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Ajiaco (Colombian Chicken Soup)

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Serves eight.

This hearty soup is a specialty of the mountainous region around Bogotá, and one of Colombia's most famous dishes. Aji is traditionally made with chiles that haven’t been seeded, but you’ll probably find it plenty spicy without the seeds. Leftover aji is delicious on roasted or grilled meats.

For the soup:
  • 3 lb. cut-up chicken, skin removed, rinsed well
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), cut into 1-inch rings, and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 ears fresh corn, cut crosswise into quarters
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 lb. Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 lb. small red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
For the aji:
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled and seeded
  • 1 small white onion, peeled
  • 2 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles or 2 fresh hot red chiles, stems and seeds removed (wear gloves, and don’t touch your eyes)
  • 3 Tbs. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
For the garnishes:
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup nonpareil or other small capers, rinsed and drained (if using large capers, chop them coarsely)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Make the soup:

Put the chicken in a large (at least 8-quart) stockpot and add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, frequently skimming off the foam that floats to the surface.

Add all the vegetables, the garlic, the cilantro, and the bouillon cubes to the pot, along with the salt and pepper. Stir a few times to distribute the vegetables and submerge as many of the solids as possible. When the broth returns to a gentle boil, partially cover the pot and simmer, stirring once or twice, for 1-1/2 hours. Taste for salt and add more if needed.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, pick out the chicken pieces and put them on a large plate. Stir the soup with a large spoon, breaking up some of the potatoes to thicken the soup slightly. Keep hot if serving soon or let cool and refrigerate.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and shred it by hand. Discard the bones and tendons, and put the shredded chicken in a serving bowl.

Make the aji:

In a food processor, pulse all the aji ingredients until they’re finely minced. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Serve the ajiaco:

Put the avocados, sour cream or creme fraiche, capers and cilantro leaves in small bowls and set them on the table along with the bowls of shredded chicken and the aji. Reheat the soup if necessay and ladle it into large soup bowls, putting a quater ear of corn in each bowl. Let your guests add the garnishes and the aji as they like.

Make Ahead Tips

The soup and the aji can be made a day ahead. If the soup is too thick after it’s reheated, thin it with a little water.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 440; Fat (g): fat g 19; Fat Calories (kcal): 170; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 6; Protein (g): protein g 26; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 46; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1300; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 70; Fiber (g): fiber g 8;

this soup is fantastic!! The broth is very flavorful and the aji is a perfect addition! But my favorite burst of flavor is from the addition of the capers! Oh My!!! I didn't have all the ingredients on hand for the toppings except for capers but it worked out just fine. I also added parsnips with the potatoes and it gave it a very welcome sweet touch. Will pass this along to friends... worth making this recipe a family staple! Thanks!!

One of the best soups I've ever encountered! The garnishes are excellent, don't skip even one, especially the capers. Biting into a caper with some of this soup is a tasty explosion of flavor! The only thing I did different, was to use chicken broth instead of water, for more flavor. Also did not use a whole chicken, just legs and thighs. It was a little too potato heavy for us, so next time I'll up the veggies and cut back on the potato. You have to try this soup! It will be repeated often at our house.

This soup is absolutely "out of this world" delicious, even without all of the garnishes. It's pretty much foolproof. It's definitely a keeper for years to come.

Delicious! Flavorful, easy, and affordable.

This is my favorite soup! I love blending of flavors as the bite of the salsa meets the richness of the creme fraiche. The chunks of corn are a wonderful touch and the broth of the soup has an incredible flavor. I The salsa is also shocking good on a baked macaroni and cheese.

This is amazing! I will definitely make it again and again.

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