarragon and marigold family. In Peru, and throughout the Andres, it is used to season meats, potatoes or yucca, and corn, and is made into green sauces with chilies for use as a minty, fiery condiment. It has a distinctive aroma and flavor that is a cross between basil, mint and cilantro. In the cooking class, we substituted 3/4 cup basil and 1/4 cup equal parts cilantro and mint leaves.
|Classic Lima-Style Ceviche and Tiradito|
When we returned home, we were able to find the ingredients necessary to make the Andean Roasted Potatoes with Huatacay-Yellow Chili Sauce.
We grilled a couple lamb kebabs to accompany the potatoes, uncorked a nice bottle of Chilean red wine, and enjoyed a beautiful summer evening on the patio.
A few days later, the sauce paired wonderfully well as a "pesto" for the bottom layer of my Tomato and Queso Fresco Tart, an adaptation of Tomato-Cheese Tartlets for French Fridays with Dorie.
|Tomato and Queso Fresco Tart, with Peruvian "pesto"|
A Note on the Tomato Tart: Dorie's Tomato-Cheese Tartlets, from Around My French Table, are built on a base of puff pastry that's been weighted down so that it bakes to a flat crisp. The baked crisp is then covered with a thin layer of tapenade or pesto, and alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella in a pinwheel pattern. The tartlets are finished with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic and garnished with fresh basil. My version was inspired by White on Rice Couple's Tomato Tart, with our Huatacay-Yellow Chili Sauce as the "pesto." You can peruse the various Tomato Tarts and Tarlets made by members of French Fridays with Dorie here.
Andean-Style Roasted Potatoes with Huatacay-Yellow Chili Sauce
Adapted from South American Cooking, by Liz Caskey
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
2 pounds Peruvian purple potatoes, or a mix of baby potatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Huatacay-Yellow Chili Sauce:
1 cup fresh huatacay leaves (sold frozen at Latin speciality grocers)**
1/2 cup fat free evaporated milk
1/2 pound low fat Farmer's cheese (queso fresco)
1 tablespoon Peruvian yellow chili paste, or more if you like it spicy
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 soda crackers (if needed to thicken sauce)
**If fresh or frozen huacatay leaves are not available, you can substitute about 3 tablespoons jarred huacatay paste. In the cooking class, we substituted 3/4 cup basil and 1/4 cup equal parts cilanto and mint leaves.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash the potatoes well, dry, cut them in half, and place in a bowl. If cutting ahead of time, cover with water to prevent discoloration.
Toss the potatoes with olive oil, oregano (if using), salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 30-45 minutes, or until tender.
While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the sauce.
If using fresh or frozen huatacay leaves, de-stem, thoroughly wash, and chop huatacay leaves. In a blender, place huatacay leaves (or paste), evaporated milk, cheese, yellow chili paste, garlic, and salt. Puree until a creamy, smooth paste is achieved. Adjust for salt and spiciness. If the mixture is too thin, add soda crackers, one at a time, to thicken. If mixture is too thick, adjust with evaporated milk, adding one tablespoon at a time.
Serve with potatoes, or as a side for meat or fish.