Causa’s Recipe (Peruvian Cold Mashed Potato Casserole with Tuna or Chicken).
Causa is a meal that most Americans should be familiar with but aren’t. It’s mashed potatoes, tuna (or chicken, or something similar) salad, and potato salad all rolled into one easy make-ahead dish. Although it’s 100% Peruvian, it might be the perfect all-American potluck meal.
Until my trip to Peru, the only Causa meal I had eaten was the one prepared by one of my co-workers—Pedro. He’s a Peruvian national and always treated us to a meal of Causa whenever we had office picnics. Causa is usually served cold, with a top and bottom layer of mashed potatoes seasoned with lime juice and a hot Peruvian chilli pepper called Aji Amarillo, and a mayonnaise-based salad on the side.
Causa can vary greatly beyond those basic characteristics. For one point, as previously said, the salad in the centre can be created with a variety of meats or seafood, including tuna, chicken, crab, or any white meat or seafood, but tuna and chicken are the most prominent. What’s in that salad might also vary greatly. It may be as basic as tossing the meat with chopped onion and mayonnaise, but it could also contain peas and carrots, sliced avocado, diced shrimp, or something else. Black olives, tomatoes, chilli peppers, and hard-boiled egg pieces are occasionally seen. The best part about Causa is that it can be served as a huge casserole (this makes it ideal for a potluck) or just as individual pieces.
Mashing some potatoes is the first step. There is a type of yellow potato that is used in Peru that we do not have in the United States. Anyone who isn’t in Peru will have to make do with what they can find. According to a Peruvian friend of mine, Russets are the best option for people residing in America, but I’ve also tested the dish with Yukon golds, and they also turned out nicely. Potatoes should be baked, microwaved, or boiled before being puréed to produce mashed potatoes. In a food mill, purée the cooked potato flesh. Add the Aji Amarillo paste, lime juice, and oil. Stir until the potatoes are uniformly yellow. Since the potatoes won’t mash properly after being chilled, this should be done when they are still fairly warm. The potatoes shouldn’t be refrigerated until you’ve thoroughly combined everything.
The next ingredient is Aji Amarillo paste, which is produced from one of Peru’s best-known chilli peppers. Remove their stalks and seeds. Place the peppers in a blender and blend until homogenous and smooth; no water or other liquid is required. Premade paste can also be found at well-stocked Latin American stores.
My recipe provides you with the choice of using chicken or tuna for the filling, but you could, of course, substitute with any suitable meat, like crabs. Whichever you choose, combine it with a white onion that has been finely chopped and just enough mayonnaise to make it soft and spreadable. You have the choice of adding other ingredients. A typical option is cooked carrots and peas.
- 2 kg Yukon gold potatoes or Russet potatoes
- A jar of Aji Amarillo paste
- 160ml vegetable oil
- 60 to 75ml of fresh lime juice
- Two 140g cans of tuna in olive oil, drained or 280g shredded roast chicken
- Kosher salt
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- Garnish your Causa with diced poached shrimp, avocado, pitted black olives, chopped fresh herbs (like chives), diced or thinly sliced seeded tomatoes, or other ingredients of your choice.
- The potatoes should be baked, microwaved, or boiled until a fork can be readily inserted. Allow it to cool just a little bit, then scoop out the flesh and mash the potatoes in a large heatproof mixing basin using a food mill.
- Peppers should be stemmed and seeded; if feasible, wear gloves since peppers are hot. The flesh should then be blended until it becomes a smooth paste without the addition of any liquid. (A layer of oil put on top of extra Aji Amarillo paste allows it to be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.)
- To the potatoes, combine 45mL of homemade or store-bought Aji Amarillo paste, the oil, and 60mL of lime juice. Season with salt. Fold until evenly combined, then taste. If desired, add the remaining 15mL of lime juice. Refrigerate until cooled, pressing the plastic directly on the surface of the mashed potatoes.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine tuna (or chicken), onion, and mayonnaise until well combined. Season with salt. Keep cool.
- When ready to build the Causa, spread an even 1-inch layer of mashed potatoes in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish; alternatively, build the Causa on individual serving plates using a ring mould to help shape it into a clean cylinder.
- Next, spread a 1-inch layer of tuna or chicken salad on top. If you choose to add other ingredients, such as chopped, poached shrimp or diced avocado, arrange them above or below the tuna or chicken salad.
- Finish with another layer of mashed potatoes. You can top your Causa with whatever you want, such as sliced or diced tomato, fresh chopped herbs, sliced or diced avocado, shrimp, or other ingredients.
- Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. The Causa can be chilled overnight in the casserole.