A while back, I bought some frozen aji amarillo chiles from a local market. I didn't know what I was going to do with them - heck, I had never seen them before. But I bought them because they were a beautiful orange, and chiles are always good.
What do you do when you have an unknown ingredient? Check out the internet, specifically other food blogs, of course! So that's what I did, and found Peruvian Cilantro Stew from Gretchen Noelle of Canela y Comino. Her blog is one of my favorites, and I figured that since she lives in Peru, I could trust her judgment when it came to these brightly colored chiles.
My only hitch with the recipe was when it came to pureeing the cilantro. A cup of cilantro puree is quite a lot, so I figured my blender would be helpful. I figured wrong. The stupid leaves just spun up and stuck to the sides of the blender. I tried pushing them back down, but they spun right back up again. So, cutting board and big knife. I chopped and chopped and chopped, until the sound of the knife cutting through the cilantro was less of a crunch, and more of a mush. (What I wouldn't give for a mezzaluna.)
This isn't a quick recipe, and there's a lot of hands-on, but it is so worth it. Beef marinated and then browned. Onion is sauteed, then cooked down with a puree of aji amarillo chiles, onion and garlic. Then beer and the cilantro "puree" are added, and it's cooked down further. Then you add the beef back, cook for about an hour, then add in carrots and peas, and cook until the veggies are done.
The sauce is so amazingly good, I couldn't stop myself from dipping pieces of bread into it as it was cooking. Think pesto, but cilantro. And beefy flavored. Mmm...
The meat ended up perfectly tender, due to its braise in beer, and the chiles added just the right amount of heat. I had originally planned to serve this with rice, but MIL came home with a bunch of sourdough loaves, so we had it with bread. I loved sopping up every last bit of the sauce with the crusty bread. However, I'm dying to know what the sauce tastes like over rice, so I guess I'll just have to make it again to find out.
Thanks, Gretchen Noelle, for a great recipe!