Based on a combination of Spanish and indigenous Peruvian techniques and ingredients, this classic Peruvian stew was eagerly anticipated weekday fare in the author's childhood home.
2 3-lb. chickens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 slices country-style French or Italian bread,
sliced about 3/4'' thick
1 cup cream
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 fresh panca or New Mexican chiles,
2 seeded and minced
2 tbsp. panca paste (sweet red chile paste)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup walnuts, finely ground
2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
4 Greek-style black olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
1. Place chickens in a large pot, cover with salted water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until juices from chicken run clear, about 40 minutes. Drain chickens, reserving 2 cups stock. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken meat, discarding bones and skin.
2. Tear bread into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Add cream and set aside to soften for 20 minutes.
3. Heat oil over medium-high heat, add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add minced chiles, panca paste, cumin, walnuts, tomatoes, and soaked bread and cream. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add chicken and reserved stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. Stir in parmigiano-reggiano and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. Serve over rice, with remaining chile (thinly sliced) and olives as garnish.