Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Red or White? Depends on the Chili
A couple years ago, we went to a chili contest, a fund raiser for a local charity. Our friend Susie was competing, and her chili was, as usual, great. (She won the People’s Choice Award.) But there were a hundred pots of chili there, and they were all good. I know because I sampled them all.
Some were a little weirder than others. One guy’s secret ingredient was orange juice. Another’s was balsamic vinegar. Some were pretty sweet. Many were fire-breathers. But there wasn’t one white chili among them and I was anxious to taste one before I tried to make some at home.
Even though the occasion never presented itself, I was determined to try white chili. It became a minor challenge. So I assigned myself the mission of finding a recipe that might match my fantasy. Instead of going straight to the internet, I went to my ample cookbook library. You’d think there would have been one recipe that would have struck the right chord. But, no!
So I resorted to Googling and after several disappointing finds, I landed on The Pioneer Woman’s recipe and I was hooked. (I’ve decided Ree Drummond is the Oprah of the food blogging world.) Her recipe sounded just right: took some effort but was not overly time-consuming. If I was going to do this, it wasn’t going to be a mere unzipping of cans!
While I didn’t have everything on hand she’d specified, I had most of it and made a few changes. I didn’t roast a chicken; I bought one at the supermarket. I used cornmeal, not masa. And I added salsa verde and canned pickled jalapenos – because they were in the pantry. And sweet peppers, mostly because I wanted the extra bit of color.
Because I'm a fan of white pizza and linguine without a red clam sauce, I was sure I would like it but I was surprised at how much. It was sublime.
This is no wimpy chili. It’s full of chunky chicken and beans and peppers. But it’s not overwhelming. It’s creamy and hot at the same time. It gets its fire from the jalapenos and the chilies. No chili powder. Just a lot of cumin and some cayenne
It smelled heavenly while it was cooking and I wasn’t sure I could wait a whole hour to taste it. Well worth the wait, though.
I first made this version of the white chili a few weeks ago when the grandsons (oh, their parents came along, too) visited. We spared the little boys the heat (they loved their applesauce) but the biggie people thoroughly enjoyed the chili, a first for all of us veteran eaters.
We had the chili with a new cornbread cracker I found at Aldi’s, a perfect accompaniment.
The next time I made it, it was a smaller batch, for a girls’ night in. (We watched the movie “Red,” a pure delight for the 50+ set.) I was also in a bit of hurry and used canned cannellini, and – because I can’t seem to make something exactly the same way twice in a row – I added a can of creamed corn. It did add a different dimension. Mr. Rosemary (see, Mary?) pronounced his leftover helping better than the first batch. Arguable.
(slightly)adapted from The Pioneer Woman
1 pound dried Great Northern beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped sweet peppers, red, yellow and/or green
8 cups chicken broth
1 4.5 ounce can chopped chilies, undrained
1 4.5 ounce can salsa verde
1 4.5 ounce can whole pickled jalapenos, chopped with juices
1 whole fresh jalapeno, sliced, ribs, seeds and all
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked chicken
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons corn meal
Soak the beans in 6-8 cups cold water the night before cooking, or use the quick soak method described on the bag of beans. When ready to cook, heat olive oil in Dutch oven on medium high heat and cook onions, sweet peppers and garlic for about two minutes. Add the chilies, salsa, and chopped pickled jalapenos. Add the rinsed beans. Pour chicken broth into pan. Add the fresh sliced jalapeno, seeds, ribs and all. Reduce heat to low and place lid on pot.
Cook for one hour before adding the cooked chicken. Then cook another hour or so more, until beans are tender. When they’re tender, mix the cornmeal and milk and add to the chili. Cook an additional 10 minutes, until thickened Check the seasoning and adjust to you preferences of heat, adding more cayenne if you like.
Garnishing? Up to you. Monterey Jack cheese, green onion, cilantro, sour cream, all great options.