Know Your Spuds: What Is Causa?

You've tried Peru's superb roast chicken and perhaps even sampled a tiradito or two. Now it's time to dig into one of their most celebrated spud dishes. What is causa? Causa, also called causa rellena, is a Peruvian mashed potato terrine that's simple, filling and makes excellent use of Peru's potato bounty. If you think that sounds like the culinary invention of a well-intentioned lunch lady, you couldn't be further from the truth.

While hundreds of recipes exist for this hearty preparation, the basic concept is the same: Pack layers of filling in between mashed potatoes using a tall ring mold. You can make yours with cooked chicken or tuna, hard-boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes, avocado — if you're craving it, stick it in a mashed potato stack!

In fact, the only thing to really consider when making causa is the type of potato you're mashing. Denser, waxier yellow potatoes are ideal in this application. They keep their shape better than floury white potatoes like russets, which makes for a sturdier tower and deeper color. Spike the mixture with a little lime juice and/or aji amarillo (Peruvian pepper paste) while mashing for extra flavor.

You can make your causas light and small enough for a first course, or use more filling ingredients for an entrée. Next time you have leftover mashed potatoes, you know what to do.