Part of my healthy eating habits is to eat high protein with vegetables and gluten-free carbs. So this dish fits the bill perfectly. I love Mexican food. I like the spice and the flavors. I like a burrito without the flour tortilla, all the rice, the cheese and the refried beans. Pretty much, it’s the chicken that has been braised in a flavorful, deep rich sauce that I love. And that was my inspiration when I was looking for a way to cook chicken with vegetables, with good spice, deep flavoring, and be able to eat it with rice or tortillas.
Dried Calfiornia Entero chilies is the key ingredient in this dish. I can get them in most supermarkets here in Northern California. If you cannot get them. you can use also known as Guaijillo chilies, which look very similar but are a bit spicier in flavor. Or, you can find California Entero chilies online here. The dried chilies are added whole – stem and all – and get reconstituted in the sauce which starts with peppers and onions and garlic sautéed in oil, then has chicken stock and canned tomatoes added with other seasoning. I also add chili powder to the sauce. I use a red chili powder called California chili powder, also known as chili pequin molido, which is spicier than typical chili powder.
I use a mix of red bell peppers, Anaheim peppers and jalapeno peppers. I like Anaheim peppers because they not as sweet as bell peppers and nit as spicy as the jalapenos, so they add a nice flavor. The secret ingredient to this special sauce is cocoa powder. I add a little bit to smooth out the spiciness and of the chili peppers and balance the acidity from the tomatoes. This dish is petty spicy, if you prefer it less spicy, use fewer jalapeños and a darker (mild) chili powder. You can also add a teaspoon of sour cream for serving.
When making chicken with dried chilies, pureeing the cooked chilies is the key to unleashing the flavor. When the dish is about two-thirds done, I take out the peppers from the pot (often times they break into a couple of pieces), throw away the stems and puree them in a blender with a cup of the cooking liquid. It becomes a nice thick sauce — almost like the consistency of tomatoe paste. I then add this back to the main pot and stir it through. This turns the sauce into a rich deep hue with good flavor and consistency. I often eat it like a stoup, with tortillas on the side.
12 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
4 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced into ¼” strips
4 Anaheim peppers, cored, seeded and sliced into ¼” strips
3 jalapeno peppers, sliced, stem removed. If you want to lessen the spice, seed them
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons oil (I use EVOO)
1 28oz oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, sliced, or crushed tomatoes
2 cups of chicken stock
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1.5 tablespoons of Californial chili powder (or chili pequin molido powder ) – or regular chili powder, to lessen the spice
4 dried California Entero chili peppers
½ tablespoon of cocoa powder
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream – optional
Add the oil to a Dutch oven or heavy pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken and add half of chichen to pot to sear, 2 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining chicken and set onto plate. Add the peppers, garlic and onion to the pot and sautee until they are semi soft, about 8-10 minutes. Lower heat to medium/low, and add chicken, chichen stock, tomatoes, cayenne powder, chili powder and the dried California entero peppers, whole, stems in tact. Cover pot and cook 40 minutes on a simmer. Uncover pot and take out the California entero peppers (they might be in pieces). Discard stems. Add the peppers with 1 cup of cooking liquid to a blender and puree. The paste will be pretty thick. Add it back into the pot and mix it through. Add the cocoa powder. Cover post and cook 20 more minutes. Serve with rice or tortillas.