If the short ribs I posted earlier this week elicit romance, opulence, and proper decorum, then ají de gallina resides on the opposite spectrum for when I eat this, I want nothing more than to cozy up in my favorite, most slouchiest pajama bottoms and go at this with a ravenous, no-holds-bar hunger that I’m certain is terribly unattractive, disheveled and wide-eyed as I appear. I have my reasons for looking so savage, I can assure you.
*growls, hunkering down over my plate*
Oh, how can I explain this to you. Ají de gallina to Peruvians is like macaroni and cheese to Americans. It is the ultimate in home-cooked, ooey, gooey, cheesy, slop-it-on-my-plate-and-just-let-me-eat-it-now comfort food. You don’t mull over this. You inhale it.
Ají de gallina is a creamy, spicy, chicken stew. Or, as the child of one of my clients’ so aptly calls it: chicken goop. She is not wrong. The chicken, once shredded, is left to simmer in the peppery ají amarillo sauce until thickened. Ladled over white rice, it is a mound of gooey chickenstuff. But, as with many things, this is so much more than it appears.
The suppleness from the rotisserie chicken with the etherealness of the creamy, piquant sauce intertwine so harmoniously together the mouthfeel is something I find tremendously pleasing. The blanket of rice offers a nice toothsome quality to each bite, and the egg delivers an extra dose of heavenly awesomeness.
As I write this, I am overjoyed at the promise of eating this for dinner. And I can say with total confidence that I will wake up tomorrow morning, brighter-eyed and more bushier-tailed than normal because I’ll know what awaits me for breakfast. No, I don’t play by the rules.
- 1 rotisserie or roasted chicken, skinned and shredded; juices reserved
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 4 tablespoons good butter, like kerrygold
- 1 large yellow onion (use regular, not sweet), chopped
- 3 fat garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 ají amarillo peppers; 2 seeded, 1 whole with seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 5 slices white sandwich bread, crust removed and torn into little pieces
- 3/4 cup chicken stock (made with reserved juices + a good chicken stock base, like better than bouillon)
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- steamed white rice, to serve
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered, to serve
- set a medium frypan on the stove and turn up the heat to medium-high. to this, add the canola oil, butter, onion, garlic, ají amarillo, salt, and pepper. cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and everything smells unbelievably fragrant; about 7 minutes. let cool for a few minutes.
- toss the walnuts into a blender. add in the onion and ají amarillo mixture, the torn bread pieces, and then pour the chicken stock over the bread to absorb. blend this until totally smooth.
- pour this lovely, intoxicating sauce to a large saucepot and add the evaporated milk. turn on the heat to medium-low and let this come to a slight simmer. mix in the parmesan cheese. tumble in the shredded chicken and let everything thicken slightly; just a few minutes.
- serve this over white rice and top with sliced, hard-boiled eggs. enjoy, amigos. this is the ultimate in peruvian comfort food.
ají amarillo peppers can be found in latin american grocery stores– i favor using the bagged, frozen kind, but if you can’t find those, try using the ones found whole and jarred; just rinse them before using. if you use aji amarillo paste, add two tablespoons to this sauce. these peppers aren’t super spicy so i like to use at least the seeds of one whole ají, but if you’d rather not use seeds at all that is an option, too. i also can’t stress enough the importance of using the juice from the rotisserie chicken– there is so much flavor there it would be blasphemy not to.
// More Peruvian comfort food type things