Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pastel de Papas

If you Google "Pastel de Papas" then Google will tell you this is a traditional Chilean dish.  Maybe so, but I associate Pastel de Papas with Argentina.  Particularly with my first trip to Argentina and my travels to San Martin de los Andes.

To me, Pastel de Papas is pretty much the definition of comfort food.  It falls in line with lasagna and chili (and is a weird variation/combination of the two).  There is also a huge element of improvisation that comes along with PdP.  I have asked people for recipes (and looked online) to find that each person has their own version and they even change it up quite regularly.  The basics are key -- ground meat and mashed potato, but beyond that it's up to the chef!

Feeling in the mood for a culinary adventure (and challenge), I volunteered to cook for my Argentine friend (living in NY) and said I would make Pastel de Papas.  I had to make this as authentic as possible!

Long story short, after 2 hours in the kitchen, we had a wonderful meal in front of us and I was pretty happy with the outcome.  I under-salted the meat and bought way too many potatoes and veggies, but now I'll know better for next time!

The beast of a Pastel de Papas


Cross Section

Some things to note:
  • The basic recipe = Base layer of sautéed ground meat and veggies with raisins or currants mixed in, layer of hard boiled egg slices, layer of pureed potato, grated parmesan (or other salty cheese) on top so it crisps up when you bake!  You can also mix some cheese into the pureed potato
  • Butternut squash puree (pure de calabaza) is very popular in Argentina.  In order to get that flavor (along with potato and sweet potato), I decided to make the mashed veggie topping as a combination of the three.  I think the addition of sweet potato AND butternut squash made it a little sweeter than I expected.  If I were to re-do with all three, I will a) add more cheese and b) add more salt.
  • Veggies used: onion, kale, red pepper
  • The more cheese, the better.

Buen Provecho!


I also tried to make flan and followed the recipe exactly.  But it failed and left a lot of spillover sugary gunk on the bottom of the oven.  Nevertheless, we did eat the weird sugar concoction and the flavor was not half bad.  So if I gain back some flan confidence, I will attempt another time!  I think finding a recipe that calls for cooking the flan in a water bath is probably a safe bet.

Flan?

Note:  I wrote this post a few weeks back (a day or two after creating the meal), but was distracted by other blog-worthy items and never clicked "publish".  Today is a somewhat dreary, cold, rainy Saturday, and the perfect meal for me would be Pastel de Papas.  In honor of the weather, I give you this post.