chicken chili

I spent last week working on a chicken chili recipe request from an old friend.  I haven't seen much of Adam Reisig since 1999, when we sat next to each other in Mr. Winkler's Advanced Composition class, but the internet has a way of bringing people back into your life.  I hate when someone refuses to give up a recipe or claims that some of their ingredients are secret.  I'm good at sharing.  This time, though, I didn't have a recipe.  I usually make chili with chuck or ground turkey.  There are tons of "white chili" mixes on the market like McCormick, but they are creepily sweet and filled with crap:


This process for making chili is not especially conducive for busting out a quick weeknight meal.  I like to spend my Sundays cooking ahead for the rest of the week, but understand if that isn't your thing.  It involves roasting a chicken, cooking the beans separately, making chili powder, chopping veg, and then putting it all together.  A few shortcuts are possible, but there are some disadvantages:

Canned Beans
  • they come already salted and sometimes spiced, so you'll have to rinse them to control the flavor
  • take care not to overcook them or they'll turn to mush 
  • they smell like dog food when you open the can 
  • for this recipe, you'll need 3, 15 ounce cans of beans
Grocery Store Roast Chicken
  • chances are, the breast will be overcooked and rubbery
  • usually too salty
  • your chicken likely led a sad, empty life 
  • the house won't be filled with delicious smells
  • people on the bus will be seriously pissed if the aromas waft out of your grocery bags 
Chili Powder
  • most brands are pretty one-note
  • store bought versions will last only as long as homemade
  • for the price of one jar, you could probably make more than a cup using ingredients from a Mexican grocer
Canned stock
  • use beer instead! Seriously, any beer. Or water.
  • if you must, try for low sodium with as few ingredients as possible

      Chicken Chili
      (serves 6-8)

      12 oz. dry white beans (such as great northern or cannellini)*
      2 medium onions, diced
      4 roasted poblanos, diced
      2 or so chipotles in adobo, chopped (buy a 7.5 oz. can)
      1 28 oz. can whole or crushed tomatoes
      8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
      2 tablespoons canola oil
      2 cups roasted chicken, chopped, skin removed
      2 cups homemade chicken broth
      2 tablespoons chili powder
      2 tablespoons cumin
      salt and pepper
      juice of 1 lime

      For Beans
      Preheat oven to 325.  Place beans in an oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid, such as a dutch oven.  Fill with water to cover beans by one inch.  Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to water, cover, and bake for 60 minutes.  After one hour, check beans every fifteen minutes until tender, adding water if needed to keep beans covered.  Remove from oven when soft, and drain beans.

      The World’s Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe (from Michael Ruhlman)
      Turn your oven on high (450 if you have ventilation, 425 if not).  Coat a 3- or 4-pound chicken with coarse kosher salt so that you have an appealing crust of salt (a tablespoon or so).  Put the chicken in a pan, stick a lemon or some onion or any fruit or vegetable you have on hand into the cavity.  Put the chicken in the oven.  Go away for an hour.  Watch some TV, play with the kids, read, have a cocktail, have sex.  When an hour has passed, take the chicken out of the oven and put it on the stove top or on a trivet for 15 more minutes.  Finito.

      For Chili Powder
      This isn't very spicy.  I prefer to add cayenne or extra chipotles in adobo for heat, and keep this chili powder flavorful, but accessible.  Feel free to substitute your favorite peppers, add cinnamon sticks or fresh cumin seeds.

      2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
      3 pasilla chiles
      3 guajillo chiles

      Heat a cast iron or stainless skillet over medium-high heat.  Add coriander seeds, shaking pan over heat for 1-2 minutes, until seeds are fragrant, but not smoking.  Remove seeds from pan and add the chiles in one layer to bottom of pan, working in batches if necessary.  Heat chiles for 1-2 minutes on both sides and remove from heat.  Using kitchen shears, cut stems off and shake seeds from chiles.  Cut up the peppers roughly and add them along with the coriander seeds to a coffee grinder, food processor, mortar and pestle, or blender.  Process until ingredients form a fine powder.  Store in an airtight container for up to six months.

      Roast the Poblanos
      This step is not entirely necessary.  It will add a smokiness to the final dish, but if you want to skip it, instead chop the peppers and add them to the pan with the onions.

      Place a pepper on the burner of a gas stove top* directly over the flame.  Using tongs, turn the pepper every minute or so, until all areas of skin are charred.  Place the blackened pepper on a cutting board and invert a medium-sized bowl over the pepper.  Repeat this process until all peppers are roasted.  Keep them under the bowl until cooled, about 10 minutes.  Peel charred skin away and discard.  Remove stem and seeds, then dice the peppers.

      *if you don't have a gas stove, your broiler is an alternative for charring the pepper

      For Chili
      Using same pot from the earlier bean cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions with a pinch of kosher salt and cook until softened, stirring often, around 8-10 minutes.  While onions are cooking, break down the chicken and discard the skin (I recommend eating it with your fingers, but don't forget to wash your hands).  Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks and refrigerate any additional meat.  Add garlic, poblanos, chipotles, cumin, and chili powder to pot, stirring to coat all the vegetables in the seasonings.  Turn heat down to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add tomatoes, stock, beans, and chicken.  Once combined, simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.  Add lime juice right at the end of cooking and season with salt and pepper to taste.  This chili always tastes better the following day, once the flavors have a chance to come together, but does not benefit from a long simmer (that will overcook the chicken and beans).

      Garnish with shredded cheese, avocado, or sour cream.  Or all three.  I hope you enjoy, Adam.

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