Ají de Gallina is one of the first Peruvian recipes that picky North American eaters fall in love with. To put it simply, it is shredded chicken served in a mildly spicy, nutty sauce with a side of white rice. The dish’s origins date back to the Vice Royalty, around the time of the French Revolution. Some historians have stated that French chefs who lost their positions as private chefs with aristocratic families in France during the revolution traveled to the new world to work for wealthy criollo families in newly rich Lima and helped develop Ají de Gallina using the local ingredients they encountered. Apart from oral legend there’s no actual record of this occurring, though the story sounds nice and plausible. Today the dish is one of the most widely served in the country. Traditionally, non-egg laying hens were used instead of chicken, though today chicken is almost universally used.
- 1 large Chicken (or Hen)
- 2 lb of boiled Potatoes
- 8 finely chopped cloves of Garlic
- 1 Celery Stalk
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Carrot, diced
- 2 Onions, diced
- 4 tbs of fresh ground Ají Amarillo
- 6 slices of White Bread Soaked in Milk (approximately ¾ cup)
- 2 tbs ground Pecans
- 2 tbs ground Queso Fresco
- 10 Kalamata Olives, pitted
- 3 hardboiled Eggs
- ¼ cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 tbs chopped Parsley
- Place chicken in large pot with celery, bay leaf, carrot and salt. Cover with hot water.
- Bring to a boil and cook until tender. (Chicken will take 35 minutes, while Hen will take about 45 minutes).
- Remove the chicken from the pot and shred by hand when it cools. Save about ½ cup broth from the pan.
- In a separate pan sauté garlic, onion, pepper and aji until the onion is cooked.
- Add bread soaked in milk and stir. Add broth. If necessary add milk to reach the desired consistency.
- Add the shredded chicken, salt and ground pecans.
- Place mixture in the center of platter and decorate with potatoes cut in halves. Sprinkle with queso fresco. Garnish with olives, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and parsley. Serve with white rice.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.