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.