When I was a kid, Sundays always meant something was simmering on the stove. The day was filled with lots of food, playing outside, family; and the focus was always to enjoy the thing we never have enough of: time.
What you see pictured is the Sunday food of my childhood. It’s the dish my mom and dad would get started in the morning and let cook in the oven for hours and hours. The smell is intoxicating—it’s the smell of my mama’s homeland, and in turn the smell of Sundays growing up. The other day when I recreated it, I had forgotten for a moment what the smell meant to me; I missed home for a bit.
Last Friday I bought a $13 movie ticket, along with a small bag of $6 popcorn, and joyfully watched the new Jon Favreau movie, The Chef. I loved it! Sure, there were problems with the movie, like the relationship between him and Sofia Vergara (seems a little unrealistic) but whatever, I took the ride.
Not to give too much of the movie away but part of it was shot in South Florida, where I grew up the majority of my life and it made me miss home in a way I never do. I miss my family, but I rarely miss Florida. My meh-ness toward Florida can usually be summed up with one word: humidity.
Despite the excessive moisture in the air, Miami does have a vibrancy and energy that I really do love. And I love all the Latin people (and food) in South Florida. It made me want the food of my peeps. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been obsessed with this Peruvian Aji.
If you go into a Peruvian restaurant, most likely it’ll be on every single table. We eat it with everything. The ingredients can be tough to find. There’s usually a bit of black mint and fresh aji amarillos peppers in the sauce. So, in order to make it as assessible, I altered the recipe below to be as United States-friendly as possible.
Aji amarillo paste might be the toughest ingredient to find, though if you live near a Latin American market, it’ll most likely be there. It’s also online. If you can’t get a hold of it, you can always add a bit more jalapeño.
This is what my Sunday afternoon lunch/dinners looked like growing up. Minus the beer. My mama never gave me beer.
My dad, however, did give me whiskey when I was two. He figured if he let me try it that I’d end up hating it and would never drink it again. I did hate it…until I didn’t. Only a temporary success, papa.
Back to seco.
This stew was designed for a cold Sunday.
I recommend putting on a pair of big, warm socks and prepping this thing in the late morning, sticking it in the oven and forgetting about it for a few hours. When you return, the flavors will be all combined, rich and delicious, and the meat will be so soft you won’t even need a knife. Just a fork will do.