The first time I broke down a chicken was to make this dish. Naturally, if I’m going through the trouble of cooking an entire chicken–you better believe this is on the menu.
Aji de Gallina is a shredded chicken dish from Peru that gets its name from the Aji Amarillo pepper of the area. I have never found the actual pepper in the supermarket–but a quick stop at a South American/European food market (there is one down my street) and you should be able to find it in paste form. If you can’t find any–cayenne pepper works as a good substitute, but you will want to SEVERELY reduce the amount you put in. Cayenne will give you that heat, but there is this smoothness to an aji pepper that really makes this dish something special.
Serious Eats did a nice run down on the spice, saying:
[It is] less sharp and harsh, more full-bodied, and a lot more subtle. If there were a chile to taste like sunshine, this would be it. It may sound odd to use the word “comforting” to describe a hot chile, but for aji amarillo, it seems fitting.
The recipe is fairly simple, and gets even more so if you decide to skip out on boiling the chicken and either buy a rotisserie one pre-made, or heat up some chicken breasts in the microwave. This is also good to freeze back–I’ve doubled up on the sauce and reserved half for a later meal, or used leftovers for a nice hearty lunch the next day.
Aji de Gallina
- 3-4 lb. Chicken–skinned
- 4 c. Chicken Broth (reserved from boiling)
- 8 slices white bread, without the crust
- 1-2 T. aji amarillo paste (or 1 t. cayenne, or less)
- 1/2 c. evaporated milk
- 1 finely diced onion
- 1 finely diced garlic clove
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 c. pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
- Garnish: salt, pepper, parsley, black olives, hard-boiled eggs
- To be done a day ahead or in the afternoon (takes 1-2 hours): Break down the chicken into parts (breasts, thighs, wings, back & neck) and submerge entire bird in water. Liberally add salt. If you want, add in celery, carrots, onions to create a richer stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-45 minutes until chicken is done. Cool, reserve broth, and shred the chicken.
- In a saucepan, saute onions and garlic in oil until golden.
- In a blender, soak bread slices in broth and add aji amarillo paste and evaporated milk. Blend under fine.
- Gradually add bread mixture to saucepan and stir constantly for about 15 minutes until liquid reduces to a thick consistency. When desired consistency is reached (thick, creamy sauce) add in cheese, nuts, and chicken. (Note: you might not need the entire chicken–add gradually, and use extra for other meals)
- Cook another 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice and garnish with parsley, olives, and egg.