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Aji Risotto Cakes - A Peruvian, An Italian and an Instant Pot Walk Into A Bar......

You all know how I love a show stopper and this one is a spectacular dish to serve the next time you have your boss/mother in law/new paramour over for dinner. Crispy, spicy little rice cakes with a centre of melty cheese, nestled in an acidic tomato vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of spicy yellow pepper/cheese sauce with a smattering of pickled red pepper, this baby is not only really delicious, it is a beautiful dish to behold.

Maybe you have never had Peruvian food and you don't recognize some of these ingredients but they are so tasty that you need to get to know them. If you are not lucky enough to have a good, South American grocer nearby, these sauces are all available online and I have provide links to my Amazon store (yes, I get a few pennies if you buy things via my links) but there are also lots of online stores to purchase Peruvian items from.

So, this is just my basic Pressure Cooker Risotto with the addition of the spicy pepper paste, aji amarillo.  I will often make a batch and we will eat half of the risotto hot right away and then I will use the leftovers the next day to make these rice cakes for supper.

The Huicainia Sauce is one of my favourite things in the world and although it's traditionally poured over cold, boiled, sliced potatoes, maybe some sliced hardboiled egg, some black olives - papa a la huancaina, I eat it with everything. It's great on fries, cassava fries, crispy roasted potatoes, in mac and cheese or even in a bowl with a spoon - okay, maybe that last one is just me.

You are going to need to make:
  • Risotto with Aji Amarillo, a hot paste made from Peruvian hot yellow pepper
  • Huicainia Sauce - a traditional Peruvian sauce made from the same spicy yellow pepper paste, cheese and milk
  • Tomato Ricoto Vinaigrette - tomato vinaigrette with Peruvian red pepper sauce
  • Salsa Criolla - marinated red onion

I know this seems like a lot of steps but you can make all of the elements up to a day or two in advance and just cook the cakes and assemble them at the last minute to make it easier to manage on the day. 

Aji Risotto Cakes

makes approx 12 risotto cakes using 1/3 cup measure for each

Risotto cakes

Risotto ingredients and directions:

2 tbls olive oil
2 scallions, finely choped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tsp aji amarillo paste or to taste
3 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup frozen tiny sweet peas
2 tbls butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
a handful of finely chopped cilantro

Hit the saute button on the pressure cooker and when it says "hot" add in the oil and saute the shallot and garlic for a couple of minutes to soften. Add in the rice, toast it for another couple of minutes until it turns opaque. Now add in the white wine and the aji amarillo and stir until most of the wine is absorbed, about a minute.

Pour in 3 1/4 cup chicken stock, seal the lid and program it for 6 minutes at high pressure. When the time is up, do a quick release and remove the lid. Add in the peas and continue to stir for another 4-6 minutes, until the rice is cooked but still al dente and its nice and creamy, adding a bit more stock a little bit at a time if needed.

Take the pot out of the cooker and stir in the butter and cheese, off the heat, beating it into the rice with a wooden spoon.

Spoon the hot risotto onto a parchment lined baking pan into a thin layer to cool it down quickly. When it's cooled to room temp, scrape it into a container and put it in the fridge for at least two hours but over night is even better. You want the rice to be really cold for forming the cakes.

*If you don't have an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, you can just make a normal, stove top risotto using your own technique or by following the general directions here  substituting the ingredients for this recipe so swap scallions for shallots, leave out the bacon and add the aji amarillo in with the wine.

To make the risotto cakes:

50 grams queso blanco or mild feta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup panko
salt and pepper

Make a dredging station with three shallow bowls - the first with the flour and some salt and pepper, the second with the egg and the third with the panko.

I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup as a mold - spray it with a bit of oil spray or oil it lightly with a paper towel and a drop or two of oil.

Scoop up 1/3 of the cold risotto, make an indent with your finger and push in a small chunk of cheese, cover it up with the rice. Turn the measuring cup upside down and slide out the cake onto the palm of your hand.

Very carefully dip the cold rice cake in the flour, dip in the egg and then finally, put it in the dish with the panko and gently cover the cake in the bread crumbs. Remove the cake to a parchment lined baking tray or a plate. If I am doing lots of them at a time, I put them in the fridge while I am making the rest of them so they don't start to get too soft.

Heat a frying pan to med heat and add enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan.

Add your cakes to the hot pan and cook from 3-5 minutes before flipping. Keep an eye on the bottom to make sure you get a nice, nutty brown crust but you don't burn. Flip them and cook the other side for another 3-5 minutes and gently, using a spatula, remove to a paper towel lined plate or a cooling rack.

If you are making a large batch you can hold them in a preheated 250F oven until you are ready to serve.

Huicaiana Sauce

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbls olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup aji amarillo paste ( it depends on how spicy yours is and how spicy you want it)
1 cup queso fresco, queso blanco or mild feta in a pinch
1/2 cup evaporated milk (you might need a bit more if it feel too thick)
2 saltine crackers

Heat the oil in a small pan over med high heat, sauté the onion for about five minute until softened before adding the garlic and the aji amarillo and cook for another few minutes. 

Scrape the contents of the pan into the blender with the cheese, crackers and evaporated milk and blend until really smooth. If it is too thick to drizzle nicely, add a bit more evaporated milk. Taste and add salt if needed. If you make ahead of time, keep in the fridge but remove at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serve at room temperature.

Tomato Rocoto Vinaigrette

2 large tomatoes
1 tbls red wine vinegar
1 tbls Rocoto paste 
1 clove garlic
2 tbls chopped cilantro

Cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze out the seeds, using your fingers to make sure you get them all out. Grate the tomato on a large hole grater right down to the skin (the skin will protect your fingers so they don't get grated too). Put the tomato pulp into a bowl and thrown in a pinch of kosher salt, the garlic and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil, stir in the cilantro and taste. Add more salt if needed. If you make ahead, store in the fridge.

Serve at room temperature.

Salsa Criolla

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls finely chopped cilantro
pinch kosher salt

Mix all the ingredients together and let marinate for a couple of hours or even do them the day before.

To serve:

Put a couple tbls of the Tomato Rocoto Vinaigrette down on a small plate. Place the warm risotto cake on top and then drizzle some Huicaiana Sauce over the top. Heap a small amount of the Salsa Criolla on the top and scatter some more chopped cilantro all over the whole thing.

 * all amazon links take you using an affiliate link and I to make a small percentage of all sales

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