Buenos Aires – As suspected, given that Henry is from Peru, he knew immediately what the two different potatoes I picked up yesterday were. One turned out to not even be a potato! The first is known throughout most of the Andean area as the olluquito (in some areas, Bolivia for example, it is known as the papalisa). It is a smaller version of another potato called the olluco, which has the same red-spotted skin but is closer to the size of a baking potato. These potatoes are members of the Ullucus tuberosus grouping. Henry’s recommendation was to cook them simply – fried in a little butter and salt.
Of course, I set out at lunch today to do just that. I did a bit of recipe research, and a light touch of garlic and herbs seemed appropriate. Slicing open the tubers I found the interior to be a glowing yellow color. They have an interesting perfume that had a touch of sweetness, very reminiscent of yellow beets. This turned out to be amazingly accurate, as, after cooking them up and tasting them, it turns out that they taste pretty much like a slightly starchy version of a yellow beet! If you could cross a waxy potato and a beet, I think this is pretty much what you’d end up with. Sauteing them in butter, olive oil, garlic, parsley and a little salt yielded a truly yummy dish.
A plate of potatoes did sound good for lunch, but I wanted a little something else “on the side.” So I dropped in at the local pescadería for some fresh fish. A big sign outside proclaimed the availability of salmón rosado, which is what we know simply as salmon. Unfortunately, the sign wasn’t accurate, as the rosado had not arrived from the market this morning. In fact, they had very little in selection today, but they did have the more common salmón blanco, which seems to be available everywhere here. This fish isn’t a salmon at all, despite its local moniker, but the Argentine (or Brazilian) Sand Perch, fished out of the north Patagonian waters. A quick sauté with salt, pepper and a little tarragon and it made a lovely side dish to my ‘taters.
The second tuber is known as the oca and is the root of a member of the wood sorrel family (Oxalis tuberosa). It is apparently grown throughout central and south America. When young it can be eaten raw, and several recipes recommend this. Apparently a classic of Mexican raw food – it is sprinkled with salt, hot pepper and lemon juice, and happily munched on. When a little older, as mine are, the recommendations seem aimed towards a purée. The flesh is apparently closer to a yam in many ways, and many recipes, and Henry’s personal recommendation, are oriented around dessert – his version, simply mashed with milk and sugar. More on this one most likely tomorrow.