[This is a post we ran last year at this time when the weather turned. Well, the weather just turned here in NY and we're making this soup tonight. If you're chilly, you might want to try it along with me.]
Here's a soup for crisp cool dinners and lunches, too. Ajiaco is a traditional Colombian soup made from chicken and potatoes and an herb called Guascas. It's often made with three varieties of potatoes, as well as corn. In the interest of lightness, this adaptation uses two kinds of potatoes, and offers corn as an optional seasonal addition.
Adapted from Hector Varela's Recipe
makes 8-10 servings
2 large chicken breasts on the bone, skin intact
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 pounds small yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
3 ears-worth of corn kernels (if in season)
1 1/2 pounds red (new) potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 bunch cilantro, with stems, washed very well and tied with twine
1 bunch green onions, washed and tied with twine
2 tablespoons guascas*
1/2 cup sour cream, crème fraîche or Crema Mexicana
2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
The night before, marinate the chicken breasts with garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a ceramic dish.
When ready to cook, put the chicken (with the marinating bits) in a heavy 4 liter casserole, such as the Chambaware pot (the traditional ajiaco vessel) and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer, cooking until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Cut or tear the chicken breasts into bite-size strips.
Over medium heat with the lid on the pot, cook the yellow potatoes in the remaining liquid until they start to disintegrate. At this point the soup should be thick and fairly smooth.
Add the bunch of scallions, the bunch of cilantro, the red potatoes, the guascas, and the optional corn. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, but not overcooked. Remove the cilantro and scallions and add the chicken. Simmer another few minutes.
Serve with a dollop of cream, a small spoonful of chopped capers and a few thin slices of avocado floating on the top of the soup.
*According to Colombians, you need to use guascas if you want to call your soup Ajiaco because it gives the soup its characteristic grassy flavor. Most Latin-American markets carry this herb, under the Kiska brand. You can also find it online at stores like Amigo Foods and TIFCO.