If there’s a Peruvian dish that I love with my whole heart is ají de gallina. It’s a comforting chicken dish that I must’ve eaten a thousand times at home back in Lima. The flavour of the yellow chili and panca chili make this an extraordinary dish.
I’ve prepared this recipe tons of times now and I’m pretty sure I’ve changed the recipe somehow from the original I’m just not sure how, lol. Still the smell and taste gives takes me back to childhood memories from Perú. Also, this recipe is great for making lasagnas! You make layers of pasta, bechamel sauce, ají de gallina and finish it with a bit of bechamel sauce and parmesan and it goes straight in the oven. Delicious!
I use yellow chili and panca chili in my recipe, which gives it that almost tomato-y colour. I know that ají de gallina recipes change from home to home and even from restaurant to restaurant. The idea behind sharing this recipe with you guys is that you use it like it is or maybe you already have a recipe you like and might want to take a few tips from mine.
Yellow chili paste
Yellow chili is a Peruvian chili that isn’t extremely spicy and it’s full of flavour. That’s why we use it in tons of preparations. To make this chili paste I remove the top, open it down the center and remove the seeds and veins. Then I boil it starting from cold water for 20min or until I can peel away the skin with my hands. I wait for it to cool down, peel it and take it to a blender with just enough water (not the one from the pot, it’s spicy!) to blend it. The minimum you need to make a bit of paste I would say is 6 chilis. Less that that your blender will have difficulties blending. If you don’t live in Latin America chances are you’re going to get the paste directly. This means that is will be spicy (the home-made one isn’t at all spicy) but the final product still won’t be spicy-spicy, only a bit that’s actually nice.
You can freeze this paste and it lasts up to 6 months. I recommend that you freeze it in a container lined with cling film. Once hard, take it out, remove the cling film and chop into cubes. This way you can re-freeze in a bag or container and take only what you need when you’re cooking.
Panca chili paste
Panca chili is another chili that we have in Perú and is sold dried. If you find it this way and you want to make your own paste then you need to soak them overnight and then remove the top and seeds. Blend it with a bit of water just like with the yellow chili. Outside of Latin America you find it as a paste and also as a powder. They both work for this recipe and if you’re using powder you want to use 1 teaspoon for every tablespoon I use. You can also freeze this paste for up to 6 months.
For the chicken stock
- 1 large carrot (200g)
- 1 large celery stalk (200g)
- 1/2 large yellow onion (200g)
- 2 bayleaves
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 bone from chicken breasts
- 3 l water at room temperature
For the ají de gallina
- 5 slices of white bread without crust
- 1 l stock from above
- 1 tsp vegetable oil for cooking
- 1/2 red onion (150g), finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, grated, blended or minced
- 2 tbsp yellow chili paste
- 2 tbsp panca chili paste or 2 tsp ground panca
- 230 ml evaporated milk (about 1 cup)
- 20 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
- long grain rice
- purple olives
- boiled potatoes
- 1 hard-boiled egg per person
For the chicken stock
- Pu everything in a pot on medium-low heat and count 1 hour from the time it breaks into a boil.
- Control that it doesn't simmer too hard or the chicken will go tough.
- Remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat.
- Pass the stock through a sieve and keep 1 litre from it for the ají de gallina.
For the ají de gallina
- Toast the bread and cut in cubes.
- Put the bread along with the stock in a blender and blend. The stock should be hot to dissolve the bread.
- Cook the onion in a pot with vegetable oil on medium heat until it goes translucent, soft and doesn't smell strong anymore.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
- Add the chili pastes and wait for it to thicken. You will notice that the paste starts to separate from the oil.
- Add the bread and stock blend along with the evaporated milk and simmer until the volume has reduces by half. Stir every once in a while because it tends to stick to the bottom.
- Add the chicken and parmesan cheese and mix.
- Correct the level of salt and pepper and serve with rice, potatoes, olives and hard-boiled eggs.