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A Peruvian Classic // Aji de Gallina

 

If the short ribs I posted earlier this week elicit romance, opulence, and proper decorum, then ají de gallina resides on the opposite spectrum for when I eat this, I want nothing more than to cozy up in my favorite, most slouchiest pajama bottoms and go at this with a ravenous, no-holds-bar hunger that I’m certain is terribly unattractive, disheveled and wide-eyed as I appear. I have my reasons for looking so savage, I can assure you.

*growls, hunkering down over my plate*

Oh, how can I explain this to you. Ají de gallina to Peruvians is like macaroni and cheese to Americans. It is the ultimate in home-cooked, ooey, gooey, cheesy, slop-it-on-my-plate-and-just-let-me-eat-it-now comfort food. You don’t mull over this. You inhale it.

Ají de gallina is a creamy, spicy, chicken stew. Or, as the child of one of my clients’ so aptly calls it: chicken goop. She is not wrong. The chicken, once shredded, is left to simmer in the peppery ají amarillo sauce until thickened. Ladled over white rice, it is a mound of gooey chickenstuff. But, as with many things, this is so much more than it appears.

The suppleness from the rotisserie chicken with the etherealness of the creamy, piquant sauce intertwine so harmoniously together the mouthfeel is something I find tremendously pleasing. The blanket of rice offers a nice toothsome quality to each bite, and the egg delivers an extra dose of heavenly awesomeness.

As I write this, I am overjoyed at the promise of eating this for dinner. And I can say with total confidence that I will wake up tomorrow morning, brighter-eyed and more bushier-tailed than normal because I’ll know what awaits me for breakfast. No, I don’t play by the rules.

 

 

 

// Ají de gallina

 

Ají amarillo peppers can be found in Latin American grocery stores– I favor using the bagged, frozen kind, but if you can’t find those, try using the ones found whole and jarred; just rinse them before using. These peppers aren’t super spicy so I like to use at least the seeds of one whole ají, but if you’d rather not use seeds at all that is an option, too. I also can’t stress enough the importance of using the juice from the rotisserie chicken– there is so much flavor there it would be blasphemy not to. 

 

Serves 6

 

1 rotisserie or roasted chicken, skinned and shredded; juices reserved

1/4 cup canola oil

4 tablespoons good butter, like Kerrygold

1 large yellow onion (use regular, not sweet), chopped

3 fat garlic cloves, chopped

3 ají amarillo peppers; 2 seeded, 1 whole with seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup walnuts

5 slices white sandwich bread, crust removed and torn into little pieces

3/4 cup chicken stock (made with reserved juices + a good chicken stock base, like Better than Bouillon)

1 cup evaporated milk

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Steamed white rice, to serve

6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered, to serve

 

// Set a medium frypan on the stove and turn up the heat to medium-high. To this, add the canola oil, butter, onion, garlic, ají amarillo, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and everything smells unbelievably fragrant; about 7 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.

Toss the walnuts into a blender. Add in the onion and ají amarillo mixture, the torn bread pieces, and then pour the chicken stock over the bread to absorb. Blend this until totally smooth.

Pour this lovely, intoxicating sauce to a large saucepot and add the evaporated milk. Turn on the heat to medium-low and let this come to a slight simmer. Mix in the Parmesan cheese. Tumble in the shredded chicken and let everything thicken slightly; just a few minutes.

Serve this over white rice and top with sliced, hard-boiled eggs. Enjoy, amigos. This is the ultimate in Peruvian comfort food.

 

 

// More Peruvian comfort food type things

 

Peruvian-style pesto with spaghetti and albondigas

Butifarra sandwich– braised pork shoulder sandwich with red onion relish 

Chupe de camarones — spicy, shrimp soup

 

 

 

Chile and coconut-braised short ribs + creamy polenta

 

If you asked me what the perfect, most-romantic, make-my-heart-go-aflutter meal looks like, it would be this. Sumptuous short ribs, braised for hours in a coconut and chile infused sauce and perched atop a blanket of soft polenta is exactly what my mouth craves on cold, winter evenings. Paired with a bold, full-bodied glass of red wine it is absolute perfection.

This is seduction on a plate. I’ve oftentimes made this just for myself to enjoy for several days but it’s even better shared with someone you love. Turn on some sexy music, dim the lights, and celebrate life. Savor every morsel.

 

 

// Chile and coconut-braised short ribs

 

In her original recipe, Melissa Clark uses boneless beef short ribs. I’ve made this using both the boneless and bone-in variety. While they both yield delicious results, I always lean towards bone-in because I love the presentation as well as the boosted flavor and viscosity the bones provide for the sauce. If you opt to use boneless, you need only use 2 pounds of beef short ribs rather than the 3 1/2 pounds I have listed below. 

 

Adapted from Melissa Clark’s recipe in her cookbook: Cook This Now

 

Serves 4-6

 

3 1/2 pounds bone-in, beef short ribs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder (I love to use New Mexico chile powder)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 jalapenos, deveined and deseeded, if desired, and minced (I like to keep about half the seeds)

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 small shallot, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 – 13.5 ounce can coconut milk

Zest and juice of 2 limes

Fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving

 

// Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Season the beef with the salt, chili powder, and black pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the coconut oil. Add the beef and cook until browned on both sides, about 4-6 minutes; you may need to do this in two batches. Add the garlic, jalapenos, ginger, shallot, and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until everything is intoxicatingly fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk, lime zest and juice, and 1/2 cup water; stir. Bring liquid to a simmer, then cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook the meat for an hour and then turn the meat over. Continue to cook for another 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is very tender and begins to just fall off the bone. Serve over creamy polenta and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. Devour with large glass of full-bodied red wine.

 

// Creamy polenta

 

This is my favorite recipe for polenta. It’s luxurious ladled beneath the chile and coconut-braised short ribs, and heavenly for breakfast the next day nestled under buttery, fried eggs. 

 

Adapted from Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes

 

Makes about 6 servings

 

4 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup medium-grain polenta (I love Bob’s Red Mill)

2 tablespoons good butter, like Kerrygold

8 ounces neufchatel cheese, room temperature

 

// In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the water and salt. Let this come to a boil and slowly add the polenta, stirring. Drop in the butter. Stir and lower the heat to a simmer. Let this cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and tumble in the neufchatel cheese; stir into the polenta. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot!

 

 

// Other cozy-up, wintery things

 

Creamy pumpkin and chorizo pasta bake, cheese tortellini, mascarpone-sage sauce, toasted hazelnuts

Chupe de camarones (Peruvian shrimp soup)

Braised green lentils with smoked kielbasa

 

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A Peruvian Classic // Ceviche

Peruvian ceviche

 

Nothing says Peru to me more, than ceviche. It is the quintessential party food for Peruvians. It gives me so much joy to be sharing this recipe with you guys today because it truly is one of my favorites. To me, ceviche is symbolic of family and great moments spent together– things that we will always treasure in life.

Recently, my parents, sister and boyfriend came to visit for Thanksgiving. We spent most of our time in the kitchen of course– cooking, eating, and laughing. There may have also been some dancing involved.

Peruvian ceviche is fish marinated in lime juice and fresh chiles. Since the fish essentially gets cured and cooked from the acid in the lime juice, it’s really important you use the freshest fish you can find. Ceviche can be served with boiled sweet potatoes, Peruvian corn, and lettuce. Today, we opted to use niblets of Peruvian corn that offer a toothsome contrast to the silky softness of the ceviche.

 

Peruvian ceviche

Peruvian ceviche

Peruvian ceviche

 

// Ceviche

 

This is my dad’s original recipe for ceviche, and while I may be biased, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s super simple to make with minimal ingredients but because of that, it is imperative you use only the freshest fish available. Choose your fish from a local monger you trust! We were lucky to have scored a super fresh one from Whole Foods Market for this recipe. 

 

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

 

1 3/4 pounds fresh firm, white fish like walleye, snapper, seabass; skinned

2 garlic cloves, minced

S + P, to taste

 

// Cut fish into thin, bite-size pieces and place in a shallow bowl. Toss with garlic and s + p. Cover with plastic wrap so it sits on the surface of the fish and then place a bag of ice on top. Let this sit on the counter for about 30 minutes.

 

1 medium red onion

4-6 juicy limes

1 serrano chile, seeded and deveined, minced

 

Thinly slice the red onion and put in a small bowl with cold water. Let this sit for about 20-30 minutes; this helps soften the bite of the red onion.

Add the lime juice and serrano chile to the fish; toss gently. You want enough lime juice so that the fish is submerged. Let this sit for another 20-25 minutes or until the fish is opaque (which means it has been “cooked” from the acid of the lime juice). Taste for seasoning.

To serve, top with red onion slices and open up a cold one! This is the perfect appetizer to kickstart a small get-together!

 

 

Peruvian ceviche

 

// More Peruvian party appetizer foodstuffs

 

Choros a la chalaca — mussels with jalapeno and corn salsa

Fried wontons stuffed with shrimp and pork

Chicken drumsticks with spicy aji amarillo dipping sauce

 

 

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Maple sheet cake, Miss Jones Baking Co. + a Bake-it-Better Challenge

Maple sheet cake

 

There is something about the late, cooler months that reignites my desire to spend afternoons baking. The measured and methodical approach oftentimes associated with baking can be therapeutic and encourages me to slow down and breathe– a very important thing to do as we near the craziness of the holidays. Sifting, whisking, frosting are all great fun but let’s be honest and say our favorite part about baking is licking the batter off the spatula.

 

As pleasurable and satisfying as it is to bake something from scratch, I often seek ways to streamline recipes not only to make them approachable but also to simplify my life. And that’s where Miss Jones Baking Co. comes in. I was thrilled to find their products and even more so knowing they are from my hometown, The Bay Area.

 

Miss Jones Baking Co. cake mix and frosting

 

Miss Jones Baking Co. cake mix and frosting are certified organic, non-GMO, plant-based, responsibly sourced, and contains no artificial colors or flavors. [yusss!!!]

Miss Jones Baking Co. is hosting a Bake-it-Better Challenge this holiday season and will donate $1 to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank for each entry into the contest. Once you submit your entry, you are eligible for the Grand Prize of over $1,000! Plus, the more treats you showcase, the more chances you have to win. Check out their contest page for the whole scoop.

 

Maple sheet cake

 

This maple sheet cake is a little slice of heaven and ridiculously easy to throw together. To the vanilla cake mix, I added cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger for warmth and spice. Instead of regular milk, I used evaporated milk for delectable richness. I dribbled in some maple extract to the vanilla frosting, spread it lavishly over the cake and scattered chopped chocolate toffee pieces on top. This tastes like a maple doughnut but better because sticky cake and toffee. So good.

 

Maple sheet cake

 

// Maple sheet cake

 

Serves 8-10

 

1 box of Miss Jones Baking Co. vanilla cake mix

3 extra large eggs

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

1 container of Miss Jones Baking Co. vanilla frosting

1 teaspoon maple extract

 

Chocolate toffee candy, chopped roughly

 

// Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 rectangular cake pan and put a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom with overhang on the sides.

In a large bowl, combine Miss Jones. Baking Co. vanilla cake mix, eggs, evaporated milk, butter, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Pour cake batter into pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Set to cool in the pan over a wire rack. Carefully place cake on platter.

Put frosting, uncovered, into the microwave for 5-8 seconds to soften. Scoop out into a medium bowl and mix in the maple extract. Once cake has cooled, spread frosting on top. Sprinkle chopped chocolate toffee pieces to finish.

 

Maple sheet cake

 

More cake cake cake cake cake cake // 

 

my grandpa’s orange chiffon cake

peruvian cake roll with dulce de leche

 

 

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Crispy Parmesan Salmon Fish Sticks + Lemon Aioli

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When I was 12, I’d rush home from school to eat fried fish. It was piping hot, flaky, and delicious. And of course, I’d have it with a side of ranch dressing. [feigned surprise]

 

Maybe it’s the nostalgia of eating crunchy fish that excites me or maybe it’s the simple fact that these are just so good. Using salmon in place of your typical cod works magically in this recipe, resulting in a fish stick that is rich, bold, and full of flavor.

 

And because I can’t not dip things with things, I made a lovely lemon aioli to go along with. Super satisfying, healthy-ish, and pretty freakin’ awesome.

 

Baked panko fish sticks with parmesan + lemon aioli

 

// Crispy parmesan salmon fish sticks

 

Serves 3-4

 

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis 

 

1 – 20 ounce salmon filet, skinned

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 egg whites

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup panko

Olive oil, for drizzling

 

// Pat salmon dry. Cut salmon into 1/2″ slices lengthwise; if center cut slices look too wide, cut those in half.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grab a large baking sheet and liberally oil with olive oil.

In a shallow plate, mix the flour with the salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy, about a minute. In another shallow plate, combine the Parmesan cheese and panko, seasoning with some salt and pepper.

Dip each fish stick into the flour until fully coated and then shake excess. Next, swish it into the egg whites; letting excess drip off. Last, dredge in Parmesan and panko mix until totally coated, pressing firmly. Arrange on oiled baking sheet. Drizzle all fish sticks with olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crispy. Serve with lemon aioli; recipe below.

 

// Lemon aioli

 

1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

1 small garlic clove

Salt

Black pepper

 

// In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice. Roughly chop garlic with a pinch of salt and rub with side of knife to make a paste. Add this and a pinch of black pepper to the mayonnaise. Whisk together.

 

 

// other fishy things

 

panko-crusted catfish

pan-seared fish tacos with tomato-mango salsa + spicy aji amarillo sauce

cod-potato cakes and creamy lemon tarragon sauce

 

 

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