I recently had the pleasure to experience the uniquely flavored Colombian style soup, Ajiaco with Alicia for the Blue Bell magazine monthly food feature.
Ajiaco, whose base is a chicken and broth soup imparts most of its distinctive flavor in the later addition of guascas, the antioxidant packed dried herb which in its fresh form is also considered both a weed and a leafy green commonly served as a vegetable in Colombian meals.
Since Alicia has not yet found guascas readily available at any local or ethnic markets she purchases the Kiska brand package through Amazon.
Traditionally, Ajiaco is served alongside a bowl of capers with either heavy cream or sour cream but the ingredients that provide the soups natural thickening include the use of 3 types of potatoes, and in the final simmering, the starchy ears of corn which add a lively color combination between the green guascas speckles and the addition of some finely chopped scallions that Alicia sprinkles in for a little extra crunch.
Ajiaco is a considered a Colombian comfort food and is often served on weekends and holidays including in Alicia’s home where this soup reminiscent of her heritage is a real family favorite. With a fresh steaming pot hot off the stove we took a quick photo shot including Alicia’s son. But just to note, there was an athletic teenage cheerleader daughter waiting in the wings to ladle up a big bowlful. I can’t blame her. I’d be waiting in the wings too, any season of the year for a steaming hot bowl of this uniquely distinctive flavor. Could you please pass the capers and cream?
1 hour, 20 minutes
1 hour, 40 minutes
3 chicken breasts, skin removed
12 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 whole cilantro stems tied with kitchen string
4 whole scallions tied with kitchen string plus 3 scallions finely chopped
few pinches salt, or more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
2 cups yellow potatoes, cubed
3 medium white potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup guascas (the chopped dried herb may be purchased online through Amazon, Alicia purchases the Kiska brand)
3 fresh ears of yellow corn cut into thirds or 6 frozen corn on the cob pieces
1 cup capers for serving
1 cup heavy cream
In a large soup pot, set in the chicken, chicken bouillon, whole cilantro stems, whole scallions and garlic. Add the water and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for around 35-40 minutes until chicken is cooked and tender, remove the cooked chicken and set aside. Add in the yellow, white, and red potatoes along with the guascas. Simmer for thirty minutes then add in the corn pieces and cook another thirty minutes. Remove the bunch of cilantro stems and scallions. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper, stir, check seasoning and adjust to taste. Add in the chopped scallions. Cut the cooked chicken into small bite sized pieces and return to the pot. Serve the Ajiaco hot in soup bowls with heavy cream and capers on the side.