Inside the pit, he burned a few logs of hickory, which would heat the stones over the next few hours. Then, he went inside to make the humitas, blending corn into a paste with cinnamon, anise, clove, vanilla and sugar. The meat sat in the dining room, marinating in earthy huacatay, or Peruvian black mint, oregano, spearmint, ají amarillo, ají panca, garlic and soy sauce (a nod to the Chinese and Japanese influence in Peruvian cuisine).
In the kitchen, Ms. Rondeau made a creamy, slightly spicy huancaína sauce with saltine crackers, ají amarillo, olive oil, garlic, onion, cream and queso fresco from her native Guatemala; Mr. Guadalupe prepared a salsa from his childhood, with green chiles, mustard, salt, mayonnaise and huacatay.
When the stones were hot enough for water to sizzle upon contact, Mr. Guadalupe orchestrated the layering of the ingredients, starting with the potatoes, which cook at the hottest temperature, and ending with the humitas and herbs.
Once banana leaves and dirt were draped over the top, and the cross had been planted, Mr. Guadalupe relaxed. When he was 13, his father once forgot to place the cross — which is supposed to prevent the devil from interfering with the cooking — and all the food came out raw.
“You can’t fix it,” Mr. Guadalupe said. “It is ruined.”