Ají de Gallina
(Peruvian spicy chicken in a creamy yellow pepper sauce)
This hearty chicken dish gets its enticingly yellow hue from the spicy ají amarillo chile pepper, one of the must-have ingredients of Peruvian cuisine. The heat of the peppers is softened by a liberal dose of evaporated milk or cream.
4 to 6 servings
- Chicken breast, boneless, skinless -- 2 pounds
- Water or stock -- 3 cups
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Onion, finely chopped -- 1
- Ají amarillo chile peppers, finely chopped (see variations) -- 2 or 3
- Garlic, minced -- 1 or 2 cloves
- Fresh bread crumbs (see notes) -- 1 cup
- Evaporated milk or cream -- 1 cup
- Walnuts, ground -- 1/2 cup
- Parmesan, grated -- 1/2 cup
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Put the chicken, water or stock, salt and pepper to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the chicken, reserving the broth. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with your fingers. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium flame. Add the onion and ají peppers and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the shredded chicken back to the pot, along with the breadcrumbs and evaporated milk or cream and enough of the reserved stock enough to give it a nice saucy consistency. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir in the walnuts, Parmesan cheese. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes, adding more of the remaining broth as needed to make a nice sauce. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot over rice or boiled potatoes (or both!). For a typical garnish, top portions with sliced hard-boiled eggs and pitted black olives.
Ají de Gallina Variations
- To Make Fresh Breadcrumbs: Trim the crust from 4 or 5 slices of fresh bread, then put into a food processor and pulse to make crumbs.
- Add a chunk of onion, a stalk of celery, a small carrot and a bay leaf to the simmering chicken for a more flavorful stock.
- Fresh ají peppers can be hard to find. Latin markets often carry them frozen or canned. You can also buy ají pepper paste, dried whole or ground powder. Adjust the amount you use to your taste. If you can't find ají in any form, substitute fresh jalapeño peppers and add 2 teaspoons of turmeric for color.
- A cup of pisco brandy is sometimes stirred into the simmering sauce for adults-only flavor.