Let me tell you one thing before I tell you all about this amazing Ancho chile sauce for chicken.
Years ago I got one of my best pieces of culinary advice. When I was starting out as a professional cook, a friend told me to keep a notebook of the best recipes I came upon. And more importantly, she said I f there’s even only one good recipe in a cookbook, then it’s worth buying.
Do you ever buy a cookbook for just one recipe?
This recipe alone was worth the price of a cook book. It’s one of those life-changing recipes you’ll want to keep forever, and you will make it over and over again.
Chicken in Ancho Chile sauce is one of those recipes that made me become obsessed with Mexican food. Well, I had thought I was already obsessed with Mexican food having grown up in Southern California.
But that’s not really true Mexican food. That’s Southern California Mexican food. And you will know the difference after you cook this and some other recipes from this book.
Once you’ve learned to make this sauce, it can also be used in ancho chile enchiladas, or used with shredded chicken meat for ancho chile tacos or ancho chile tamales. After you’ve prepared this recipe, you’ll know how to use ancho chiles and make an amazing Mexican sauce.
The pages on this Rick Bayless’ cookbook it’s from are stained with spots from having it open many times, and the split binding means the pages will come loose soon. That’s how good it is. And fortunately, this cookbook has even more than one of those “keep forever” recipes.
You can make this with a whole cut up chicken, or chicken thighs or breasts, which ever is your preference. Mine is to use a whole butchered chicken, browned nicely piece by piece, and then nestled to cook in the rich sauce.
When I first started making the sauce, I thought it tasted off and something was wrong with the recipe. You will get some bitterness and a lack of flavor in the first 30 minutes or so of cooking.
But don’t despair, because as it cooks the flavors develop and it becomes an amazingly unctuous, silky sauce that is great with the fall-off-the-bone tender chicken. It’s great for soaking up with some warm tortillas. You can also spoon it over some tasty Mexican rice.
Find your Ancho chile peppers in the Latin section of major supermarkets, and in Latin markets or on the web. They often come packaged, but in some places you can still find them loose. Ancho chiles are actually a Poblano pepper that has been allowed to ripen to red and then is sun dried. Ancho chiles are not the same as pasilla, california, or other chiles, so please don’t make a substitution.
Ancho chiles should feel leathery and dry to the touch, and be only slightly, if at all brittle. They are a mahogany/plum color and have a heavily wrinkled appearance. When ready to use, tear out the stem, open the chile with your hands, and remove the seeds inside before toasting them.
Once you’ve prepared the chiles and spices, grinded them up, and blended them well, strain the sauce. But if you have a Vitamix or Blendtec blender, you can certainly blend it finely enough that you won’t need to strain it.
I would highly recommend one of these if you don’t already have one. It’s the most used appliance in my kitchen.
Be sure to thoroughly brown the chicken for deep flavor. Then, and this is the key to this recipe and the method you need I want you to learn, cook the chile ancho sauce down. It sounds kind of weird, but many Mexican sauces are fried.
Over medium high heat, add a good portion of oil to the pan (or use what’s leftover from browning the chicken), and add the sauce to the hot pan. It should bubble and spit quite a bit while you stir it quickly.
This is not a simmer. Don’t step away to let it boil on its own. You must stir constantly over medium heat while the sauce cooks down and thickens to it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Turn the heat down after about 2 minutes and continue to cook down until the sauce has darkened and thickened. Only then can you add some chicken stock and thin it down.
At that point, add back in the chicken, add the potatoes, and reduce the heat and cook on medium low until all the pieces are fork tender and the potatoes are done.
To finish, you will add in the baby spinach. Stuff it in there and get it to wilt in the sauce, then cover the lid until it’s just cooked down to soft. At that point, it’s ready to serve.
Be aware, this is a spicy dish, but can vary depending on your chiles. It ranges from very little spiciness to a decent full frontal assault that quickly descends into a mildly spicy and tolerable comfort zone for most people. If you love Mexican but want something a little less spicy, try our Easy One Dish Mexican Achiote Rubbed Pork!
If you try this recipe, let us know by leaving a comment, rating it, and tagging a photo #thestraightdish on Instagram.