Preparing the Potato for Papas a la Huancaina

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 16,808
    Chef Victor Albisu demonstrates how to prepare the potato for Papas a la Huancaina.

    Victor Albisu

    Victor Albisu may have been born in northern Virginia, but he seems “born” with Latin food in his blood. Victor’s mother is Peruvian, his father is Cuban; one grandfather was a baker; and two aunts owned their own restaurants in Miami – Latin food was central to his upbringing. In fact, he doesn’t have a single childhood memory that doesn’t involve some delectable Latin cooking or other. Then he went to le Cordon Bleu. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Victor spent every summer through his teens with family in Miami, pressing his first sandwiches at age five, mastering steaks a la plancha by seven, and paying close attention as his grandfather killed, gutted, and roasted whole pigs and caught, cleaned, and fried whole fish; while his grandmother made the rice and beans, empanadas and croquettes. Back at home, his mother, a great cook in her own right and owner of a Latin grocery store, reinforced his culinary bent. In high school, Victor apprenticed with the Argentine and Uruguayan butchers at his mother’s shop. “Beef in Argentina is like wine in France,” he explains, “the style of butchering is distinctive, and the trade is highly respected.” Working six days a week, often until 9 o’clock at night, he learned not only about cutting meat, but making chorizo (sausages) and matambres (stuffed meats) and just about everything else about the Argentine meat culture. Victor’s family had always promoted a lively interest in international politics, and when he went off to George Mason University, he planned to make that his career. In five years, he completed two degrees, but after graduation it took just a few years working with international contractors for USAID to learn that the theoretical side of international affairs interested him much more than the practical. So at age 24, he sold everything, moved to Paris, and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu. He received his basic, intermediate and superior diplomas in cuisine, pastry, and wine, performing his internship at Arpège, a 3-star Michelin restaurant. “There I was living in the thick of Les Halles, keeping restaurant hours and woken at six every morning by a fishmonger yelling about scallops – I loved every minute of it.” Back in the states, Victor was hired as Executive Sous Chef under David Craig at The Tabard Inn, moving with him to La Bergerie in Alexandria, Virginia. From there, he went on to work at Washington’s 701, Ardeo, and Bardeo. He then became Chef de Cuisine at Ceiba restaurant and is currently pursuing his own ventures.

    Hi, I am Victor Albisu. We are making Papa a la Huancaina. So, to get started, we need, first a bowl of potato. Peel it and present it on a Bibb lettuce leaf. So, let's get started with that. First you get water on the stove to boil. Always season your water. It brings out the flavors. Today, we are using an ideal whole potato, but you can easily use a Yukon Gold potato. It will cook for about 8 minutes. At that point, remove it, let it cool, dont burn yourself, and this is what we have there, is a cooled potato that has been cooked skin on. We will remove the skin gently, so as to not remove too much potato. It's going to happen. It's inevitable. I like to do with my hands, rather than, lot of people like to do it with a towel, but I think that a towel can injure or damage the texture of the potato a little bit.

    So, there you have an intact peeled potato. We are going to take our plate, our Bibb lettuce leaf. You can also use iceberg, or red leaf, or whatever is your favorite lettuce, something like that. I like to present this large and chunky. Next step, well be sauting the aj Amarillos, and making the sauce for the dish.