Peruvian Tuna Casserole (Tuna Causa)

This chile pepper originated in the mountains of South America and Mexico. Because of their appearance they are often called “Manzano” which means apple chile. This pepper can only be grown in these regions at elevations above 5000′ therefore making these very rare in the US.These chiles are unique in that they are the only ones that have black seeds. They are very hot and meaty. Rocotos are chopped and used in salsas or sometimes stuffed with cheese and meat and then baked.

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Potato base:

3 large potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
ají amarillo powder
salt and white pepper

Tuna layer:

3 cans of tuna (I like to use the water packed)
1 small red onion, chopped
salt and white pepper

The assembly:

potato base
tuna salad
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 rocoto or other medium hot pepper
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
chopped black olives
chopped parsley
juice of 1 lemon


For the potato base:

Boil, peel and mash the potatoes. Add the olive oil a bit at a time, to taste, until it has a nice smooth consistency. Season the potatoes with salt, peppe, and the ají amarillo to taste – you could also use chopped or pureed fresh peppers – this is a mild yellow pepper (spicier than a bell pepper, but mild). Form it into the base of your presentation on a platter and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, just to firm it up a bit. This dish is generally served cold or at room temperature, though I’ve seen hot causas on a few menus.

For the tuna layer:

This is just a simple tuna salad. Mash the tuna, add the onions, and enough mayonnaise just to make it moist and hold together. Season to taste.

For the assembly:

You should have a nice, firm mashed potato base to build on. Layer the tuna salad on top of the base, then top the tuna with the chopped tomato and parsley. Arrange a layer of avocado slices on top of that, then sprinkle or brush the avocados with the lemon juice so they maintain their color. Now dress the top with the hard boiled egg slices (you can hard boil your eggs along with your potatoes above, just don’t leave them in the water the entire time) and the pepper rings. Scatter some chopped olives over the top of it.

Recipe by Chef Dan Perlman.