2000s Recipes + Menus

Chicken in Chile Sauce (Aji de Gallina)

  • Active time:45 min
  • Start to finish:1 1/4 hr
May 2009
Comfort food, Peruvian style. The chile sauce’s brilliant yellow hue comes from a pinch of turmeric, as well as bottled ají amarillo paste, which also lends a fruity heat. It is thickened with bread and walnuts (a tasty trick for stretching foods to feed many mouths) and blended to a satiny smoothness. Although Peruvian cooks usually shred the chicken and add it directly to the sauce, we like the elegance of serving the roast chicken breasts on top of the sauce and passing extra around in a gravy boat.
  • 8 quail eggs (optional)
  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons bottled ají amarillo or ají mirasol paste (sometimes labeled “crema”)
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (1 1/2 oz)
  • 8 small chicken breast halves with skin and bone (5 1/2 lb total)
  • Accompaniment:

  • Garnish:

    pitted black Peruvian or Kalamata olives, halved; lime wedges (preferably Key limes)
  • Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
  • If using quail eggs, cover with cold water in a very small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, 5 minutes. Rinse eggs under cold water to stop cooking, then peel.
  • Soak bread in milk until softened, then mash with a fork.
  • Cook onion and garlic in 1 1/2 Tbsp oil with turmeric and 1/4 tsp salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in chile paste and bread mixture and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in broth and cheese and simmer 1 minute. Carefully transfer to a blender with walnuts and blend until very smooth, about 1 minute (use caution when blending hot liquids). Transfer sauce to a medium saucepan and keep warm, covered, over very low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Pat chicken dry, then season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then brown half of chicken, skin side down first, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Transfer, skin side up, to a 4-sided sheet pan. Pour off oil from skillet and wipe clean, then brown remaining chicken in remaining Tbsp oil in same manner.
  • Roast chicken in oven until just cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  • Halve quail eggs lengthwise.
  • Spoon some of sauce onto a large platter, then arrange chicken on top. Garnish with quail eggs and serve with remaining sauce on the side.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Quail eggs can be cooked 1 day ahead; chill until cold, then peel and keep chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled (covered once cool). Reheat before serving.
  • We've also got a Web-exclusive recipe using the leftover ají amarillo or ají mirasol paste.
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