Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ají de Gallina

I am beginning to wrap up my time in Peru but that means it is time to ramp up my cooking adventures! Today was my host dad's birthday and so we had the extended family over to the house for lunch. Since there were lots of people coming over to the house Lucy and I cooked all throughout the morning in order to prepare a delicious lunch for the family! Today we prepared Ají de Gallina which is a very common Peruvian dish. Besides the Ají de Gallina we also prepared a vegetable soup, rice, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, pudding, and a emolliente beverage. Since I am a big ají lover, and I always eat chicken, this was a great dish for me to learn! 

I did some quick research about the origins of Ají de Gallina and it looks as though it comes from a mixture of Peruvian and French influence. The roots are said to come from after the French Revolution when many chefs were trying to find work and some ended up in Peru working for wealthy Criollo families. Since the French did not have the same spices and ingredients they used their knowledge to fix up meals using traditional Peruvian ingredients. One thing that emerged from these chefs was Ají de Gallina, a meal mixing the popular ají pepper from Peru and the French influence of garlic, cheese, and olives. 

In this blog entry I am going to share with you how to prepare the main course of the meal which was the Ají de Gallina. First of all you will need a blender, rice cooker (or a large pot to cook rice), a large cooking pot, a medium/large cooking pot, and a crock pot if you have one. Also you will need the following ingredients:

  • 4/5 chicken breasts (about 1.5-1.75 lbs.)
  • 6 ají peppers
  • 3 potatoes (often times Peruvians use yellow potatoes but use what you enjoy)
  • 3 eggs
  • Rice for 6
  • 1/2 loaf of wonder bread (or 6 unsweetened rolls)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 can of evaporated milk (this is about 400 grams or 1 cup)
  • 4 tbsp. grated parmesan 
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • Olives
First off if you have a crock pot I would suggest putting the chicken breasts in the crock pot in the morning and leave them there till you are ready for dinner. Overall you want your chicken cooked so that it can be shredded so for me this would be the easiest way. If you don't have time to wait for you chicken to cook in the crock pot then you can boil the chicken until it is cooked to the point that you can shred it with your fingers. Then once the chicken is ready you will put it to the side and prepare the rest of the dish. 
Boiled chicken
Next you will want to start preparing 3 potatoes in a medium sized cooking pot. Depending on how long your potatoes normally take to cook you can also put 3 eggs in the pot to prepare boiled eggs at the same time in order to reduce the number of pots and pans needed. Generally when eating this dish each person gets a half of a potato and half of a boiled egg so for this reason I am saying three of each because this recipe should cook for about six. If you like your eggs and potatoes than go ahead and prepare one for each person. At the same time as the potatoes and eggs are cooking you should start cooking rice for 6 people as well. 
Boiling the yellow potatoes 
As your rice, potatoes and eggs are cooking start to prepare your sauce by turning your burner on high and mixing the oil, garlic paste, and pepper. Let these ingredients cook for a minute or two while preparing your ají. You will need to wash, slice, and deseed your ají and put them in the blender with about 1/4 a cup of water. Rather then using fresh water use some of the broth from the chicken in order to enhance the taste. Once your broth and ají are in the blender mix well for about 30 seconds and then add the mixture in with the oil, garlic, and pepper. Continue to mix these ingredients until most of the water has evaporated and then you will add the next ingredients. 
Ají peppers
Most of the moisture is gone so time to add the bread mixture.
Once most of the water has evaporated you will need to add your bread mixture. Since you will need to blend your bread it is better if you soak the bread in water first and then wring out the water before adding the bread into the blender. Once you have done so put the bread in the blender and add 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth, from the pot with your chicken, into the blender and mix well. You may need to do this in two batches, thus use up to one cup of broth per time. Once your mixture is well blended add it to the ají sauce. 
Bread dipped in water and wrung out and ready to go in the blender.
Continue to stir the ají and bread mixture for 15-20 minutes and then add your salt and evaporated milk. Again you will stir the mixture for about 5 minutes and then take the pot off the heat and add in the parmesan cheese. 
Adding evaporated milk.
Adding parmesan cheese.
Next you will need to chop up your pecans and add them into the sauce as well. 
Mixing in the chopped pecans.
Finally shred your chicken and add it into the mixture and stir everything together. 
Stirring in the shredded chicken. 
To serve give each person a portion of rice, half or whole egg and potato, and then put your ají sauce over top of your rice. If you like olives you can also add an olive to each place. 

When you are all done serve to your family, friends, or whoever is nearby and watch as their faces light up as they eat your delicious Ají de Gallina! 

Well I hope you enjoyed this recipe and I hope you will share it with your friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other social media sites you use. If you do make this dish please put a photo of your final plate on the Facebook page for everyone to see! Also if you are currently abroad studying in another country and would like to submit a blog entry please leave a comment below or on the Facebook page so I can get in contact with you! Thanks again and enjoy your culinary adventures! 


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