Ocopa Arequipena- Peruvian Potatoes with Spicy Cheese Sauce

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I’m sure glad I didn’t do a Google image search for Ocopa Arequipena before I decided to make this recipe.  It’s a pretty safe bet that the results aren’t going make your mouth water, unless, of course, you already know and love this classic Peruvian potato dish.

But how could it be anything but great?  Sauteed onions, garlic, and red bell pepper are cooked in a spicy milk broth and then pureed with crumbled queso fresco and walnuts to create a spicy, thick and complex sauce for the lightly golden potatoes.

The recipe that follows makes about double the amount of sauce you’ll need for the potatoes.  Trust me- that’s a good thing.  You’ll want to use it on anything and everything; so far I’ve also used it to top roasted broccoli and as a dip for tortilla chips (although not intended for use as a dip, it still sails right to the top of my favorites list, along with this roasted red pepper and feta dip and this garlic and cheddar black-eyed pea dip).

I should note that the classic version of the dish contains an herb called huacatay, which isn’t widely available in the United States (unless you have a well-stocked South American grocery nearby); I’ve also read that some find it to be very off-putting.  If you can find fresh huacatay or huacatay puree, feel free to add a little bit when you add the cheese and walnuts.  It’ll tint the sauce a pale green color.  As for the taste?  You’ll have to let me know…

Ocopa Arequipena- Peruvian Potatoes with Spicy Cheese Sauce

Yield: 6-8 servings


* 8 Yukon gold potatoes
* 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
* salt and pepper
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
* 3 Tablespoons Mirasol sun dried hot yellow pepper paste
* 12-ounce can evaporated milk
* 4 ounces queso fresco, feta cheese or crumble goat cheese
* 1/2 cup walnuts
* lettuce leaves
* 4 hard boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
* chopped olives


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the potatoes and quarter. Place on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and just beginning to turn golden.

While the potatoes are baking, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and red bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened. Add the pepper paste and stir to combine; cook for another minute.

Add the evaporated milk and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour mixture into a blender jar and combine with the cheese and walnuts. Process until smooth, adding a little extra milk or olive oil if necessary to thin the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a serving tray or large plate with lettuce leaves. Scatter the potato quarters on top of the bed of lettuce and then pour the sauce over the potatoes. Place the eggs on the side of the dish. Top with chopped olives, if desired.

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