Chicken AjiHello to all our fellow bloggers/readers!
It's been a while since Sury and I posted something. A number of things showed up for both of us, none of them bad. Quite the contrary, some happy events but very demanding and time consuming. However here we are, back to the kitchen with a glimpse at our faraway (but not for that distant) cultures.
This time, in bringing you a variation of yet another typical dish from my city Lima. This one is a favorite and a key piece in Criollan Food. It's name is Ají de Gallina, which could translate to Chicken Ají.
The history of Ají de Gallina could be traced back to the French Revolution (1789) which brought in Europe the bloom of new forms of politics, economics and, of course, traditions; new ways of thinking, new spiritual tendencias and certainly new cooking. Many of the noblemen's cooks lost their jobs after the Revolution and so decided to travel to the New World, bringing to this side of the world new recipes and techniques. These cooks were hired by the Criollan class as a way of demonstrating their wealth to the Spanish.
One of these techniques consisted in the "shredding" of meats (before that meat was usually served in large pieces, something which dated back to Inca times). Hen went through this process and served in a different way which included a concoction of chopped almonds, nuts and water that was mixed with these hen threads and later cooked with a sauce of garlic, pepper and onions. These would be the early beginings of our Ají de Gallina.
Ají de Gallina consists of creating a sort of spicy paste. White bread (the kind you make toast with) soaked in milk is what gives the paste it's thickness and texture. Ají is later added to become the key flavor ingredient. On the other side you have a boiled chicken breast (this dish uses only the breast) which you later have to "shred", that is you start pulling thin threads with your hand, bit by bit until you end up with a plate of chicken threads. Ají de Gallina is usually served over a bed of potatos, with rice on the side and decorated with hard-boiled egg wedges and a black olive.
The recipe I'm bringing today is a variation (one of many). It includes pecans for a slighter sweeter, more present, flavor.
So here we go:
Ingredients (for 4):
3 slices of white bread
3/4 cup milk
1 chicken breast
2 sticks of celery
1 laurel leaf
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 chopped onion
5 tbsp. minced Green Ají
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
5 tbsp. chopped pecans
4 cooked yellow potatoes*
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 black olives
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
salt & pepper
* A whole chapter (a whole book actually) could be written about potatoes in Peru. Potatoes were one of our biggest contribution to the world and the available varieties are endless. It might be really difficult to get yellow potatoes, I guess you can try to find them, we've been exporting after all. If not you can use another type.
1. Soak the bread in the milk for a few hours (all morning) then blend (with a blender, if possible).
2. Cook the chicken breast by boiling it in water with the celery sticks, laurel leaf, and salt.
3. Let the chicken cool down inside it's broth. When it's cold, shred it by pulling thin threads until all the breast is shredded. Keep the broth!
4. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the minced garlic and onion.
5. After 5 minutes add ají.
6. Cook for 2 more minutes and add the blended bread. Add salt and pepper.
7. Little by little, pour one cup of broth you saved. If you notice the mix too thick, add more broth. Cook for a few minutes, always stirring.
8. Add the chicken threads, parmesan and pecans. Take out of the heat for a while so the ingredients can integrate themselves.
9. Serve over potato slices. Decorate with hard-boiled egg wedges and olives.
10. You can sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.
Try it and let us know how it went :)
Next time I will talk a bit more about potatoes and bring another key dish in Criollan Food: Papa a la huancaína.