Colombian Chicken, Corn & Potato Stew {Ajiaco}

One of my dearest childhood friends growing up came from a very warm and loving Colombian family. Back when it was safe to walk to school alone at a young age, I would make the walk from my home, with her house as a little pit stop, and we would resume the trek (because it really did feel like a trek) together. Her home was the best place to tuck into when the weather was cold, or worse, the sky snowy and the roads icy. With her house at the bottom of a steep hill, sometimes I couldn’t help but just slip and slide my way down, landing at her doorstep. And I remember her house being so warm. The heat was always strong, and her mother would be melodically chattering in her perfect Colombian Spanish.

Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention to the foods her mom prepared. I just remember the wonderful aromas and her smiles. I imagine that she made this dish, Ajiaco, as I have grown to appreciate it now that I am far away from New York and their cozy little home.

The corn has been really beautiful lately, and before the growing season ends, I wanted to make this light but hearty soup. Thick from the starch of potatoes, and flavorful from a stock enhanced by chicken and corn, it’s a wonderful stew to lead into autumn. The sweet kernels of corn and the garnish of fresh cilantro and creamy avocado are a lovely way to say farewell to summer and its bounty. And as the weather turns chilly, this soup will become the perfect way to stay warm and toasty indoors. It has quickly become one of my family’s all time favorites.

What tasty dishes are you planning to cozy up with this fall?

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Colombian Chicken, Corn & Potato Stew {Ajiaco}

Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of chicken (about half a chicken, cut up, or a combination of chicken breast and thighs)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or guascas, if available - found in Latin markets)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 russet potatoes:
    • 2 potatoes, peeled & shred, yielding about 4 cups of shredded potato
    • 1 potato, peeled & cut into 6 pieces
  • 3 ears of corn:
    • 2 ears, kernels sliced off the cob
    • 1 ear cut cross wise into 1 inch pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Finishing touches:

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 avocados, pitted and diced
  • 1 cup heavy cream*
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven or equivalent pot, bring the chicken, onion, oregano, chicken stock and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for about half an hour, until the chicken is tender. Remove chicken pieces and place on a plate to cool.

Add the shredded potato to the broth in the pot, and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring periodically. When the potato has cooked down and thickened the broth, add the corn and potato pieces, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring often.

Shred the chicken.

When the corn is cooked and the chunks of potato are tender, add the shredded chicken and stir. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and diced avocado.

Adapted from Colombian Chicken, Corn and Potato Stew from Gourmet, November 2001, via Epicurious.

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by Liren Baker on September 23, 2011

20 Responses to “Colombian Chicken, Corn & Potato Stew {Ajiaco}”

  1. joy September 23, 2011 @ 5:34 am (#
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    That looks great.

  2. maria dicaprio white September 23, 2011 @ 7:33 am (#
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    I am currently living in Bogota, Colombia. Ajiaco is a staple in every home. Maids seem to only know how to make a huge stock pot full. Of course you are not able to get the correct herbs but if you can find “Guascas” in a Latin Grocery, add that instead of the Oregano. Don’t worry about adding a drop of cream it really adds a nice touch. And don’t forget the Capers as a garnish too.

    • Liren replied: — September 23rd, 2011 @ 8:06 am

      Hi Maria, I can just picture the huge stock pots of Ajiaco bubbling away. Thank you so much for reminding me about the capers and comforting me about the cream. You are right, the cream does add a very nice touch. I have adjusted the recipe to reflect those garnishes and the guascas. Have a wonderful Friday!

  3. Cristina - TeenieCakes September 23, 2011 @ 9:03 am (#
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    Liren: This is comfort food, for sure. Good ingredients and making use of items that are probably stock in the pantry for some. Love the tasty garnishes you used. Deliciously done!

    Noticing the images you have scrolling on the front page…just gorgeous & stunning!

    Have a great weekend {enjoy the first weekend of Autumn!}

  4. Priscilla-ShesCookin September 23, 2011 @ 9:10 am (#
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    Hi Liren! Beautiful comfort food (and lovely memories) for the first day of fall! We’ve had foggy mornings down here which puts me in the mood for stews, soups, and braised meats. Have a wonderful weekend :)

  5. Nami | Just One Cookbook September 23, 2011 @ 9:42 am (#
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    Hi Liren,

    I love this soup and I will make it soon. I love potatoes, my kids love corns, and the chicken and avocado combo sound so good! What a perfect soup for my family. =) Simple yet very flavorful soup. Love it!! Have a great weekend!

  6. skip to malou September 23, 2011 @ 3:33 pm (#
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    It’s been grey and raining here in St. Louis and a bowl of this would surely sweep me off my “i-miss-my-sunny -california-mode. Great post to read on the first day of Autumn.
    Have a great weekend Liren!
    Malou

  7. Cheryl September 23, 2011 @ 8:26 pm (#
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    Liren, This looks amazing! Your photos never cease to amaze!! I am going to try this as soon as this heat wave is over!!

  8. Lindsey@Lindselicious September 23, 2011 @ 9:07 pm (#
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    Oh I have this before and its delish. Your photos make it seem even more so. I have to try to make this in the next couple weeks!

  9. myFudo September 24, 2011 @ 5:49 am (#
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    Planning to create pumpkin dishes this fall but after seeing your tasty Ajiaco, it’s definitely chicken and corn this season! =)

  10. Danguole September 24, 2011 @ 8:00 am (#
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    This was easily my favorite dish I ate in Colombia. It was good even on a hot, sweaty August afternoon in Medellin! Yours looks amazing.

  11. Beth Michelle September 24, 2011 @ 10:18 am (#
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    This ajiaco looks so amazing. When I was living in Miami I had a lot of Colombian frinds and their families always made such amazing foods.

  12. Sukaina September 24, 2011 @ 10:46 am (#
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    That looks so warm and hearty! My favorite fall dish si anythign with warm custard! Although it’s nothing liek fall here in Dubai right now!

  13. J @ ... semplicemente ... j September 24, 2011 @ 12:41 pm (#
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    Hmmm, I have never done Ajiaco without papa criolla, or for that matter 3 kinds of potatoes … looking forward to giving it a try … I do not know about the oregano though … I am personally not a fan … maybe because everyone thinks all Italian plates/sauces have to have oregano … the guasca taste is very unique … so it will be interesting to see how the dried oregano works as a replacement.

    Let’s see if it can measure up to Amparito’s ajiaco (our housekeeper growing up, that is famous for her Ajiaco in Bogota and beyond) … :)

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  15. Jerry Ko | Simply Good Eating September 26, 2011 @ 1:01 pm (#
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    Wow that soup looks absolutely amazing. The combination of the chicken and vegetables and having it topped off with avocado. Great recipe and thanks for sharing :)

  16. Norma September 27, 2011 @ 6:56 am (#
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    This is such a great dish. I also like Colombian food and one of my favorite blogs is Erica from My colombian Recipies.

  17. Donna @ What the Dog Ate November 25, 2011 @ 12:15 pm (#
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    I made this last week and have had it almost every day. So yummy! Thanks for sharing.

    • Liren replied: — November 26th, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for stopping back to let me know, that means so much!

  18. Christine October 11, 2012 @ 6:57 am (#
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    Thank you so much for this recipe! I came across it last winter and made it 2 weeks in a row. It’s so delicious and cozy and comforting. I made it again last night for my sister and her husband (exhausted parents to a 2 day-old baby boy) and they loved it. I’m lactose intolerant so I skip the cream but I’ve discovered that hot sauce is a must. Thanks again!

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