Cashew Chicken Chili

We’re two days into the New Year and I’m already not doing well on my resolutions. I didn’t go to the gym yesterday or today (well, today I tried but they closed early). I haven’t written in my journal. I haven’t tackled the basement. And while standing in the check-out line at Target, I bought gummy bears .

Resolutions aside, 2011 is settling in quite nicely. I’ve spent the weekend organizing my closet, playing with Gabi, dabbling with the camera lens I got for Christmas and the yogurt maker Jeff gave me. It’s always nice when the stress of the holidays is over. Winter is here for a while. It’s time to revisit some winter recipes — like this cashew chicken chili.

This is one of the best chicken chili recipes I’ve found. Most are humdrum, if you ask me. They’re bland. They boring. None have ever really blown me away. But last year, I made this one New Year’s Day and it changed how I feel about chicken in chili. It’s intense, complex, rich. It’s a little like Mexican mole. Dried ancho chilis are softened, and then ground to a paste with chicken stock, chipotle chiles and cashews.

Several flavors are at work here. Chipoltes add smokiness. Tomatoes add acidity. Cilantro adds freshness. At the end, one ounce of bittersweet chocolate melts into the chili, enhancing the flavors and adding a bit of something special. And then come the whole cashews. If you make this chili ahead of time, please wait until it’s almost mealtime before adding the cashews. They’ll stay crunchy this way.

If anyone knows of a chicken chili recipe that tops this one,  I’d love to try it.

Cashew Chicken Chili
slightly adapted from Gourmet Today

4 dried ancho chilies [if you can’t find anchos, use any dried red chiles]
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon canned chipotle chiles in adobe [leftover chiles will keep in sealed containter in fridge for months]
1 1/2 cups salted roasted cashews
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1 (19 ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
MAKE THE CHILE PUREE: Heat a dry small skillet (not non-stick) over medium heat until it’s hot. Toast dried chilies, pressing down with tongs, for several seconds on each side to make them more pliable. Remove the seeds and stems from the chiles. Tear the dried chiles into pieces and put into a blender. Add the stock, chipotles and 1/2 cup cashews and puree until smooth.
MAKE THE CHILI: Heat olive oil in a 6- to 7-quart heavy pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add cumin and salt. Stir for another minute. Add chicken and stir to coat with onion mixture. Stir in the 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 the chicken with your fingers or two forks. Return the meat to the 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.
Serves 6.

3 Responses to “Cashew Chicken Chili”

  1. 1 katie rudolph
    January 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I have been cooking your recipes all fall. Seriously, it’s like a little present when they arrive in my inbox. And lately, le bebe and I have been doing a lot of cooking… and eating. I would do more if my feet didn’t get so tired from standing up! We can’t wait to try this yummy meal this weekend. Do you know if it freezes well? Happy New Year to you and your family! Katie

    • January 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Happy New Year to you too! I hope le bebe is doing great and that your feet holding up OK. At least it isn’t August. I’ve always had success freezing chili, though I haven’t tried freezing this one. I bet it would freeze great though. You could make a double batch and save the rest until after the baby comes! However, I’d wait to add the whole cashews when you’re reheating it so they don’t lose their crunch. Enjoy!

  2. 3 stuffigrilled
    January 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Nancy emailed this recipe to me this morning and left all the ingredients on the counter. LOL. You think she wants me to make it!?

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