Thursday, September 30, 2010

White Chili

This has so far been a most un-fall-y fall.  Maybe since I've been in Vermont the last six years, I am accustomed to the end of September meaning brilliant foliage colors and chilly nights, often with the first hard frost.  So on this past blustery Sunday, with the boys watching football and the temps hovering in the low 60s, I went and bought the ingredients for what sounded like a quintessential fall dish: white chili.  White chili has no tomatoes or chili powder like traditional chili; it features subtler flavors of green chiles, white beans, and cumin.  I envisioned eating a bowl of this on a crisp night this week, perhaps with rain drops beating on the window outside. However, by the time I got around to making it yesterday, I was wearing shorts and a tank top and, if I am not mistaken, got a bit of a sunburn on my walk to get more cumin from the store!  Where are you fall?  And global warming, what are you doing to chili season???

Okay, trust me, I'm not complaining.  After six years of six month winters, I'll wear my shorts as long as possible, thank you.  I'm just saying, depending where you live in the country (I hear it is something like 120 degrees in SoCal), this dish may or may not appeal this week.  If you are still sweating it out, never fear, this dinner was just as tasty on a warm evening; you just have embrace the southwesterness of it all. And if you are a chili lover, I definitely recommend giving this recipe a whirl, no matter what your thermometer reads today.  We loved it.  Subtly spicy and with a jalapeno kick, it was really quite delicious, and a nice departure from the classic ground beef chilis everyone is in the mood to whip up this time of year.  Well, not everyone. Vegetarian friends, I think this recipe could be just as good without the chicken...try it and let me know!
White Chili
1 lb. large white beans, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
8 cups chicken broth
2 chicken breasts
2 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
Chopped cilantro, grated sharp cheddar and sour cream for garnish
1) Soak your beans overnight.  When ready to use, rinse them thoroughly.
2) Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven.  Add the onions, garlic and jalapeno and saute until the onion softens and begins to turn brown, about 10 minutes.
3) Add the beans and broth, bring to a boil and then turn down to a low simmer and allow to cook, covered, for about 2 hours or until the beans are very soft.
4) Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the chicken breasts and allow to them to poach in the boiling water until they are cooked through: about 15 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool on a plate in the fridge while the beans cook.  When the chicken is cool to the touch, shred it by hand.
5) When the beans are cooked through, stir in the chicken, chiles, spices and sugar and allow the flavors to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
6) Lower the heat and stir in the half-and-half.
7) Serve with cilantro, cheddar and sour cream.
Serves 8
Some notes about this recipe:
- This chili, as prepared above, has quite a kick to it.  If you are serving a crowd whose palettes can't take heat, omit the jalapeno.
- "Brown sugar, SMJ? Really? In chili?", you say.  Yes, I say.  I tasted my chili after adding the spices and it was just missing something... it was tasty but had kind of a one-note chile flavor.  Adding the sugar balances the spiciness of the peppers and gives the whole dish a lovely, rich complexity.  Just trust me on this one.
- You could totally leave out the half-and-half; it adds a delicious creaminess, but the chili was pretty damn good without it as well.  I just couldn't leave well enough alone.  And I like creaminess.


  1. Freeze me a bowl? pa pa pa please! Can't wait to taste all your SMJ soups this fall/winter! AD

  2. What types of white beans would you recommend? Are canned ones a definite no-no?

  3. AD - this is so on the regular winter rotation. We liked it even better on Day 2. You will see many a pot of it soon!

    Ab - I used cannellini, but any large white bean would do. She who lives mere blocks from Rancho Gardo's SF outpost has no excuse for canned beans.

  4. I love White Chili...will have to try your version next week sometime, do you think it would do well in a crock pot while I'm at work?

    Also, how big is your dutch oven? We're going to be registering soon (oh visions of my long wait for Le Creuset coming to an end), and I am not sure what size to get...what have you found to be the most useful?

  5. yum! I had to turn on my heat this morning, I am going to have to try this!

  6. Alison - I'm not sure how it would do in a crock pot... I am pretty new to crock pot cooking. Since the chicken is already cooked through, I can't see how you could go wrong. I say try it. Will you let me know how it turns out?

    We adore our Le Creuset and I wish we had more! We have only the 9 qt sauce pan and a saute pan as well. B loves to braise, and the 9 qt is most ideal for that. Once I've built my multimedia empire, I plan to add a couple of the smaller ones to our collection as well :). In the meantime, the 9 qt is ideal for soups and braising, and the saute pan is fabulous for risotto and braising as well. xoxo

  7. So I wanted some of this chili, but didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday, I used canned beans and rotisserie chicken. Not as good as SMJ's but it was delicious.