You can buy aji chiles fresh, canned, or in paste form, and can use any of those in this recipe. But I like having dried chiles on hand; you can use only what you need instead of opening up a whole can or jar, and unlike fresh chiles, they last forever. Dried chiles are sweeter with deeper, concentrated flavors compared to their fresh counterparts. Drying also enhances aji's sweet, warm, back-of-the-tongue flavor.
The paste this sauce is based on can be used like any other chile paste and is a key component to Peruvian green dipping sauce. If you use pre-made paste, this recipe uses about half a cup. You can customize this sauce to put on or in just about anything: pork, chicken, fish, rice, potatoes, squash, or greens. I enjoy it with kidney beans, which are rich and meaty, but still bland enough to let the chile's subtle flavor and heat come through. Aji amarillo sauce is often thickened with a salty cheese, mayonnaise, evaporated milk, or even crumbled saltines. I like the cheese to play off the mild beans, but if you were serving this with something like roasted chicken, you may want to substitute something creamier instead.
- 3 large aji amarillo chiles (dried, fresh, or canned)
- 1 tablespoon of crumbled cotija or feta cheese
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 pinch of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 15-oz. can, or two cups cooked, of kidney beans
- Cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
Remove the stems, membranes, and seeds from the chiles. The membranes carry most of the heat, so leave as much or as little in as your heat tolerance likes. If you're using dried chiles, toast them till fragrant. Add them to a small pot with just enough water to cover, bring it to a boil, and let it cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until very soft.
Purée the chiles with just enough water to keep your blender moving. When you have a very smooth paste, push it through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of any errant fibers or seeds.
Return the strained paste to the blender and add the cheese, lemon juice, and sugar. Blend till smooth, then add salt to taste. The cheese is pretty salty, so add salt with care.
Add the oil to a pot on medium-high heat, and cook the garlic, stirring often, till lightly browned.
Add the sauce. Let it fry for a minute or two and then add the beans. Cover and cook the beans on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until they bind with the sauce. Toss in some roughly chopped cilantro and serve.