Chili means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Laura Davis “invents” her own version.
Text And Photo By Laura Davis
One of the benefits of food writing for me has been that I have to stop cooking like the Mad Matter. Sounds a little crazy but let me explain. Chili is something I have made for years. Beef, chicken and vegetarian and every other version I or someone else was in the mood for. I have not made the same pot of chili twice. I might have come close but I never used a recipe and I never wrote one down. It is totally fun but sometimes I wish I could replicate my favorite versions. I am now writing recipes down and taking notes. Yes, notes. If I don’t get something right the first time, the next time I make it, I will or at least get closer. This may not be a new concept to some, but for me it is revolutionary.
The main ingredient for chili is chilies. Yes, I know this is ground breaking information. The rest of the ingredients are just a vehicle for their flavor and heat. I love chilies. Spicy and flavorful is what I am looking for, so those 5 alarm chilies that everyone goes crazy for, ghost chilies and what not, well they are not for me. Like I said I love hot and spicy, but not “make me sweat and cry” and “drink lots of beer” hot. I want to taste the flavors of the food with a descent amount of spice rather than experiencing the excessive effects of capsaicin. Did you know that capsaicin is hydrophobic and that is why water does not help when you have eaten something too spicy? It will just spread it around. Capsaicin is fat soluble and by pairing spicy food with milk, sour cream or cheese it will help alleviate the burning sensation by collecting some of the spicy molecules as it goes down.
One chili I have never made is white or green chili. I have been thinking about this recipe for a while. I knew it had to have tomatillos. I love the tangy and fresh flavor tomatillos give salsa and sauces so why not chili. I had never heard of white chili and actually thought this was an original idea (stop laughing) until I “googled” it just to be sure. It is not huge but it is out there. There is not really much difference between white chili and chili verde. Classic chili verde is made with pork, tomatillas or green chile sauce and has no beans. White chili has chicken, no tomatillos and white beans such as cannellini or great northern. They both have flavorings such as cumin, oregano, green chilies, onions and garlic. After doing my research and learning more about what I have “created”, I realize I have basically fused the two with all my favorite ingredients. It is really hard these day to come up with an truly original recipe because let’s face it great minds think alike (at least I would like to think so)! So this is my version of Chili Verde made with chicken and white beans.
- 1.5 to 2 lbs (680 to 907 g)of skinless chicken breasts
- 1.5 lbs (680 g) of boneless chicken thighs or the equivalent
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 to 2 serranos, minced (jalapenos can be used instead)
- 2 large green chilies, roasted, peeled deseeded and chopped (4 oz or 113 g canned whole roasted green chilies can be substituted for green chilies)
- 1 large poblano, roasted, peeled and deseeded and chopped
- 3 to 4 garlic gloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme or 1 tablespoon of fresh
- 1 teaspoon of dried Mexican oregano
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1½ lbs (680 g) of tomatillos, peeled and pureed chunky
- 4 cups (1 L) of chicken broth
- 1 can of (15.5 oz or 439 g) cannellini or great northern white beans
- ¼ cup of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon of salt or to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Serve with cooked basmati rice or brown rice (optional)
- garnish with chopped avocado, monterey jack cheese or queso blanco
- Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat a dutch oven or 5½ quart wide soup pot on medium high heat. Add 1 or more tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chicken on both sides but not cooked through. (Cook them in whole pieces, they will be chopped up and finish cooking in the chili later). Place the chicken on a plate and set aside to cool.
- Saute onions and celery in the same pot the chicken was browned in until just starting to soften. Add the chilies, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, cumin, and dried thyme (if using fresh thyme add with chicken) and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatillo puree and saute until heated through and just starting to cook. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
- Chop or shred the chicken and add it to the chili. Rinse the beans well and add them. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add cilantro. If too thick add more broth or water. Taste for seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot with garnishes of choice.
Laura Davis is the author of the blog Sweet Savory Planet and has a life long culinary passion with southern roots originating in her home state of Alabama. She has a degree in nutrition from University of Texas at Austin.