Ajiaco--Colombian Chicken Soup
Almost every country has their own version of chicken soup but I dare say Colombia's is one of the best. Ajiaco, a dish popular in capital region of Bogotá, is made from a combination of chicken, three varieties of potatoes (ranging from starchy to waxy), corn on the cob, and the secret ingredient--guascas. This unique herb imparts a grassy flavor to the dish, one which Colombians swear you can not replicate with other herbs or by trying to grow it yourself outside of the country. For those of us who don't know any better, you can find guascas online or from most Latin-American markets. If you can't get a hold of this precious herb, some recommend using a combination of bay leaf and parsley as a substitute. One of the potato varieties used in every Colombian ajiaco is papas criollas or Andean potatoes--small, yellow, creamy, buttery spuds that are absolutely amazing fried. Yukon Gold or yellow fingerlings make an acceptable substitute. So next time you find yourself stuck inside on a cold and rainy day, whip up a batch of ajiaco and transport yourself to the high-altitude Andean mountains. Don't forget the toppings--cubed avocado, heavy cream, sour cream or crème fraîche, and salty capers. And for those of you heading to Bogotá in the near future, Casa Vieja in the historical Candelaria district serves up a mean bowl.