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Aji de GallinaAji de Gallina is a family recipe that comes from Peru, and is one of those dishes where the aromas that fill the house bring back memories of my childhood, and my grandmother Maria.  One of the first dishes I wrote about on my blog, Aji de Gallina can be found at a few of the Peruvian restaurants in the area, but as if usually the case, none of those versions live up to the memory in my head.

The name is Spanish, and based on two main ingredients in the dish: Aji Amarillo peppers (yellow peppers that can normally be found in the states in a paste form) and Chicken. The best way to describe it would be a South American curry with shredded chicken–aji brings a smooth heat across the whole dish that will add depth, but not that much spice. My mom suspects the lack of heat comes from using the aji paste over fresh peppers, but I’ve never been able to find them fresh so I can’t base anything on that. You can use cayenne as a substitute for aji, but you will miss the main flavor that makes this dish such a great comfort food.

Here are some notes before you begin:

  • It’s a great dish to make on a weekend when you have the time to poach a chicken and convert its stock to the sauce–but no one will think differently if you swap in a store-bought rotisserie or cut the recipe down by a quarter and use a bone-in chicken breast instead.
  • The recipe below serves between 6-8, and works great as leftovers—I would almost go as far to say that the sauce improves overnight as all the flavors have more time to meld together.
  • For extra credit: After the chicken is done poaching (1 hour), reserve the 3-4 cups of stock you need for the recipe, and throw the chicken bones back in the pot with the remaining liquid (adding additional water as needed). Simmer for an additional 2-3 hours–and you will have a nice batch of homemade chicken stock to freeze and use for later!

Aji de Gallina

Poaching Ingredients:

  • 1 small roasting chicken, innards and excess fat removed
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup carrots, loosely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, loosely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon whole pepper corns
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-2 bay leaves

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 6 slices white bread, crust removed, cubed
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 2 T. olive oil or butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 c. aji amarillo paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock from above
  • 1/2 c. pecans, chopped
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Shredded chicken from above
  • 1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 hard boiled eggs
  • Rice for serving
  • Olives for a garnish
  1. Poaching: Place the chicken in a large pot with the rest of the poaching ingredients and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 1 hour, or until chicken is done. Reserve 3 cups of the broth. Let the chicken cool and then remove meat.
  2. Heat olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. While onions are sautéing  soak the bread in 1 cup of the chicken stock.
  4. Add garlic, cumin, and the aji paste to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute.
  5. If using an immersion blender, add bread mixture and chicken stock to skillet and blend until bread and onions are pureed. As an alternative, place skillet contents in a blender with the stock and blend until smooth, then transfer back to the skillet.
  6. Let the mixture simmer on low and reduce by 1/3 until sauce thickens, around 5-10 minutes. With the heat on low, add in milk slowly, stirring constantly until combined. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Stir in nuts, parmesan, and parsley. Add in chicken 1 cup at a time until consistency is about equal parts sauce and chicken.
  7. Serve with rice, hard-boiled egg slices, and olives.
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