Yes, you read that right. I will present to you “chicken simmered in chocolate milk,” but first, this blog is less about the recipe and more about making a recipe your own and the downfalls that sometimes come with that experimentation, as well as lessons learned along the way. I also hope you learn some tips to improve a recipe to your liking and feeling comfortable doing so.
I can spend hours researching recipes either in cookbooks or online. If you search for "chicken recipes” in Google, a slew of them appear. There’s always the tried and true recipes like chicken Parmesan, roast chicken, fried chicken or lemon chicken. But you'll also get some unique options too.
Another way I get recipes is by subscribing to several food and drink websites. This is how I’ve gotten some absolutely magnificent, tasty and interesting recipes. One that showed up in my inbox from Food52 recently was a recipe for “Spicy Chocolate Milk Simmered Chicken.” Food52 is an online food community where you can browse recipes and shop for kitchen, cooking or home products. It's an all-in-one cooking resource. They sourced the recipe from the cookbook Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird by Tyler Cord. That cookbook is now on my must-have list!
With a lot of the recipes I find, I will tweak them a bit in order to make them my own. With this recipe, I only tweaked two items and I had no other choice with one, which I’ll get to later.
I’m sure some of you reading this are still thinking to themselves, chicken and chocolate milk, that’s a really strange combo! But as Food52 points out, there are a couple of reasons why this recipe works. There are many recipes where chicken is poached in milk such as chicken pot pie or any creamy chicken dish. In terms of the sweetness from the chocolate milk, chicken in a sweet sauce is already something that we’re very familiar with such as the Chinese-American food classics Sweet and Sour Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken and Orange Chicken.
What about the chocolate aspect? Chicken, chile and chocolate have a history in the form of chicken in mole sauce, originating from the state of Puebla in Mexico. That was one of the things that really drew me to want to create this dish. I’m a huge fan of mole sauces!
This is one of the simplest recipes, with very few ingredients, and most items you probably already have in your kitchen except for one.
One of the ingredients calls for chocolate milk, but the recipe specifies full-fat chocolate milk. I realize that we’ve become a very health conscious country, and most especially when it comes to our kids and their fat and sugar intake. But I had no idea that it was going to be totally impossible to find full-fat chocolate milk. I must have searched practically everywhere and the only chocolate milk that I could find was reduced fat chocolate milk, either 1% reduced fat or 2% reduced fat. I ended up having to settle with the 2%.
The other tweak I decided to make to this recipe was to sear the chicken thighs to a nice golden-brown color. I wanted to bring out the sweetness of the chicken thighs and create a caramelization by searing them. However, I think that was a mistake on my part. I have to admit that next time I make this recipe, I’ll stick to the recipe as it was written and simply poach the chicken thighs instead. However, I was pretty proud of the great golden brown color I got on the thighs and want to show you what perfectly seared chicken thighs look like.
I loved this recipe! The chicken simmered in chocolate had an almost Indian flavor to it, akin to a curry sauce. With one of the ingredients of the recipe being chili powder, it gave the dish a slight mole sauce flavor, or like chicken smothered in a chile sauce with a hint of chocolate. This recipe isn’t for everyone, but I would highly recommend it, with a couple of slight changes I will suggest.
After making this recipe, I felt that it could benefit from punching up the chocolate flavor slightly and also by taking away a bit of the sweetness that the chocolate milk gives. The solution to this can be achieved by either making your own chocolate milk, using whole milk and combining it with a dark chocolate syrup, which would incorporate a little bitterness or by just adding a half of a square from a bar of unsweetened chocolate to the full fat chocolate milk that the recipe calls for.
Below is the original recipe for Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken which includes my notes for next time. The recipe also included sautéed zucchini which was a perfect addition to the chicken. One of the other suggestions was to serve it on top of a bed of quinoa, which was the perfect vehicle for sopping up the rich flavor of the sauce. The quinoa I made included a couple of aromatics and a few dried fruits.
I also want to add that I feel that the everyday home cook should always try a recipe as it was written, following the instructions precisely. And the next time you decide to make it, don’t be afraid to make it your own, feeling comfortable in your decisions and your own solutions.
Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken
1 cup full-fat chocolate milk
Note: My suggestion is to use 1 cup of whole milk with 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate syrup mixed together, or 1 cup of full-fat chocolate milk with 1/2 a square from a bar of unsweetened chocolate.
2 tablespoons chili powder, preferably the one made from ancho chiles
Note: My suggestion is to only use one tablespoon.
2 jalapenos, stemmed and split lengthwise
Note: I took the stemmed jalapeno peppers and cut them into half-moons, including the seeds.
2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
Note: My suggestion is to cut back on the salt by 1 teaspoon.
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil (to sear the zucchini)
2 zucchinis, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 garlic cloves minced
2 cups of cooked quinoa (my recipe follows)
1. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate milk, chili powder, jalapenos, salt and the chicken thighs. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender.
Note: My suggestion is to stir the ingredients together before adding the chicken thighs and to cover the pot with a lid after coming to a boil and then reducing the heat. I cooked the chicken for 35 minutes.
2. While the chicken is cooking, add the oil to a large sauté pan over high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, add the zucchini, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is caramelized. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute just until the garlic starts to caramelize a little.
3. Serve the chicken and zucchini over the cooked quinoa, drizzle with some of the sauce and garnish with toasted almond slices.
Quinoa with Red Onion, Fresh Thyme, Dried Cranberries, Apricots and Toasted Sliced Almonds
1 cup of rinsed and drained quinoa
2 cups of chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large saucepan, add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the 1/4 cup of diced onion, and sauté until the onion begins to soften.
2. Next add the rinsed and drained quinoa, coating the quinoa seeds with the oil. Once coated, add the stock or water, bring to a boil, cover with a tight- fitting lid, reduce the heat to low, simmer for 10-15 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and remove from heat. Add the dried cranberries and dried diced apricots. Replace the lid, and let the quinoa steep for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes remove the lid, add the chopped fresh thyme, fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, and add salt and pepper to taste.
If you are interested in learning how to make the authentic Mexican dish Chicken with Ancho Spiced Mole Sauce, join us for The Chopping Block's upcoming Culinary Adventure: A Trip to Mexico on:
- Sunday, December 1 6pm Lincoln Square
- Wednesday, December 18 7pm Lincoln Square
- Thursday, December 26 6pm Merchandise Mart