Classic, creamy, slightly spicy and filling: this chicken dish is Peruvian soul food at its best. Here’s the recipe for how to make aji de gallina.
One of my all-time favorite Peruvian dishes is Aji de Gallina. Actually, the first time I ever ate it was in Chicago around 1995, prepared by my Peruvian sister-in-law. After that, I was hooked and had to find out how to make aji de gallina myself.
There are many versions of this popular dish. I find you can make it as simple or decadent as you like, depending on the ingredients you decide to use. Of course, chicken and aji pepper are the focal points of this dish. Some people use a combination of the dark meat and light meat of the chicken for this dish because the dark meat is moister, but I typically use chicken breasts.
The addition of bread, aji, nuts and cheese to the somewhat spicy chicken gives an added dimension to this very traditional dish. This is even better the next day for leftovers.
This can be a time-consuming dish to prepare, so to save time you can boil the chicken the day before and shred it.
Always use chicken broth or stock (homemade or store-bought) to parboil the chicken instead of plain water. It makes a big difference in the flavor of the chicken.
You can make the aji mirasol or aji amarillo paste yourself, but it’s time consuming. I usually buy it homemade from the lady in my local mercado or at the store in a jar or package.
I always use half evaporated milk (¾ cup) and half cream (¾ cup) for my recipe. But if you only have evaporated milk available, use 1 ½ cups of that. If you want the sauce to be extra creamy, add ½ cup more of the cream.
I use the soft, white bread for this recipe. The cheaper, the better. For some reason the Bimbo’s brand here in Peru is perfect for this recipe. In the U.S., you would use the white Wonder Bread.
Aji de Gallina
Serves 4-6 people
- 1 chicken (about 2 kg.) or the equivalent of 3 complete chicken breasts
- 1 medium to large chopped white onion
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 7-9 tablespoons aji mirasol paste or aji amarillo paste (you can use either)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 10-12 slices white bread without the crust
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ¾ cup evaporated milk
- ¾ cup whole milk or cream (leche entera or crema de leche)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 100 grams chopped pecans or walnuts (I prefer pecans, but walnuts are traditional)
- 125 grams grated Parmesan cheese
- 6-8 yellow potatoes
- 12 black olives, sliced in half
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Parboil the chicken breasts or chicken in a pot of chicken broth for approximately 20 minutes and then leave them in there to cool. Once cool, remove and shred the chicken into bite-size pieces.
- Crumble the bread, soak it in the milk/cream and put all of this mixture into a blender and blend until smooth (20 seconds).
- In a large heavy pan, heat vegetable oil and sauté onion until golden. Add garlic and either the aji mirasol or aji amarillo paste and fry everything together well.
- Add the soaked bread mixture to the pan and incorporate all. Cook on medium low for 10 minutes and then begin to add ladles of hot chicken broth, stirring frequently. Add broth each time the sauce thickens. While stirring constantly, add the olive oil.
- Finally, you will add the shredded chicken, Parmesan cheese and nuts. If you find the mixture too thick, add a little more broth while gently stirring. Do not mash the chicken. Simmer the mixture until the oil begins to come to the surface.
- Serve hot accompanied by rice and the yellow potatoes. You will use the black olives and hard-boiled egg slices as the garnish to decorate.
Cover photo: Erick Andia. All other photos courtesy of Sheila Christensen Jeanneau
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