Colombia’s national dish, Aljiaco is a thick, hearty potato and chicken stew. Three types of potatoes are used one of which, papa criolla, is native to the country. This yellow potato breaks down during the cooking process, helping to thicken the stew. The South American herb, guascas, imparts a distinct and authentic flavor.
¼ of an onion, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch cilantro
6 scallions, white parts only
1 clove garlic
1 stalk celery
4 quarts water
1 chicken (3½ pounds), skinned and quartered (hint: many meat departments will do this for you)
4 chicken bouillon cubes
4 ears corn
2 pounds red bliss potatoes, peeled and cut into medium slices
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium slices
2 pounds papa criolla (Colombian yellow potatoes available at Latin American specialty markets frozen or in jars), peeled and quartered
1 packet (0.35 ounces) dried guascas (available at Latin American specialty markets)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup heavy cream
3 avocados coarsely chopped
½ cup capers, not drained
Aji salsa (see recipe below)
On a large piece of cheesecloth, bundle together the onion, cilantro, scallions, garlic and celery. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and fasten with kitchen twine. Place it in a large stockpot with the water, the chicken pieces and the bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, with bubbles just breaking the surface for about 30 minutes, skimming any foam that forms on the top if necessary. Remove the chicken. When cool, shred the breast meat and set aside. Reserve the thigh and drumstick meat for another use.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the corn and red bliss potatoes to the pot. Boil for 10 minutes. Add the russet potatoes and cook for 20 minutes. Add the papa criolla and half of the packet of guascas and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until thickened. Remove the corn and, when cooled enough to handle, cut cobs into 2-inch rounds. Return corn to the pot with the remaining half-packet of guascas.
Remove and discard the cheesecloth bundle. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Serve with shredded chicken and other garnishes in separate serving bowls.