Ever since the closure of Mirasol, Vancouver's tiny bastion of delicious Peruvian food just off Main Street, I have lamented my inability to dine on Aji de Gallina - a dish of shredded chicken in a marvelous, lightly spicy sauce of mirasol peppers, milk, bread, and cheese.
I had, of course, ever since I first tried the dish, been keeping an eye out for a likely recipe to try. One exceedingly disappointing attempt later, I had given up the notion pending a supply of the proper kind of pepper - and I had started to give up on ever finding them up here.
I kept an eye peeled for a likelier-looking recipe than the one that I had worked from previously, since I seldom take a second stab at a second-rate version unless I can pinpoint where, in fact, I went wrong as opposed to the general crumminess of the recipe. I've seen recipes for Aji de Gallina that call for carrots, jalapenos and saffron, that start with the boiling of an entire chicken, that call for evaporated milk or an entire cup of parmesan cheese, many of which feature bewildering directions. I have shunned them all.
So, of course, I was delighted when Cesar posted a recipe on (Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t. I bookmarked it, and told myself that I would find a way to make it. A few months have passed since then, but I finally cleared the last hurdle to success: South China Seas on Granville Island Market has begun to stock not only dried aji amarillo/mirasol chiles, but jarred ones, and even a sauce made from these coveted yellow peppers. We decided on the jarred ones (cured in a sort of brine, but not pickled, per se). I nabbed a double-breast of chicken from the poultry shop, and we hurried home to put Cesar's recipe into action.
I confess that I did not follow it precisely - I've neglected the potatoes that should be served on the side, and the black olive garnish for reasons purely of convenience in the moment. Next time, I promise to finish things correctly...and there will be a next time, because this recipe was exactly right. The texture, the flavour, the colour - all completely dead-on with my memory of the dish from the many times I've had it at the restaurant.
I used ground almonds, instead of chopped pecans, because they were what I had available. I used whole brined peppers, rinsed, de-seeded and pureed in the mini-prep. I used sourdough bread from my local Greek bakery. None of these things detracted from the feeling of triumph of re-creating a dish that I fully expected I would never again get to eat in this town.
Now, I must bend my attention to chicha morada...