Food Network Magazine (January/February 2016)
Hey, maybe you heard we had a little snow last weekend here in DC. With windy, violent snowfall of between 24 and 36 inches over a 36-hour period, it was no weather for being outside.
In fact, it was the perfect weather for being inside, with this White Chicken Chili.
Growing up, we both had a chicken chili from time to time. But the dish always seemed to make an appearance in snowy weather. In Zach's house, especially, the hint of snow was treated as a call to arms for his mom to start cooking certain comfort foods -- cinnamon rolls, hot cocoa, chicken-and-dumplings. And, often, a white chicken chili.
White chili is a great alternative to traditional red-beans-and-beef-and-tomato chili. It's lighter, with a brighter heat. It's a "zing!" to red chili's "blam!"
This particular recipe from Food Network Magazine is a good basic blueprint, but it could use some upgrades if it's going to become a winter classic in your kitchen. Here's what we recommend.
One upgrade right off the bat: We swapped in shredded chicken for ground. We think it's a nicer texture in the chili, and it probably is going to yield you more flavor. Why? Well, there are basically two ways to go here:
-- You can do what we do: Use chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless). Once they're cooked in the chili, spoon them out onto a cutting board and shred them with a fork. If you used bone-in thighs, discard the bones. Return the chicken to the chili, cook a few minutes more, and you're ready to eat.
-- Buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli. Shred it yourself and toss all the chicken into the chili. (You probably want to discard the skin. Or -- shhhhh! -- eat it yourself while standing in the kitchen.)
Either of those methods will give you a better, more flavorful chicken in this chili. Yes, they involve slightly more work. But it's worth it.
Other upgrades we made here:
-- Seasonings. Like a lot of Food Network Magazine recipes, we found this one to be a little middle-of-the-road in terms of seasoning and heat. We added about 50 percent more cumin, coriander, oregano and allspice. We could've stood even more.
-- S&P. Same goes for salt and pepper. Season it to your taste, of course, but we ended up adding a lot more salt once we got these bowls to the table.
-- Umami, please? We still felt like this was missing a savory element. Maybe some liquid aminos would have given this a nice savory foundation? Or perhaps even a bit of anchovy paste? (Maybe that would be weird?)
-- Pitch the pickled peppers. This is more of a makeunder than an upgrade, but we'd say you don't need to worry about the pickled jalopenos for topping. We bought a jar, but we found they really overpowered the chili. We wound up picking the rest of them off before eating. (We also didn't fuss with shredded cheese -- this is a good-enough dish on its own.)
Don't get us wrong -- There's a lot to like about this chili. One ingenious touch we loved were the shortcuts to thicken the chili. Using undrained cans of beans is smart. And the torn corn tortillas basically dissolve into the broth, giving it a thicker richness.
All in all, this was good. And it could be great. Regardless, it was just the thing we needed on a snowy winter weekend. As the snow pelted the windows and gathered in epic drifts on the ground below, we smiled over steaming hot bowls of this white chicken chili, warmed from the inside out.
Prep time: 55 minutes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers (1 diced, 1 halved; remove seeds for less heat)
1 poblano chile pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 pounds ground chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 15 -ounce cans white navy beans (do not drain)
1 4 -ounce can chopped green chiles (do not drain)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 corn tortillas, torn, plus more for serving
1 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and pickled jalapenos, for topping
Lime wedges, for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, both jalapenos, the poblano, cumin, coriander, oregano and allspice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and the spices are toasted, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it starts browning, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans, canned chiles, chicken broth and 1 1/4 cups water; bring to a boil. Add the torn tortillas to the pot; reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 40 minutes.
Remove the halved jalapeno from the chili and stir in all but a few tablespoons of the cilantro; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Serve with assorted toppings, the reserved cilantro, lime wedges and more tortillas.