Emily Grant shares her innovation of her family’s cold weather classic.
I pretty much cook with a bottle of Sriracha or Louisiana hot sauce in hand at all times. Related note: if you’re a longtime Tabasco user give Louisiana a chance; it’s the same type of hot sauce but the flavor profile is exponentially better. Blasphemy, I know. This is great for me, not so great for my more “gringo” (his words, not mine) boyfriend. And that’s fine for most of the year; when I cook for him I try to lay off the hot sauce and chili flakes.
But as soon as it starts to get cold I start to crave chili. At Christmas—pretty much the only time there may be, MAY BE a nip in the air in southern Alabama—my mom always makes chili and I’ve come to associate it with cold weather. My boyfriend Calder and I take turns cooking dinner for each other during the week and his spice aversion has kept me, out of love, from making my cold weather chili for two years now. But this year the desire for a hot bowl of chili has just been too much. So, I consulted my mother. She has some experience in this area; my dad considers anything spicier than salt an attack on his palate and I seemed to remember her having a chili that he actually liked. Could it be?
It could. Mom had a recipe for a white chili that uses green chili peppers, can be made without chili powder, and tends to go easier on those with sensitive mouths and stomachs. I tinkered with her recipe, subbing diced chicken in for ground chicken, adjusting some of the spice quantities, and, because I was out of cumin (plus I think cumin a bit overrated. Blasphemy, again!), substituting in paprika. Though this gave my “white” chili a much more red color than cumin would have, I enjoyed the smoky flavor it gave the chili. I also think that the smokiness helped mask some of the spice that would have made Calder nervous about eating a bowl of it.
I made some cornbread, a Southern classic, to go along with the chili and provided starch to cut any overwhelming spiciness. I was really pleased with how this recipe turned out; it didn’t take very long to make and the quantity stated below made enough food for about 4 meals, even for a voracious 20 year old American male, making it a great thing to make ahead of time and rewarm during a hectic week.
-About 800 grams (1.75 lbs.) diced chicken breast
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-1 teaspoon oregano
-1 ¼ teaspoon paprika (for a more traditional Tex-Mex taste and white color just sub this out for an equal quantity of cumin)
-1 ½ teaspoons chili powder (mild, medium, or hot based on your preference) OR 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (red pepper)
-2 minced garlic cloves
-65 grams (5-6 chilies) fresh green chili peppers, deseeded and diced—you can use more if you want, but I’ve found that above this amount the added heat to added worked of deseeding and dicing ratio isn’t worth it! (You can find these below the fresh herbs at Tesco, by the way.)
-475ml (2 cups) chicken broth
-2 cans (standard size cans) cannellini beans
-¾ of an approximately 340g can of corn
-1 ½ tablespoons flour
-2 tablespoons butter, melted
-Shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream for serving
1. Sautee the diced chicken (seasoned with salt, pepper, and whatever you normally season chicken with, ex: garlic salt, paprika) in a deep, large pan in your cooking oil of choice. Once it is cooked through take the chicken out of the pan and set it aside for later use.
2. Add a bit more oil to the pan and cook the onions about 6-7 minutes, until they are soft and fragrant.
3. Once the onions are soft add the oregano, paprika, chili powder (or cayenne pepper), and garlic and stir to combine.
4. After the onion has cooked in the spices for about a minute, add the chili peppers, chicken broth, cannellini beans, corn, a pinch of salt, and some fresh ground pepper to the mix and stir it all together. Allow this to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. While the pot is simmering whisk together the flour and butter together in a small bowl until completely combined.
6. After the pot has simmered 10-15 minutes, stir in the flour/butter mixture and continue to simmer on a slightly lower heat until the chili thickens a bit. If you find the chili too thick, just add a little more broth. If you want to thicken it a bit more, add a little more flour.
7. You can serve the chili immediately or allow it to cool and “funkify” (the official Grant family term for the process) overnight. Serve chili plain or with a little shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream on top. I recommend serving it with a slice of hot, fresh cornbread.
(My cornbread recipe can be found on The Tribe too: Buttermilk Cornbread)
Photo Credits: Emily Grant