A Little Bit of This… A Little Bit of That

2017.Sep.11 Monday · 0 comments

in Food & Recipes

Too much eating out recently, going to be spending more time in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean reviews are stopping, just fewer. And, I’m going to share a few more recipes with you, particularly step by step classic dishes.

 

This is Cau Cau de Pollo, a chicken version of a dish that dates back centuries in the Andes (though not with the same name), and in its most traditional version is made with tripe. The origin appears to have been, generally, in the area around Arequipa in southern Peru, though that’s more of an origin of the first written records of a formal recipe for it, and it’s a dish that’s found throughout the Andes in various forms. Beyond tripe, the most common versions are of chicken, beef, egg, and pejerrey (river fish). At its base, however, regardless of protein choice, the balance of the recipe remains much the same throughout the various versions.

There are two primary theories, neither proven, on the etymology of the name “cau cau” – one is that it relates back to a Quechua word, acacau, a word used as an interjection and basically the equivalent of us saying, ouch! or owww! often related to something hot or burning. The other version, as many casual dish names in Peruvian cooking do, to the Chinese influence dating back, some say, to the 15th century, though more provably the early 19th, and an expression that more or less translates as little bits of things. Neither seems a completely satisfying explanation, and it’d be interesting to know more, and, what the dish tended to be called before the name Cau Cau appeared on the scene.

Not a whole lot of ingredients needed for this one. A couple of chicken breasts, four medium potatoes, a carrot, some peas (a package of frozen peas works just fine here), some garlic cloves, a red onion, some hierbabuena (a type of mint), though other mint will work fine, and some rehydrated aji mirasols, or simmered fresh aji amarillos.

Here’s the “little bits”. Cut the chicken in roughly 2-3cm cubes, the potatoes in 1cm cubes, the carrots and onion into smaller (basically the same size as the peas), finely chopped the garlic, split the mint in half – one or two sprigs left whole, and the leaves stripped off the other. The softened chilies, along with their cooking water, go into a blender and puree them.

Saute the onion and garlic with a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper in a little oil until soft.

Add the chicken cubes and saute until they just start to get a hint of golden brown.

At this point, I realized that the ingredients weren’t going to fit in my frying pan, I should have used a bigger one or a pot, so, make sure the one you’re using is big enough for all the stuff – I had to switch. Add the potatoes, carrots, peas, and the stalks of mint. Pour in the pureed chili (probably more traditional is to puree the chilies without added liquid, and saute that paste along with the chicken in the previous step, and then add the cooking liquid later). Top off the pot with either water or chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to minimum, cover, and let simmer for about 15 minutes – you want the chicken cooked through and the potatoes soft, but not falling apart. Fish out the mint stalks, take the mint leaves that you had separated, coarsely chop them, and add them to the pot. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed (some of that will depend on whether you used water or stock to top the pot off in the last step).

And, serve with rice. Either Peruvian hot sauce (ajicito) or chopped chilies (thin little ají limos) are traditional, for those who like the dish spicy.

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