Ajiaco / Colombian Chicken Stew
Alright, let’s skip the mandatory “I can’t believe it’s January already and I haven’t updated this thing since the summer” and get to the food. People, this soup is amazing. It’s a hearty potato and chicken stew. The potatoes break down and add a thickness to the broth that makes it creamy and filling. Ajiaco is served with a lot of special garnishes (limes, avocados, capers, cilantro and salty sour cream) that add depth of flavor, but any of them can be omitted if you don’t like the flavor. As I have mentioned before, I am focusing on Colombian recipes because my husband, Elias, is from Colombia and dearly misses the food from home. I’m proud to say that this recipe is one of Elias’s favorites. He raves about this dish and claims it is authentic in its flavor. I can not say the same for all the other recipes I’ve tried. You can be sure, however, that once a recipe makes it to this blog it’s been tested and approved by at least on Colombian!
A few things that must be noted before I get on with the recipe
- Special ingredients: Two ingredients that are essential to this soup but hard to come by in the US are guascas and papa criolla. Guascas are the herb that gives this soup its distinctive flavor. There’s no substitute that will make the soup the same, so figure out how to get yourself some guascas. I get mine at a Colombian grocery store in Chicago or online. Guascas online can be found at Amigo foods here or via Amazon.com (also coming from Amigo foods) here. Next the papa criolla. Papa criolla is a small yellow potato that can be found in Colombia or purchased in Colombian stores in the US (either frozen or jarred.) I have found that using ordinary russet or yukon gold potatoes in the soup base and then blending them and returning them to the pot adds the thickness one is looking for without the papa criolla. It works just as well, skips the expense and hassle of getting the papa criolla and it relies on fresh ingredients.
- This recipe was devised by taking elements from this recipe from Simply Recipes, this recipe from My Colombian Recipes, and through my own trial and error. Ajiaco is like a lot of recipes in that everyone’s grandma has their own version, and so there are a lot of variations. This variation works for us, but by all means, read through other recipes and put your own spin on it. It’s very flexible.
- Note: This soup requires a giant pot! Everything is made in the same pot and there’s a lot of it. I suppose the recipe could be halved, but I figure if I’m going to invest the time and energy on the soup, I might as well make a lot of it. It heats up extremely well for several days.
- Finally, the secret to making this recipe delicious is to cook it for a long time on low heat. It gives the potatoes a chance to soften and partially dissolve before blending, and it gives time for the flavors to combine.
Ajiaco / Colombian Chicken Stew, 10 generous servings
3 pounds chicken legs and thighs, skin removed or 2 pounds boneless skinless breasts
1 quart chicken stock (homemade or low sodium purchased)
1 1/2 quarts water
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound peeled and diced Russet potatoes (can substitute Yukon Gold)
2 pounds baby potatoes (I use a combination of white red and purple, but any are fine)
2-3 ears corn on the cob, fresh if available, cut in to 2 inch round
1 T cumin powder
1/3 cup guascas
4 cloves minced garlic
salt 1 1/2 tsp, more to taste
avocado, peeled and cubed
sour cream, thinned with a little water and mixed with salt (or heavy cream)
1. Put chicken, water, stock, chopped Russet potato, onion and garlic in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to medium. Add cumin and salt. Simmer over medium until chicken is tender and falling off the bone. (About 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes).
2. Remove chicken and set aside. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender) blend the soup base.
3. Bring blended soup back to medium-low heat. Add small potatoes, corn, and guascas. Cook slow and low until potatoes are tender (about 30 minutes). While soup is cooking, shred the reserved chicken.
4. Add chicken back to pot and continue simmering until chicken is warmed through. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve with garnishes and white rice.