Causa de Pejiballe

Country: Perú, Costa Rica

Notes: Causa, in its most basic form, is a mashed potato mixture mixed with lime, chili and oil.  Salads can have avocado, chicken, tuna or even shellfish added as a filling in the middle of the potato mixture. Causa is popular in Lima Peru, where it is distinguished by the name Causa Limeña. Causa is usually served cold and garnished with hard boiled eggs and olives. When thinking of how to incorporate Costa Rican ingredients we decided to use Pejiballe puree to mix with the potatoes making our Causa unique to Alma de Amon.

Although this dish already existed in ancient times, there seems to be many different versions of how this dish came to be. Even with so many varieties and claims to the origins it seems the dish was popularized when making it to feed soldiers during war times. There are also many stories of how the dish was sold to raise money to feed the military to help support “The Causa”.

It is hard to avoid the many potato-based recipes in Peru when you know that Peru offers no less than 7 potato species and more than 5,000 varieties of all shapes and colors. Potatoes are also not expensive and you can see why they would be preferred to cook when feeding large groups of people such as an army. The fact that you can mix pretty much anything with a little mayonnaise and place it in the middle of the potato puree makes this dish very versatile, convenient and easy to make with basic ingredients.

Preparation: The potato base is made by stirring mashed potatoes with Pasta de Rocotto puree, oil, salt, pejiballe and lime. For the salad mixture heart of palm, avocado, and mayonnaise are mixed together. A base of potato is placed in the center of the plate and then the heart of palm mixture is placed on top and then another layer of potato/ pejiballe mix on top. Then the plate is garnished with cherry tomatoes, plantain chips, heart of palm and watercress.

Pozole Rojo

Country: Mexico

Story: Pozole, which means “hominy”, is a traditional stew from Mexico. It is made from hominy, meat (typically pork), and can be seasoned and garnished with shredded lettuce, chile peppers, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, salsa or limes. Pozole is typically served on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the new year.

Since maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions. The conjunction of maize (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars, because the ancient Americans believed the gods made humans out of masa. According to research by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, on these special occasions, the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with maize, and the resulting meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the Conquest, when cannibalism was banned (including here at Alma de Amon), pork became the staple meat as it “tasted very similar” to human flesh.

The three main types of pozole are white, green and red. Here at Alma we serve red pozole made from one or more chiles, such as guajillo, piquin, or ancho. When pozole is served, it is accompanied by a wide variety of condiments, potentially including chopped onion, shredded lettuce, sliced radish, cabbage, avocado, limes, oregano, tostadas, chicharrón, or chiles.

Preparation: All of the ingredients are placed in a pot and stewed on low heat for a long amount of time. This lets the meat become very tender and allows for the deep flavors to develop. When ready it is garnished with radish, cilantro, lime and white onion.

Guacamole Con Pina

Country: Mexico

Story: Avocados were first cultivated in South Central Mexico about 10,000 years ago. In the early 1900s, avocados frequently went by the name alligator pear. Guacamole has increased avocado sales in nearly all countries in the Americas. Guacamole dip is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados and sea salt with a molcajete y tejolote. Recipes call for tomato, garlic, lemon or lime juice, chili or cayenne pepper, cilantro, basil, jalapeño and additional seasonings. Some non-traditional recipes call for sour cream or even peas and nuts. In our version at Alma we add grilled pineapple and crumbled Bagaces cheese.

Preparation: Avocado, red onion, lime, cilantro and salt are mixed together until the avocado is creamy. This is garnished with grilled pineapple, queso Bagaces, red onion and cilantro. Homemade corn chips are served on the side.

Chicharron de Falda

Country: Costa Rica

Story: Chicharrones are made by frying pork in fat, and are associated with several dishes. Most Ticos usually eat them with rangpur or lime juice and fried yuca, accompanied by tortillas. It is also a main ingredient in a popular dish called chifrijo, which also combines red beans, rice, and pico de gallo. Another popular dish in Costa Rican cuisine that includes chicharrones is the vigorón.

For our version, we marinate the pork belly in roasted garlic puree, bomba spice and chile de arbol. Pork belly is great because it has a high fat content which helps to make it tender. This is marinated overnight and then cooked sous vide until it is very, very tender. Also a mojo is made in a traditional way and then cas fruit is added to give it an ingredient that is local to Costa Rica.

Sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent results. High-end restaurants have been using sous vide cooking for years to cook food to the exact level of doneness desired, every time. The technique is popular because of easy-to-use sous vide precision cooking equipment called a circulator. The circulator heats water to a specific temperature that you choose which is determined by what you are cooking. Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method.

Preparations: Pork belly in roasted garlic puree, bomba spice and chile de arbol. This is marinated overnight and then cooked sous vide until it is very, very tender. When finished we cut the pork into cubes and fry them to order. A mojo is made in a traditional way with cas fruit and poured into the bottom of a bowl. The fried pork belly is sprinkled with lime juice and topped with a salad of cabbage and chicharon, sprinkled with bomba spice.