(Peruvian pork and freeze-dried potato stew)
Modern Peruvian cuisine has several dishes with ancient roots in Incan culture, and carapulcra is one of them. Carapulcra is a thick stew made with meat and the freeze-dried potatoes called chuño, or papa seca.
The original meat for carapulcra was llama. Pork and chicken are more common these days.
4 to 6 servings
- Papa seca, or chuño (freeze-dried potatoes) -- 1/2 pound
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Boneless pork chops, cut into large chunks -- 2 pounds
- Onion, minced -- 1
- Garlic, minced -- 2 or 3 cloves
- Ají panca chile powder or paste -- 1 tablespoon
- Cumin -- 2 teaspoons
- Dry white wine -- 1 cup
- Stock or water -- 4 cups
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Chunky natural peanut butter -- 1/4 cup
- Heat an ungreased, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high flame. Add the potatoes and stir occasionally to lightly brown them on all sides. Remove to a large bowl and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Refrigerate the potatoes and let them soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse the potatoes. Then add them to a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown the pork chop pieces on both sides, removing to a plate when finished.
- Add the onions, garlic, ají and cumin to the remaining oil in the pot and saute until the onions are cooked down and translucent.
- Stir in the wine and simmer a couple minute to cook out the alcohol. Then stir in the stock or water, salt and pepper and add in the browned pork chops and cooked potatoes. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve immediately with rice or with boiled yuca or potatoes.
- Papa Seca, or Chuño: These dried potatoes are a specialty of Peru and Bolivia, an age-old way of preserving the harvest. Small potatoes are laid out in the thin mountain air over several days to freeze at night and thaw in the strong mountain sun during the day. This process drives most of the moisture out of the potatoes, and they can be safely stored for months or even years. Many Latin markets will carry papa seca, or you can buy papa seca online. If you can't find papa seca, you can use regular potatoes, peeled and sliced. Stir them in for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
- Meats: You can make carapulcra with chicken instead of pork. Use either a whole chicken cut up into pieces, or boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs. A particularly tasty carapulcra uses both chicken and pork.
- Chiles (Ají): Carapulcra is traditionally quite spicy, deriving its heat from the smoky chile pepper known as ají panca. Chipotle peppers can be substituted. Some recipes also call for adding in a bit of another chile called ají mirasol.
- Other Seasonings: Every Peruvian cook has her own favorite additions to make carapulcra her own. Try adding a cinnamon stick, 2 or 3 whole cloves, a big pinch of the Peruvian herb huacatay, 1 ounce of dark chocolate, or a spash of vinegar, vermouth, pisco or port. Many recipes call for stirring in 5 or 6 crushed vanilla wafers or butter cookies at the end to thicken the stew and add a sweet touch.
- Garnish: As with many Peruvian dishes, a garnish of hard-boiled egg wedges and black pitted olives is traditional.