There are 4 Cs in this chili, and all of them matter.
The chile puree is the foundation for the entire dish. I can't stress that enough. Cook this chili with a whole chicken, and be conscious of what kind of chicken you buy (I buy free-range, hormone-free birds because I can taste the difference and it's important to me to support those business models). Maybe later you can shortcut this dish with a rotisserie chicken you shred yourself, but for the first time, just trust me and plan ahead, k? The cashews provide fantastic texture - both in the puree as a thickening agent and whole in the chili for a delicious, wholesome crunch. Finally: chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate, to be exact. Ruth Reichl calls this touch a "weeknight take on mole," and as usual, she's correct. I added my chocolate last, after tasting, and I honestly felt like it wasn't even necessary - the chili was already complex and rich and delicious. Stirring in the bittersweet chocolate, though, watching it melt and combine with the rich smoky chile flavor... it is a transformative, genius ingredient. There's no way around it.
Make this chili. Turn heads at the neighborhood potluck, freak out your guests during The Big Game, or make it like I did, quietly on a Friday night with a drink in hand, happily preparing a dish we'd enjoy all weekend long.
You can thank me later. And you will.
Chicken Cashew Chili
From Gourmet Today
4 dried ancho chiles
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 1/2 cups salted roasted cashews
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 (31/2 to 4-lb) chicken - rinsed, patted dry, excess fat discarded, and cut into 8 serving pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Make the chile puree:
Heat a dry small heavy skillet (not nonstick) over moderate heat until hot. Toast the dried chiles, one at a time, pressing down with tongs, for several seconds on each side to make them more pliable. Seed and devein dried chiles; discard stems. Tear dried chiles into pieces and transfer to a blender. Add broth, chipotles, and 1/2 cup cashews and puree until smooth. (Note: if you want a spicier chili, retain some of the seeds.)
Make the chili:
- Heat oil in a 6- to 7- quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.
- Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add cumin and salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add chicken and stir to coat with onion mixture.
- Stir in chile puree, 1/4 cup cilantro, and tomatoes with juice.
- Bring to a simmer and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking, until chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer chicken to a bowl.
- Shred meat using two forks; discard bones and skin. (Note: I wasn't in a rush and waited for my chicken to cool and shredded using my hands; I find that much easier than using utensils.)
- Return chicken to pot and stir in chocolate, beans, remaining 1 cup cashews, and remaining 1/4 cup cilantro.
- Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until chili is heated through and chocolate is melted.