Ecuadoran Potato Cakes with Peanut Sauce


1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, divided
6 tablespoons annatto oil, divided (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium tomato, chopped
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 oz M√ľnster cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)

Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cover potatoes with cold water in a medium pot, then stir in 1 teaspoon salt and simmer until very tender, about 18 minutes.

While potatoes simmer, cook garlic and 1/3 cup scallions in 2 tablespoons annatto oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in cumin and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add milk and bring to a bare simmer, then remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until combined well. Keep peanut sauce warm, covered, off heat. 
Drain potatoes, then mash in a bowl.

Cook remaining 1/2 cup scallions with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in 2 tablespoons annatto oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until scallions are softened, then stir into potatoes along with cheese. Form potato mixture into 8 balls and flatten each into a 3-inch patty.

Heat 1 tablespoon annatto oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then fry cakes in 2 batches, turning over once, until crusty, about 6 minutes per batch. Add remaining tablespoon annatto oil for second batch.

Gently reheat peanut sauce, thinning to a creamy consistency with a little water if necessary. Season sauce with salt and serve with potato cakes.

Annatto Oil

Common in Latin American cooking, this orange oil infuses dishes with instant depth and quite often with their signature golden color. 


2 tablespoons annatto (achiote) seeds
3/4 cup olive oil


Heat annatto seeds and oil in a very small saucepan over low heat, swirling pan frequently, until oil is bright red-orange and begins to simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Strain annatto oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding seeds.  Annatto oil keeps, covered and chilled, indefinitely.

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