New Mexico red chiles are common dried chiles found in many grocery stores. You can also use a couple of chilcostle chiles or tiny cascabels in place of some of the New Mexico red chiles for a more complex flavor. To order chiles by mail, try Coyote Cafe General Store (www.coyotecafe.com; 800-866-4695) or Pendry's Chile Supply (800-533-1870).
Cover the chiles with about 4 cups boiling water and steep until soft, about 15 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of the soaking liquid and then drain the chiles. In a blender, purée the chiles with the reserved liquid.
Meanwhile, toast and grind the cumin seeds and toast the oregano as described at left (don't toast dried oregano). Put the beans in a stockpot and cover them with 7 cups water. Add the chile purée, toasted ground cumin, toasted (or dried) oregano, onions, carrot, garlic, jalapeños, and chicken thighs. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, skimming any foam. Remove the chicken thighs when cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones into large pieces and set aside; discard the bones. Continue cooking the beans until tender, another 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Return the chicken to the pot to heat it thoroughly. Season with the salt, adding more to taste. Serve in bowls topped with the grated cheese.
nutrition information (per serving):
with 3 Tbs. cheese;
Photo: Laurie Smith