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Ah … Aji!

Two or three times a year, I head down to Orange County to conduct interviews, say hi to friends, and drop in at the publishing company I write and edit for. (I know. Technically, that should be, “for whom I write and edit.” But this is a blog and not a manuscript, right?) It doesn’t matter how long or how short my visit, I never leave without first stopping by Inca Grill, a Peruvian restaurant my good friends, Mark and Cathy Rich, introduced me to a long while back. The food is good. But I’m not after anything you can order off the menu. I go for the bottle of bright green aji sauce they slap on your table as soon as you sit down, accompanied by a basket of soft, warm French bread. I love it so much my friends send me bottles via Fed Ex. Those are some good friends, I tellya 🙂

Inca Grill calls this “Gringo Killer.” After the first taste I had, I ran home and googled “Gringo Killer.” Uh … that’s not a fantastic term to google. Let’s just say no one but the Inca Grill thinks that has anything to do with green sauce.

I was determined to crack this recipe. Determined like I’ve never been about any other recipe in my life. I will take a guess and say that I’ve tried 30 different variations trying to get a batch of sauce that tastes exactly like Inca Grill’s. Have I done it? Not yet. There’s some elusive something still just out of my reach … a warm something I can’t quite pin down. If I could only catch me a leprechaun and demand my one wish, I’d have it figured out. Until then, I’ll keep twiddling.

For now, though, I’ll share my closest guess. It’s really pretty simple, actually. After trying batches with garlic, chicken broth, avocado, cilantro, milk, cream and every combination of those added ingredients, it turns out that less is more.

I suggest that if you do make up a batch of this, serve it with thick slices of French bread. Or rice. Or on a hamburger. Or on a great big spoon …

Aji Sauce

  • 4-6 serrano peppers, stems removed
  • 1/2-1 cup mayo
  • 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce
  • 3-4 slices of day-old French bread (dry out a bit if you only have fresh)
  • salt and pepper

Drop 4 of the serranos and the mayo in a blender and blend until smooth.

Add the iceberg lettuce in chunks, then the bread. Taste; if not hot enough add another serrano or two. Salt and pepper to taste.

I don’t measure the mayo, I just drop scoops in, so I can’t give you an exact measurement. Just start with less and add more if you think you’d like it.

Oh, but I love this stuff.

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