I am trying all sorts of new things these days…despite all my years of eating, and my several years of serious cooking, I have never made chili. I suspect it was because I have never been all that interested in chili. (The secrets come out on this blog my friends, I have always said there was not much in this world I wouldn’t eat, except for, until recently, curries of any kind, but what I didn’t often share was that there were many things that I would never order and would often avoid, things I didn’t gravitate towards, if you will…chili was on that list. All this is changing.)
I roasted a chicken the other night. It was Joel Robuchon’s method, it was good, and I intend to discuss it, but the pictures are god-awful, so I avoid. At any rate, I had one of the thighs for dinner, and the wings as snacks, so I had most of the chicken left. I already have some chicken pot pies in the freezer, and I am not eating pasta until Sunday (oh happy day) so chicken tetrazzini was out, so I decided on white bean and chicken chili. Of all the chilis in all the world, that is the one I am on occasion tempted to order, so I figured that would be a good place to start my chili cooking experiences. I perused the interwebs, and saw that there were many variations, but the basics were shredded chicken, white beans, cumin, and spice of some kind. With that knowledge, I decided to just go for it. My first attempt was not too shabby.
It started with some toasted chiles.
I have a lot of these little red dried chiles, and I think they came from an economy sized package that my dad picked up at the Asian supermarket. I toasted a handful, let them cool and then ground them up in my spice grinder. And then I did the same for cumin seeds. Then comes the real stuff.
I sautéed onions and garlic and a whole jalapeno in olive oil. I then added two teaspoons of the ground chiles, and one teaspoon of red pepper flakes that I crushed a little bit with the mortar and pestle.
I stirred in a 1/4 cup flour and let it cook for a minute. I wanted to make sure the final product was more stew like than soup like. I liked the results. Next the beans. I boiled and soaked dried navy beans, drained them and added them in along with 6 cups of chicken stock.
Then I added the chicken. I am guessing it was three to four cups. I didn’t measure, and I am sorry about that. It filled the small bowl that is part of my measuring bowl set. It is larger than a cereal bowl. Like I said earlier, it was two chicken breasts, one whole leg, one drumstick, plus all the little bits you can pull off the bones of a carved chicken. If you wanted to do this without starting from a roasted chicken, I would bake two whole chicken legs and two breasts and go from there. That would probably be about right. You could also do four breasts and use all white meat. That would get you where you wanted to be too, I suspect. Any way, I shredded it with my hands and threw it in.
Then I brought it to a boil, let it cook for an hour or so, added 1 3/4 tsp of the ground cumin (I read in a couple of places that ground cumin doesn’t really hold up when cooked for a long time, so I played it safe and added it in with only about an hour left. I have no idea if that made one iota of difference, but it tasted good at the end) and let it cook some more. Molly was coming for dinner, so after it simmered for about two hours total, I turned the heat off and let it sit and thicken for a bit. I reheated it when she got here and it was a delight. This definitely had some heat. It was back of the mouth heat, but it wasn’t too spicy at all. I suspect if you really liked spicy you could add more, but it might unfavorably screw with the balance of flavors. I liked it this way. I served it with minced onion, sour cream, cotija cheese and avocado when we had it for dinner, and then next day, when I reheated it for lunch and a photo session, I was out of avocado, so I topped it with cotija, sour cream and pickled red onions, and it was tasty. These things almost always improve the second day.
Cotija cheese is great. Really salty and crumbly and perfect for this, though cheddar or jack would be good too. If you have a large Latin population in your area look for cotija in the dairy section of your grocery store. It is delightful.
Chicken and White Bean Chili (serves at least 6)
1 lb dried white navy beans (cannellini would work too)
3 tbl olive oil
2 medium onions diced (about a 1/3 cup reserved for serving)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 good-sized jalapeno (including seeds), minced
2 tsp ground chiles (I have no idea how this compares to chili powder, so tread lightly if you are subbing.)
1 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock
3-4 cups shredded chicken
1 3/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheese (I like cotija)
pickled red onions
Cover beans with water and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, turn off heat and cover. Let soak for two hours, then drain and set aside. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large heavy pot or dutch oven. Add onion and soften for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook another 2-3 minutes until pepper softens. Add ground chiles and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Add flour and stir to let flour cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Add drained beans and chicken stock. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add chicken, and let simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally, scraping the bottom to prevent burning. Add the ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer for another hour or so. Serve right away, or better yet, turn off the heat and let the chili cool and thicken. Reheat and serve with garnishes.
I served the chili with skillet cornbread.
I got the recipe from Gourmet.com and modified it to include scallions because I wanted to. It is very easy. You stir together the dry ingredients, then whisk together buttermilk, eggs and the scallions, preheat a 10″ cast iron skillet in a hot oven, melt the butter in the skillet and then whisk it into the wet ingredients, combine them all, pour in the skillet and bake.
It was delicious, as cornbread is wont to be. Here is the recipe.
Skillet Corn Bread with Scallions (serves 8 ish)
Adapted from Gourmet.com
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 tbl sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups cups well-shaken buttermilk (do not use powdered)
1 bunch scallions trimmed and sliced thin (white and green parts)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Heat skillet in oven 10 minutes.Meanwhile stir together dry ingredients in small bowl. Whisk together eggs buttermilk and scallions in a medium bowl. Remove hot skillet from oven (handle will be very hot) and add butter, swirling skillet to coat bottom and side (butter may brown). Whisk hot butter into buttermilk mixture and return skillet to oven. Stir cornmeal mixture into buttermilk mixture just until evenly moistened but still lumpy. Scrape batter into hot skillet and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Also, while I’m here, a quick note on pickled vegetables. I like to have pickled vegetables around because if you do something substantial like cauliflower (which I heartily recommend) they make a good snack, and things like radishes (my favorite) or onions are great garnishes. I had some radishes and I thought I would take some pictures of them
and then I thought I would pickle them. Since I was making the liquid anyway, I went looking for other things to pickle and was able to dig out some carrots and red onion, so I used those.
The pickling liquid for this was three cups of water, 3/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1 1/2 cups sugar and a 1/4 cup plus a 1/2 tbl kosher salt. Dissolve the salt and the sugar, boil it, and pour it over your vegetables of choice. Double it if you have a lot to pickle. These keep forever.
And while I am still here, I thought I would share a predicament. I don’t have a microwave. Actually, I do have a microwave, but it is sitting, unplugged, on top of my refrigerator because I don’t have a good place to put it. I very rarely miss it. Except for today, because I have left over shrimp and grits in the fridge and I can’t think of a good way to reheat them that does not involve the microwave. Is it worth moving it? Only time will tell.