As I mentioned before, tomorrow I am heading to Ecuador and Peru for 6 weeks. I lived in Ecuador my junior year of college (old musings here) and I could not be more excited to finally be returning. I get to see my friends, my Ecuafam, and the beautiful county I called home for about 5 weeks before heading to Peru and meeting up with one of my best friends to trek Machu Picchu.
When I lived in Ecuador, I had potatoes morning/noon/night pretty much every day for 9 months. I couldn’t eat potatoes at all for almost a year afterward. I never thought that was possible—I’d always loved potatoes (truly Irish, I guess!). But seriously, couldn’t stand them for a while.
The main reason I got sick of them is that potatoes can be pretty bland in Ecuador (over-boiled and served with almuerzo, primarily), there are a couple of Ecuadorian potato dishes with papas that were bomb.com. Llapingachos are one of those. Llapingachos are mashed potato patties with a gooey hunk of cheese in the middle. Although they are orange from achiote oil you mix in, which doesn’t lend too much flavor but between the creamy mashed potato and the gooeuy queso fresco…these are muyyyy ricos.
True to form, I’ve had a packed schedule leading up to this trip. My last weekend was filled with parties and family fun to celebrate my future brother-in-law’s graduation from his Master’s program, as well as to meet his family and celebrate Father’s Day! Busy busy busy. But also fun fun fun!
In honor of Father’s Day yesterday, I made these papas for my papa. He calls them yum-pingachos. Or Jumping Gauchos, depending on the day 🙂
These are so simple, but crazy good. ¡Vámos!
- 3-5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into even chunks for boiling
- I made 5 lbs, which made 18 llapingachos (plenty for 4 to have with breakfast), plus had about 1/3 of the mashed potatoes left…so use less depending on how many people you have eating. Can’t hurt to have extra, though!
- Queso fresco, cubed (grated mozzarella can work, too, just needs to be able to get gooey)
- Achiote oil
- Note: you can find this a Mexican markets. If not, you can get annato seeds from somewhere like Penzey’s and make your own (instructions below).
- For serving: fried eggs, beets (traditional, I forget why but my dad loves beets so I roasted some too), hot sauce, avocado, etc.
- Prepare achiote oil:
- I used a ratio of 1c vegetable oil (or other neutral oil) and about 2 1/2 tbsp annato seeds (though I would recommend using more seeds if you have them so you can use less oil in the finished product since it will be more concentrated).
- Heat seeds and oil in a small saucepan until bubbling. Turn off heat and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, checking every once in a while to make sure the seeds don’t blacken. The oil will turn a deep red-orange. Strain out your seeds and store in the fridge until ready to use!
- Once you have oil good and ready, you can set about boiling your potatoes in salted water until fork-tender. I cut mine in half for the sake of them boiling faster.
- After they are boiled and drained, return your taters to the pot and add a little oil before you get mashing.
- Mash mash mash mash…you might want to add a little more oil as well, both for creaminess and the color. Your end product should look like this:
- Taste your mix and add salt as necessary.
- A note on making your taters: I would advise making the mashed potatoes the day before, and make the patties maybe an hour or so before you’re ready to fry. This allows it all to rest and stick together better when it comes to frying.
- Prep your patties! Grab a handful of taters (go on now, stick your hand in the pot—see how it’s handy to have prepped this part early so you don’t scald yourself??!). Roll it around in your hands a bit to soften it up and smooth it out, then squish it to roughly make a patty. Jam your thumb in the middle to make a home for your cheese and nestle a little cube of the queso fresco in there:
- Gently roll your handful back up into a ball and squish it back down into a patty. You will probably just need to gently smooth the edges after that.
- Continue as so, making your patties and then letting them chill out for a bit before you’re ready to fry.
- NOTE: Use either a cast-iron skillet or a nonstick pan. DO NOT use a regular-stick pan. I did and it drove me absolutely nuts (you should have also heard the things coming out of my mouth when I tried to fry eggs in it after…let’s just say no one got over-medium eggs as I had intended).
- Heat your pan of choice over medium heat for a bit. Throw down a teensy bit of oil for the first batch (you might find in following batches you don’t need the oil because there’s enough in the patties). Throw your patties down (don’t actually throw them, gently place them in the pan without crowding) and let them sizzle away for a couple of minutes. They should release from the pan with a golden crust, so if they’re sticking try letting them go for a little longer before attempting another flip. Let them cook for a couple of minutes on their other side until they release from the pan.
- They are ready to eat! Traditionally, llapingachos are served alongside fried eggs and roasted or boiled beets. I don’t remember why the beets are part of the traditional plate, but beets are tasty so why not include them in your little party here?
These are obviously a great breakfast dish, but could easily be served as a dinner side, or an appetizer (come up with a fun salsa to serve them with and they would be killer). They couldn’t be much easier, and they really do wow folks even though they are so simple. They are creamy, a little crispy, and a little gooey. Feel free to add more cheese in the middle, too. Can’t hurt, right?