Ecuador.  My memories of the country are completely vicarious – and yet incredibly vivid.  My friend Linda spent her study abroad there in college, writing me breathlessly unfolding letters of her time in Quito.  Through her blossoming stories, I saw the bustling streets, shared a joke with the American ex-pats, and smoked a cigarette with the locals.  I would fall asleep in my messy dorm room dreaming of Ecuador with the sheaf of papers crumpled under my pillow.  This year, my false memories re-awakened as Wes visited Quito and the Galapagos.  And so I added to my collection of vignettes, stories of fresh-caught fish and instant coffee breakfasts.  With Ecuador in mind, I made some llapingachos for a taste of the country I’ve known but never seen.

Llapingachos – perfectly snackable potato cakes.  The crispy pancakes with a cheesy mashed potato middle go wonderfully well with the peanut sauce – made a bit different with tomatoes and onions.  I highly recommend trying them together, but they’d be just as satisfying with some fresh salsa instead.  You can also experiment with the cheese, I went with the recipe’s Münster but may try queso fresco which might be more authentic.  The annatto oil imparts a beautiful orange color, but I’m not sure how much it really changes the flavor.  A taste of Ecuador, for Linda.

Llapingachos with Peanut Sauce

Gourmet, September 2007,  Melissa Roberts and Maggie Ruggiero

1 and 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, divided

6 tablespoons annatto oil, divided ( simmer 1 tablespoon annatto/achiote seeds in 1/3 cup olive oil for 2 minutes then let stand for 10 minutes, strain oil)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 medium tomato, chopped

3/4 cup mild

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

6 ounces Münster cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)

Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces.  Cover potatoes with cold water in a medium pot, then stir in 1 teaspoon salt and simmer until very tender, about 18 minutes.

While potatoes simmer, cook garlic and 1/3 cup scallions in 2 tablespoons annatto oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in cumin and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add tomato and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.  Add milk and bring to a bare simmer, then remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until combined well.  Keep peanut sauce warm, covered, off heat.

Drain potatoes, then mash in a bowl.

Cook remaining 1/2 cup scallions with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in 2 tablespoons annatto oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until scallions are softened, then stir into potatoes along with cheese.  Form potato mixture into 8 balls and flatten each into a 3-inch patty.

Heat 1 tablespoon annatto oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then fry cakes in 2 batches, turning over once, until crusty, about 6 minutes per batch.  Add remaining tablespoon annatto oil for second batch.

Gently reheat peanut sauce, thinning to a creamy consistency with a little water if necessary.  Season sauce with salt and serve with potato cakes.

Makes 8 three-inch llapingachos

9 thoughts on “llapingachos

  1. Keith

    doh, I was racing to be the 1st to leave a comment on your mint blog. too late.
    I haven’t read it yet but this looks cool. A blog about food! I’d been looking for entertaining blogs about food but it looks entertaining already!

    What I’m most curious though is, did you take those pics yourself? They are gorgeous, like gourmet food mag pics. If you did, what type of camera did u use? I’m going to have to get one of those and try taking a pic of my bowl of cap’n crunch in the morning.

  2. i should cocoa!

    thanks, keith! wes got me a new camera and i’m still figuring it out. its an olympus digital SLR, i think the 410? i don’t have it in front of me. it’s little enough for me to handle but we got a zoom lens for those ultra-close ups of pomegranate seeds! – sabina

  3. Niti

    You are the bestest and I love you, your pictures, your food and generally everything else about you. Too bad you went veggie…I just made the most scrumptous duck–and then duck risotto.

  4. ishould cocoa!

    thanks niti. you and josh are wicked cooks, i remember being *very* well fed in cinci! pass on some recipes girl, i’d love to try them. yummmmmm……risotto.

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