This is a long lost recipe that is the first one I've ever written down. I'm usually an improvisational cook and have never measured or recorded dishes I've created. Until this chicken, there was never a need. This recipe has more ingredients than I normally use, therefore I had to document it in order to remember, since I had the feeling I wasn't going to be able to replicate it. Everyone who has tried this is relieved I did!
This chicken is super versatile, and can be used any where chicken is called for in most Mexican dishes - tacos, enchiladas, Mexican lasagna, tostadas, burritos - you name it. It has a pleasant spicy heat from the chipotle peppers that marries incredibly well with the orange. The flavors are kind of an infusion of a mole and carnitas, so some of the ingredients may seem a little odd. But trust me, it makes a mean dish!
This makes a very large batch, which I think is the only way to go. It is perfect for feeding a crowd, and any leftovers freeze very well - up to 3 months in an airtight container.
1 Tbsp canola oil
3 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
zest of one large organic orange
juice of said orange
spent orange rind
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
1 onion, chopped
3 c low sodium chicken stock
1 c evaporated milk
Heat oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat. Thoroughly dry both sides of the chicken thighs and proceed to brown them in 2 batches. They do not need to be cooked through - just 5 minutes a side to get some color. While the chicken is cooking, place all the dried spices in a small bowl in order to add them all at once after the thighs have been seared. Keep thighs on a plate to the side.
Add onion and smashed garlic cloves to the pot. Saute for about 3 minutes, then add the dry spices. Stir continually for a minute to bloom the spices. Add the orange juice, zest, chicken stock and evaporated milk. If you want it extra spicy, add the remaining adobo sauce from the can of chipotle peppers. Toss in the orange rind and bay leaves, then nestle the thighs into the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes.
Remove thighs from pot and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer in order to expedite cooling. Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with your hands (its the best way!) into bite size pieces. Don't worry about a fine shred here - the chicken will break down more once it is mixed back into the sauce. Meanwhile, allow the cooking liquid to reduce over medium low heat until it is reduced by at least half. This should take about 20 - 30 minutes.
Once sauce has been concentrated, strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Be sure to stir and mash the pulpy bits against the sides of the strainer to break the softened garlic through and get all the concentrated flavors out. Scrape the outside of the strainer well to get it all into the bowl. Place sauce back into pot and add shredded chicken. Heat on low for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is heated back through.
I recommend serving this any way you please! Any of your favorite Mexican dishes that call for chicken - try this in place of your norm. It may breathe some new life into your favorite recipe. My favorite is the easiest and probably quickest way - corn tortilla, fat free greek style yogurt, lots of fresh cilantro and a healthy portion of the chicken. Unbeatable.