The whiter side of chili

21st October, 2009 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

White chili with sour cream and a side of corn bread.

One of the lesser known hazards of being someone who cooks is that people tend to leave things in my kitchen expecting me to do something interesting with them. Case in point: beer. I am not a beer drinker. Never have been and probably never will be. However, people come over, bring beer and leave; yet the beer is still here.

In a burst of inspiration brought on by the cooler weather, I decided to make up a big pot of chili and also knock down the beer supply a little. Beer is an essential ingredient to a great pot of chili. You can have a good chili without it, but it won’t leap to the next level.

The qualities I hate about drinking beer – yeastiness and bitterness mostly – work perfectly as a backdrop to the seasonings in chili. The slightly sour flavor helps play up the spiciness and the flavors intensify over heat.

Because I had alager to work with, I decided to make a white chili. White chili is regular chili made with turkey or chicken, I imagine ground pork would probably work as well. Great Northern or canelli beans replace the kidney beans and everything else proceeds the same.

When selecting the meat, I recommend dark meat chicken over white. Because chili is meant to sit over heat for a longer period of time, the slightly higher fat content in dark meat holds up better. Boneless chicken thighs are perfect for this dish.

Ideally the beans will be dry and soaked overnight before cooking. I never remember to do this, so I inevitably end up using canned beans. Canned beans tend to be higher in sodium than their dried counterparts, but draining them and rinsing under cold water before adding to the pot will remove a lot of the excess salt.

Chili is essentially stew that has migrated south. Like all stews, the flavors are built up in layers. What this means is that each new element that’s added to the pot gets a little attention. The onions go in first and they should be salted, followed by the chicken – which also gets seasoned, then the beans and so on. By seasoning the food as you go, the final product will taste wonderfully flavorful. If you wait until the end of the cooking process, the dish will just taste salty.

Because chili is a regional dish, feel free to play around with the ingredients, leave something out or add something in its place. Just make the final dish is thick and don’t forget to add the beer.

White Chicken Chili
Served 4-6

2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 bottle of beer

Grated cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream

Heat oil in a stock pot or deep sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and dried red pepper. Sauté 5 minutes or until onions are soft. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan. Sauté chicken approximately 5 minutes.

Add beans, broth, tomatoes and beer to chicken. Simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat and additional 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat before serving.)

Ladle chili into bowls. Top with cheese and sour cream, sprinkle with cilantro.

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Posted on: October 21, 2009

Filed under: Dinner, Soup

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