My daughter and her new Peruvian husband re-introduced me to avocados when they visited last month, and in addition to the tapas they taught me how to make (recipe below,) I made a few discoveries on my own that made me love avocados:
1. If you only want to use part of the avocado for your sandwich, slice out a quarter or a half, then leave the skin on and the pit in, put it in a refrigerator container, and keep it cool. It won’t turn brown – well, hardly at all, and you can easily slice that yucky edge off.
2. You know how avocado slices slip right out the back of your sandwich? Make a paste instead of slices! Just mash it in a small bowl with a fork, add mayonnaise if you want, then spread on the bread. No slippery slimy fallout! Just a very tasty, rich “guacamole” sandwich!
Now for the Recipe:
Mini Causa Bites
These are based on a traditional Peruvian dish Causa Rellena, and I’m sure the way it’s presented in Peru is WAY spicier than my version, mostly because I couldn’t find any aji (yellow chile) peppers. They are made with mashed yellow potatoes, seasoned with peppers and lime, which surround a center of chicken salad (they also use crab salad or tuna salad I’m told.) It’s beautifully presented, garnished with olives, hard boiled eggs, and avocado.
You’ll need a simple open cookie cutter to shape them – you use it as a mold, pressing them in from the top, then slipping them out of the bottom. The ones pictured are avocado-shaped because the only good cookie-cutter that my daughter could find in my jumbled collection was meant to be an Easter Egg shape.
Prep Time: 60 minutes +, depending on how fancy you want to get! You can cook the potatoes and chicken the day before if desired.
- 8 yellow potatoes (about 1 pound) – Yukon gold was what I used, they are quite sweet
- 3 fresh yellow aji chile peppers (or not…)
- 2 limes, one for juice, one for garnish
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
- 2 gloves garlic
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or less)
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (or not)
- 2 ripe avocados, one cut into small chunks, one sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olives, pitted
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, chilled and quartered
- several sprigs of fresh parsley
Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain and cool, then peel each one by picking it up with both hands in the middle and twisting in opposite directions, like you’re going to open a plastic Easter egg. This splits and loosens the peel and you should be able to slip it right off. Mash the potatoes – you want them smooth but still “moldable” – and set aside.
If you decide to go Hot and Spicy:
- You can just use a few drops of your favorite hot sauce, although any Peruvians in the crowd will raise their eyebrows… If you can find aji peppers, remove the seeds from the chili peppers and discard, then saute the peppers in vegetable oil with the garlic until softened. Place them in a food processor or blender, along with the juice of the 3 limes, and salt/pepper to taste. Process until smooth. Stir lime/chile mixture into the mashed potatoes.
- If you decide to stay with my Mild Gringo version, sauté the garlic in the vegetable oil until softened. I don’t have a blender, so I just mashed the garlic right in with the potatoes. Add lime juice if desired.
Chill potatoes, uncovered for several hours or overnight.
Poach the chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt, pepper. (Poaching just means bring the water to a boil, add the chicken, then let it simmer for about 40 minutes or so until cooked through.) Let it cool a bit, then shred the cooked chicken, and mix with the mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill.
To assemble mini causas:
Lightly grease the cookie cutter, and lay it on a square of waxed paper on your counter top.
Place about 1 tablespoon of mashed potato in the cookie cutter and gently flatten to fill the bottom of the cookie cutter shape. Next press a layer of about 1 teaspoon of the chicken salad on top of the potatoes, then add a thin layer of avocado chunks, then add a final thin layer of potatoes. Carefully lift with a spatula and transfer to a serving plate, and press gently from the top to ease the little “sandwich” out of the mold. Garnish each causa with a sprig of fresh parsley or half of an olive (I used kalamata).
Garnish the plate with the remaining avocado slices, lime slices, salted hard-boiled egg slices, and black olives. Chill until ready to serve.
Tip: A pie server is a good way to transfer the causa bites from the serving plate onto your cocktail plate.