Monday, October 11, 2010

White Chicken Chili

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Chili is one of my favorite fall meals and it's the perfect dish for a crisp, fall day. Aside from the typical red chili, white chicken chili is one we especially like at home. I made this White Chicken Chili recently and we loved the spicy kick it had. With three different fresh chiles used in this recipe, it was a great way to learn more about chiles too. Well, except for the "hot hands"...

This recipe calls for three different fresh chiles - jalapenos, poblanos and Anaheim. Finding jalapenos and poblanos was no problem for me... but I didn't have much success with Anaheim at my local grocery store. Instead, I substituted with cubanelle peppers which are mild peppers in the chile pepper family. I normally don't cook with fresh chiles very often so shopping for these chiles was fun. It felt good going to the store, picking up some peppers and having an idea on what to do with them. Before this recipe, I have to admit that I would have walked past the chile peppers since I really don't know too much about the difference, much less, the uses for them.

The down side to working with chiles is that if you're not careful, you'll suffer from hot hands. What are hot hands? Oh, you know... that burning sensation you feel as if you marinated your hands in Tabasco sauce overnight. I guess I wasn't thinking and decided to handle the peppers without any gloves. I figured since I was rough chopping them for a recipe and then having my food processor pulse them down, I won't have any issues with hot hands. I couldn't have been more wrong. After preparing the recipe and letting it cook on the stovetop, that's when I noticed my hands starting to burn. Even with the little exposure to the chiles, they definitely did a number on me. Washing dishes and my hands over and over again didn't seem to help. Needless to say, I went to bed with hot hands and thankfully by morning, that burning sensation was gone. So if you make this recipe, take it from me - use gloves when handling those chile peppers!

I will say that this recipe was worth the hot hands. The chili had a great flavor that packed in some heat. If you don't want it too spicy, feel free to cut back on the peppers  from using 3 of each to 1 of each. You'll still get the flavor and color without all that heat. Do note that it will get hotter as it sits and the flavors really develop when you chill it overnight. I especially like serving chili, regardless of recipe, the next day when you really get a better flavor after all the ingredients meld.


White Chicken Chili
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

3 pounds of boneless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeno chiles
3 medium poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces
3 medium cubanelle chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can blackeyed peas
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
lime wedges for garnish

Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook without moving until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate.

While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from the chiles. Roughly chop the chiles and place half of the chopped chiles in a food processor. Process 10-12 pulses until you have a consistency of chunky salsa. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and repeat with the remaining chiles and combine with the first batch. Next process the onions in the food processor the same way and combine with  the chiles.

Check on the chicken and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced chiles and onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables turn translucent, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now empty food processor work bowl. Add 1 can cannellini beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, and the remaining 2 cups of broth and chicken to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly -- about 10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, and scallions into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

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