Monday, March 14, 2011

Daring Cooks Challenge 2: ¡Me Encanta Perú!

Well here we are again! Daring Chef Challenge #2! (I'm telling you, doing these things really makes the month seem to fly by EVEN faster! It's insane!) This month's challenge "¡Me Encanta Perú!" comes from  Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja. Having just returned from a stay in Lima, Kathlyn brought us back two highly popular Peruvian dishes: ceviche and papas rellenas. 
Although I'm not a big fan of Anthony Bordain, he was very helpful with this challenge because I had JUST watched an episode of him eating ceviche in Peru so I had a pretty good idea about it before I read what Kathlyn had to say. Basically, ceviche (seh-BEE-chay) is fish that is "cooked" in a citrus juice mixture. What the type of fish, citrus juice, and accompaniments vary depending on what culture the dish comes from. Here are some different options:
Fish: tuna, mahi-mahi, shrimp, scallops, other white fish
Juice: lime, sour orange, grapefruit, lemon
Accompaniments: sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers, tacos, tortilla chips

The papas rellenas I was not as familiar with, but after 2 years of Spanish I could figure out a few things :p papas = potatoes, rellenas = stuffed...yep there you have it, stuffed potatoes! But don't go thinking baked-potatoes-with-sour-cream-and-bacon stuffed potatoes! No sir, we're talking boiled, mashed, deep fried potatoes around a sweet, spicy beef filling!

I knew right off the bat both of these would definitely be challenges for me...dealing with the "raw" fish, making the meat filling for the potatoes, AND deep frying once again...yeah not really a breeze, but I finally got up the nerve and just DID it! So here's the recipes I used (the ones Kathlyn provided), the pics I managed to take, and my notes about the whole thing, enjoy!

Peruvian Scallop Ceviche

I chose to use scallops instead of white fish for this recipe 1. because they didn't have any white fish that was very high quality at the store 2. the scallops at the store looked really good 3. I'd never tried scallops 4. the scallops wouldn't need much preparation 5. the scallops were from Peru! I decided to use limes AND lemons just for a more interesting flavor. And while I do think ceviche with tomatoes and avocado sounds great, I decided to stay true to the Peruvian presentation with sweet potatoes and corn.

§  2 lbs. firm white fish (I used Peruvian bay scallops)
§  Salt and pepper
§  2 garlic cloves, mashed
§  1 chili pepper, seeded and minced (Aji if you can find it, but Jalapeno or other peppers can sub)
§  1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
§  1-1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice or lemon and lime juice (I used 3 large lemons and 7 limes) 
§  1 red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
For garnish:
§  2-3 large sweet potatoes
§  2-3 large ears of corn
§  Lettuce leaves

1.       Wash and trim your fish as needed and cut into ½-2 inch pieces depending on taste (I cut my scallops in half, about ½ inch pieces, so they would cook faster) and place in a glass or other non-reactive pan large enough so that all the pieces are in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.
2.      Combine the garlic, chili pepper, cilantro, and citrus juices and pour over the fish. If the fish is not completely cover, add more juice. Place the onion slices on top of the fish and cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap.
3.      Refrigerate the fish to let it “cook” in the acid of the citrus juice. This can be a period of 10 min if you like your fish very rare or up to 12 hours if you like your fish well done (I cooked mine for 4 hours).
4.      While the ceviche cooks, boil your sweet potatoes and corn until tender and then let them cool.
5.      When your ceviche is cooked to your liking, remove the onions and discard. Drain most of the juices. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes ¼-½ inch thick and cut the kernels off of the corn.
6.      To serve: Place a small scoop of ceviche in a bowl or cup, garnish with sweet potato slices, corn, and extra cilantro leaves. Eat as is or with tortilla chips. This should be an appetizer-sized plate, but you can increase the amounts to make it meal-sized.

One whole scallop. You can vary the size of your
cuts to work with the length of your cooking time.
I wanted mine to cook faster, so I cut each scallop
in half. If you wanted to slow down the cooking
so that you could let it sit overnight, make your
cuts bigger.

Smaller pieces = faster cooking

Bay scallops from Peru! :)

Mixing the "cooking" ingredients

Season with salt and pepper. I honestly didn't
taste the salt or pepper after my ceviche was
cooked. I pretty much tasted...lime...not sure
if that's a good thing or not...

The cooking liquid should completely cover
your fish or scallops

I think the onions were supposed to impart
some of their flavor into the scallops, but I
didn't taste least they helped keep the
scallops pushed down under the juice

Cook your sweet potatoes to a texture that you
like. I kept my pretty firm, but you could do
them soft as long as they hold together

A nice, refreshing snack or appetizer

Or a light meal, your choice!

Papas Rellenas de Carne
A vegan or vegetarian filling could easily be made for these, but since I make lots of meat-free foods, I felt like that wouldn't be very "daring" of I went with the traditional meat filling with all the little flavor boosters. I encourage you to use ALL of them, yes the raisins, eggs, and olives. The raisins really add a nice sweetness and don't worry if it looks like a lot of chili pepper, most of the spiciness cooks out anyways.
For the dough:
§  2 ¼ lbs russet potatoes (about 5 large)
§  1 large egg
§  Salt and pepper
For the filling:
§  2 Tbsp olive or canola oil
§  ½ lb ground beef
§  10 black olives, diced
§  3 hardboiled eggs, diced
§  1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
§  ½ cup raisins, soaked in boiling water for 10 min, drained, then minced
§  1 chili pepper (ahi if you can find it, or jalapeño), finely diced
§  3 large cloves garlic, minced
§  1 tsp ground cumin
§  ½ tsp sweet paprika
§  ¼ cup white wine or beef stock (I used ½ white wine vinegar and ½ stock)
§  Salt and pepper
For coating and frying:
§  1 large egg, well beaten
§  1 cup all-purpose flour
§  Salt and cayenne
§  2 cups dry or fresh breadcrumbs (I used 2 large slices of toasted bread, ground-up in my food processor)
§  Oil for frying, enough to fill your pan 2 inches high (canola, or vegetable oil work well, DO NOT use olive oil!)

1.       In a large pot, boil the potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork (15-20 min) then remove from the water and cool.
2.      While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the filling. Heat the oil to med in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and slightly browned. Add the chili pepper and sauté a minute more. Add the ground beef and brown, breaking up into small pieces. Add the raisins and the spices and cook for a minute.
3.      Deglaze the pan with the white wine or stock (pour it all over the meat mixture) then add the olives and cook for a few minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and mix in the hardboiled eggs.
4.      Allow the filling to cool while you finish the dough.
5.      Peel the cooled potatoes. To mash them, you can use a potato ricer (recommended), potato masher (works okay), a fork (not recommended), or you can chop them into small chunks and pulse them in a food processor in small batches until they just come together (recommended).
6.      Place the mashed potatoes in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste, then mix in the egg and “knead” with your hands for a minute to get everything mixed really well.
7.      While you form your papas, heat the oil to 350 F in a large frying pan with high sides or in a Dutch oven.
8.     To form the papas: Lightly flour your hands and in your palm, scoop out a handful of potato dough and use your other hand to flatten and spread it all up your palm and fingers in a med-thick layer. Use your free hand to scoop a heap of filling into the center of your dough and then fold your hand over it and press the dough together at all the seams, pressing the filling in as needed (This will make a pretty big serving, about entrée-sized. Use smaller amount to make snack-sized papas. You can also make the first one small to use a tester in the oil). Continue with the remaining dough and filling until one or both is all gone.
9.      To coat the papas: Get out 3 med-large bowls (preferably with low sides). In the first bowl, place the flour and season it with the salt and cayenne, in the second bowl, place the beaten egg, and in the third bowl, place the bread crumbs. Make one hand your “dry hand” and the other, your “wet hand”. Use your dry hand to pick up a papa and roll it in the flour to coat it (dredging), then place it in the egg bowl and use your wet hand to roll it around and coat it, then use your wet hand to place it in the breadcrumb bowl and use your dry hand again to coat it with bread crumbs. Place the coated papa on a plate or sheet pan until they are all ready for frying. Repeat with the remaining papas.
10.  To cook: Place a single papa in the hot oil and fry it for a minute on one side, until golden brown, then flip and repeat on the other side then place on paper towels to drain. If it cooks too slowly or too quickly, adjust the temperature, then repeat with the other papas. (You can keep cooked papas warm in the oven if you have a lot to do) Serve immediately. (Makes about 6 large, entree-sized papas)

I weighted out 2 1/4 lbs and 5 large russet
potatoes was pretty much perfect!

Do yourself a favor and boil these guys until
they are VERY soft. It will save you a load
of work mashing them up! You should be able
to peel the skins right off with your fingers, but
if that doesn't work, just use a paring knife
and get off as much as you can without losing
a lot of potato

For my bread crumbs, I just toasted a few
slices of whole wheat bread, cooled them, and
then ground them up in my food processor.
Perfect crumbs every time! But you can use
store-bought or whatever you like

Sorry I didn't get many pics of the preparation
for these! Most of it was pretty basic (chopping
the ingredients and browning), but I couldn't
get any deep-fry pictures because by that time
it was so late at night and dark out (and my
hands were very busy and very messy :p)

But here is the finished product at least! I think
my main mistakes were just that I forgot to
season the potato dough so it was rather bland
and I didn't stuff them with enough of the filling.
Other than that, I think these would be great with
 some sour cream or yogurt, but if you don't like
mushy papas rellenas, don't make enough for
left-overs as they lose their fresh crispiness

Salsa Criolla

This "sauce" can be served with either the ceviche or the papas rellenas or BOTH. I served it
with the ceviche and I thought it went great! I highly encourage you to try this even if you
aren't a big onion fan. The onion becomes slightly soft while still adding a nice crunch and it
has this wonderful tangy flavor that doesn't leave you feeling like you just ate a mouthful of
onions! It's not that spicy either, but you could add more chili pepper if you wanted it to be.
If nothing else, it definitely adds some great color to a plate.

§  2 large red onions, sliced in half length-wise and then sliced AS THINLY AS POSSIBLE (they should be half circles)
§  ½-1 chili pepper (depending on how much heat you want) seeded and minced
§  1 Tbsp vinegar (I used white)
§  Juice from 1 lime
§  Salt and pepper, to taste

1.       Soak the onion slices in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain completely.
2.      In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper and then mix around to make sure everything is coated.
3.      Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30min – 1hr so that the onions can soften and the flavors can combine.

Again, this is pretty basic, just slice the onions
really thin, soak them, and then mix them
together with everything else and you're done!

One they've had a chance to
macerate in the acid, the onions
should be soft enough to bend and
be shaped into circular heaps and
such, but still stiff enough to have
a nice crispy crunch to them

By taste and appearance I think this condiment
is a definite winner with the ceviche!

Even if you don't like fish, onions, or potatoes much, I really encourage you to try these dishes out! It's not enough to be a daring cook, you also have to be a daring eater!



  1. They all look great - congrats on doing all the recipes. And I love your statement on being a daring eater - I'm trying to convince my wife of that!

  2. A Daring Eater is a good comment, I absolutely love the photograph that looks like a flower (with the ceviche in the centre of the flower) WOW it should be in a cook book. And the papas great work sorry to hear they were a little under seasoned.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  3. Thanks Todd! Being a daring eater is something I very heavily support and encourage! Picky eaters are a pet peeve of mine, but wimpy eaters just drive me nuts :p

    Thanks so much Audax!! who knows...maybe someday I'll have my own book...personally i think your post was much more impressive! you blew me away!

  4. You are well on your way to that chef title.

    What is up with not being a fan of Bourdain?

  5. Well thanks!! well...i don't mind his shows too much, but from his books I've read he just looks at gastronomy with too much edge like it's all about being bigger and badder and he doesn't think cooking is an art, which i highly disagree with...that kind of thing