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Friday, May 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Simmering chicken in chocolate milk sounds strange – turns out, it’s delicious

For this recipe, choose high-quality chocolate milk or make your own. (Tom McCorkle / For The Washington Post)
For this recipe, choose high-quality chocolate milk or make your own. (Tom McCorkle / For The Washington Post)
By Ann Maloney Washington Post

Ever read a recipe and think to yourself: This could be a delicious discovery, or it could be a disaster?

When I saw Tyler Kord’s Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken in “Food 52 Dynamite Chicken” (Ten Speed Press, 2019), I took one of those cocked-eyebrow pauses.

It is so simple – combine chocolate milk, jalapenos, chili powder and chicken in a skillet and simmer – that I knew it would be easy. I just wondered if there was enough there to create any complexity of flavor.

No one wants a plate of sweet, mushy chicken.

Still, I’m always on the lookout for a fresh approach to chicken. I cook with it often and, apparently, so do you because poultry recipes draw lots of eyes and emails from readers. Often, I fall back on slight variations of tried-and-true recipes with onions, garlic, citrus and olive oil.

I knew I had to test this recipe to see if it lived up to Kord’s description in the cookbook: “This chicken may just be one of the most interesting and weird-good things you will make from a cookbook.”

I wasn’t worried about the combination of flavors because, as Kord noted: “Chicken and chile and chocolate have a long and beautiful history in the form of mole, from the state of Puebla, Mexico.”

(I know you have had mole, and this is no mole – the complex, celebrated Mexican sauce that is made with traditional techniques and beloved flavors that vary from family to family and region to region.)

The flavor combination sounded promising.

Another thing the dish had going for it: I have marinated and poached chicken in dairy and turned out juicy, flavorful pieces.

So, I made it and I knew it was good even before I tasted it. As soon as my dining partner dug in, I got that little moment of silence – first bite, second bite and then eye contact with little nods of approval. I love that moment. I wait for that moment – whether I’m cooking for two, as I am so often right now – or a table full of friends. Don’t you?

My one caveat is to buy or make good-quality, full-fat chocolate milk for the cup used in the recipe. The better the chocolate, the better the sauce. The bone-in, skin-on thighs add richness to the sauce, as well, but you could use other pieces.

Kord recommends serving the chicken with sauteed zucchini and a grain such as quinoa. Those two mild sides balance the rich, rich sauce. I served it with farro, and that was terrific. It could be good with boiled potatoes or with long-grain rice, as well.

If you have chocolate chicken left over, Kord recommends stuffing some in a corn tortilla or using the chicken to fill out a savory pie.

Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken

Recipe adapted from “Food52 Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird” by Tyler Ford. Ten Speed Press, 2019.

For the chicken

1 cup whole chocolate milk

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 jalapenos, stemmed and split lengthwise

2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)

For the zucchini

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 zucchinis (about 1 pound total), sliced 1/2-inch thick

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

Cooked grain, such as farro, quinoa or rice, for serving

Cilantro, for garish (optional)

In a saucepan, stir together the chocolate milk, chili powder, jalapenos and 2 teaspoons of the salt until combined. Add the chicken thighs bone side down. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, in a large saute pan over high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the zucchini and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini begins to caramelize and soften but does not turn to mush, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve the chicken and zucchini warm over cooked grains, garnished with cilantro, if using.

Yield: 4 servings

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