(Ben finally named his dolly Murry; I think he got the idea when Genevieve named a stuffed cat Purry)
I invited friends and cooked, because I like to cook and I've wanted to make this soup for a while. And I am slightly insane on the topic of my "cake," eclair dessert - that will get its own post because I want to discuss the recipe with you.
Now, the Colombian soup. One of my favorite things about mingling and learning to know other cultures is the food. In the fall when I taught an ESL class, one of my students was Carlos from Colombia. He made Ajiaco for us, and I pieced together a recipe from what he told me, a recipe online, and my cooking experience. So this is not totally authentic, but it's really good and the proportions and timing are forgiving so it's easy.
Ajiaco should actually have corn on the cob in the soup - this summer I will freeze some whole cobs for this purpose, because Ajiaco deserves a place in my winter standards and I'm sure the cobs add a unique flavor.
Ajiaco - Thrift at Home Style
Cut into pieces (wings, legs, breast, etc.):
3 lb. chicken
(If time and inclination, put into a hot oven and roast for a bit - this develops good flavor in the soup; I did my pieces at 400 for almost an hour)
Combine in large stock pot:
4 quarts water
2-3 onions, peeled and chunked
3 stalks celery with leaves, chunked
fresh ground pepper
Simmer for 1-2 hours. Remove chicken pieces and set aside.
Add to pot:
2 cups canned tomatoes and juice
Puree the stock and vegetables. Return the puree to the pot and turn on heat again.
6-10 cups potatoes, mixed varieties, chopped (I really wasn't paying too much attention to how many I did - I just kept in mind that I needed to add the chicken and corn yet)
Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes until getting soft. Use this time to take the now-cooled chicken off the bones (discard skin and back/neck).
3 c. corn
1 carrot, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups cilantro, chopped, with stems
Cook a few more minutes. Taste to correct seasonings. All the recipes called for several chicken bouillion cubes; I added a few because it seemed a bit watery and unsalted, plus some poultry seasoning, fresh ground pepper.
At the table, add some heavy cream, capers with their brine, and pieces of avocado to each bowl. The garnishes are imperative - they really make this soup unique and tasty.
Carlos insisted that Ajiaco must be made with guascas, which is a South American herb that looks and tastes a lot like dried parsley. He gave me a little packet and I used it, but it didn't make any discernible difference to me, so I will probably not worry about it in my future versions.