The signature flavor of Aji de Gallina (“hen chili”) comes from aji amarillo peppers (Capsicum baccatum), which are prevalent in Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. Fiercely spicy and naturally yellow, this pepper is eaten fresh (or in paste form) in Peru, like in today’s recipe, but they are often dried in Bolivia. Aji amarillo pastes can be found online or in your local Latin grocery, but can also be (somewhat) replicated using more conventional ingredients (more on that in the notes below).
This dish uses a unique mixture of New World and Old World ingredients. The aji amarillo paste and potatoes are native to the Americas, while the others — chicken, walnuts (to thicken the sauce), olives, milk, and parmesan cheese are all Old World staples introduced after the 15th century.
Aji de Gallina - Peruvian Creamed Chicken (Gluten-free, Primal)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ lbs total)
1 lbs small waxy potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tbsp olive oil or butter
½ cup shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp aji amarillo paste (or 1 yellow bell pepper plus 1 spicy chile pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped — see note below)
½ tsp ground turmeric (optional, increases yellow color)
½ tsp salt, more to taste
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
black olives to serve
hard boiled eggs to serve
fresh chopped parsley to garnish
1. Place the chicken in a stockpot and fill with enough salted water to just cover the meat, about 4 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside to cool; strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.
2. As the chicken simmers, add the potatoes to another stockpot and fill with enough salted water to cover the potatoes by 1”. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the walnuts and briefly sauté until golden brown, about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 6 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Transfer the onion, garlic, walnuts, aji amarillo paste, turmeric, salt, and 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth to a high-speed blender and blend at high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
4. Wipe the skillet clean then return the blended sauce to skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. As the sauce simmers, shred the chicken and set aside.
5. Slowly stir the milk into the sauce using a whisk. Heat the sauce until just simmering, about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching; add chicken broth as needed to ensure the sauce is the consistency of gravy. Once the sauce is simmering, stir in the parmesan cheese and shredded chicken and remove from heat. Season with salt to taste.
6. Distribute the potatoes onto four plates, then pour the sauce over the potatoes. Serve accompanied with black olives and hard boiled eggs, and garnished with parsley.
*** Aji amarillo paste is sharply spicy, and provides the brunt of this dish’s distinctive yellow color (ground turmeric does the rest). It is commonly available in most hispanic markets and online; in a pinch, a whole yellow bell pepper will help provide the color, plus a spicy chile pepper to round out Aji de Gallina’s signature spicy flavor.