Serious Eats: Recipes
Ajiaco: Colombian Chicken and Potato Soup
All potatoes originated in the Andes, and Colombia has quite a selection of them, the best being the small, yellow, creamy, buttery papas Criollas. They're eaten deep fried, salt roasted, boiled, or—my wife's favorite method—cooked into ajiaco, a classic chicken and potato soup from the mountains around Bogotá.
Extraordinarily simple in execution (dump and boil), its appeal comes from the use of three different types of potatoes, ranging from starchy to waxy. As the soup simmers away, the starchy potatoes break down completely, thickening the soup to a luxuriously creamy consistency, while the papas criollas provide an earthy, buttery flavor. Waxy potatoes remain more intact, adding textural contrast. Guascas, a native mountain herb with an aroma somewhere in between bay leaf, catnip, and parlsey, adds a distinct flavor (you can just use bay leaves and parsley).
The soup is served along with a generous fixin's bar: shredded chicken breast, tangy sour cream for richness, capers that add a tang to cut through the rib-sticking broth, and an onion and cilantro-base aji (which is, by the way, good on everything). Large-kerneled, starchy South American corn (sometimes called Cuzco corn) is boiled along with the potatoes and eaten during the meal, as are slices of Avocado. Not the creamy Hass variety, but the more watery, refreshing Fuerte cultivar.
This is about as simple, delicious, and comforting as food gets.
Note: Papas Criollas are small, creamy yellow Colombian potatoes with a unique buttery flavor and texture. They can occasionally be found frozen in Latin markets. If unavailable, substitute small Yukon Golds or yellow fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks. Guascas is a Colombian herb. It can be found in some Latin markets, or ordered online from amigofoods. If unavailable, replace with an extra 2 bay leaves (remove along with other bay leaves in step 2), plus 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley leaves.