Ajiaco Santafereño

Maybe it was because of Mother’s Day, but for some reason I felt the urge to cook something Colombian today.  I scrolled through a cookbook my mom brought back for me from Colombia to get some inspiration on what to make.  My first choice was sancocho Antioqueño, which my grandmother would make from time to time, but the ingredient list is too big and for a soup it is extremely heavy.  I ran across a recipe for Ajiaco Santafereño, a chicken and potato soup from Bogotá which is simple and delicious, so I decided to make Ajiaco for dinner.  While browsing through my book “La Cocina Colombiana Paso a Paso” I had an epiphany moment regarding Colombian  food.  When compared to other Latin American cuisines like Peruvian and Mexican, Colombian food seems overly simple and bland.  I’ve always appreciated Colombian food and it has always had a comfort food quality to me.  I chalked this up to the fact that I grew up eating Colombian food, but felt that someone unfamiliar with the cuisine would find it bland and boring.  The two most celebrated cuisines in the gastronomic world are Italian and French.  Both of these cuisines are known for their purity of flavors and simplicity.  Neither are dependent on heavy spices or over the top flavors.  This is exactly what Colombian cuisine is all about, a few ingredients that compliment each other and enhance the star ingredient.  Ajiaco has an uncanny resemblance to a French dish called Poule au Pot.  For the Ajiaco the ingredients are as follows: chicken, potatoes (traditionally up to five different types of Andean potatoes are used), corn, onion, garlic, scallion, cilantro, oregano (traditionally a herb called guasca is used, but oregano makes a good substitute) and chicken bouillon (don’t try to substitute chicken stock).

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Place the chicken, onion, garlic, scallion, cilantro and oregano in a pot and cover with water. Add some sea salt, pepper and bring to a simmer.

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Once the chicken breasts are cooked through, remove them from the pot and pull them into strips.

Add the potatoes, then the corn and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Remove from the heat and add the chicken breast.

To serve, garnish with sliced scallion and some cilantro sprigs.

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Serve with rice, avocado, crema and capers.  Put on some Carlos Vives and enjoy!

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