Cuzco in New York

Alta Moda costume1The Queen Sophia Spanish Institute, practically around the corner from where I live, is one of those little known but fabulous New York City institutions. The Institute offers all manner of programs to promote Spanish culture with special emphasis on fine arts. The current program, Alta Moda, displays work by photographer Mario Testino, apparently a boldface name to those who follow haute couture, photography or Peru. Alto Moda means “high fashion” in Spanish; the exhibit consists of huge photos of men and women wearing clothes particular to Cuzco, Peru. Every garment shown is intricate, colorful and very complicated; it must take quite a while to don any one of them. The downstairs gallery features outfits that “ordinary” people might wear for festivals while the upstairs space is largely pictures of people in elaborate theatrical costumes. All the clothes are spectacular (and, judging from the lack of wear, spanking new) but the downstairs group is easier to relate to as the models aren’t in costume complete with masks, outlandish, stylized noses, horns or bizarre wigs.

Years ago, a woman friend and I went to Cuzco. I recall little beyond drinking lots of Pisco Sours pisco-sour

which led both of us to buy bottles of Pisco to bring home to our husbands. One stateside sip of the cocktails and we both realized Pisco was a taste that didn’t travel well– my bottle sat around for years until I deep-sixed it. Happily, memories of  Manchu Pichu (when the “hotel” housed a mere twelve guests per night and only had running water now and again) have stayeManchPichud with me.

My strongest Peruvian food recollection is of sampling guinea pig at a market in the Urubamba Valley. I concentrated on the taste (chicken-esque) and not on the pet gp we looked after when our neighbors went on vacation. Don’t think I could eat guinea pig today but back then my food -consciousness hadn’t yet been raised.

Potatoes are a staple of Peruvian food (in fairness, it can’t quite be labeled a cuisine). This recipe includes chorizo, a Spanish item but so much of Peruvian history and culture is Spanish-related (though not very positive from the Peruvian POV) I thought it was worth including.

 potatoes chorizo

Potatoes with Chorizo (Martha Stewart)

3 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

7 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

1 1/2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 teaspoon pimenton (Spanish sweet paprika), plus more to taste (a nice addition to the spice shelf and one that’s unique)

Coarse salt

Heat olive oil over low heat in large skillet. Add and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add onions  and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. If onion begins to brown too quickly, add 1 1/2 teaspoons water to pan to stop the burning process.

Add chorizo and cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Add potatoes and stir to coat; cook for 10 minutes. Add pimenton and enough water to cover; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until potatoes are cooked through and water is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Serve right away but if you can’t you can nuke dish back to life although you risk too-mushy potatoes.

Serve with anything other than a Pisco Sour.

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4 Responses to Cuzco in New York

  1. patricia oxman says:

    You remind me of my trip to Peru many years ago – I went up to the site of Manchu Pichu on a bus, but decided to be adventurous and walk down. I was walking happily down the road when the bus I should have taken pulled up next to me. When the driver then informed me of the large population of poisonous snakes on the roadside I flipped on that bus real fast.
    Good times. Glad you reminded me! Lots of love – Patricia

    • marigold says:

      It remains a pretty amazing place (using the real sense of amazing and not the teen one), isn’t it? One of the many things I’m glad to have done.

  2. Mary Stern says:

    Not only did that hotel on Machu Picchu have intermittent running water, they shut down the generator at 10:00 pm so there were no more lights. I spent a New Years Eve there—it was like a ship of fools.

    • marigold says:

      Right, more like a hostel than an actual hotel that had to be booked way in advance. Pretty great to have been there so early on though!