My kitchen has been churning out brownies, baked goods, and layer cakes in mass quantity over the past two weeks, and boy have I been hankering for a savory reprieve. (You know it's bad when one more finger-lick of chocolate, even in the name of hot fudge sauce perfection, just might end in a sugar-induced coma.) Thank goodness white chicken chili seems to be the perfect baking overdose cure.
White chili was one of my first successful attempts when I began teaching myself how to cook. Now I try to make it at least a couple of times a year. In all the time since, that original recipe has taken on a mind of its own. I am particularly attached to the evolved version, but since chili is often nothing more than "a bit of this" and "a dash of that," I have never taken the opportunity to put this favorite into writing.
I made an especially delicious batch over Thanksgiving using leftover turkey, to quite the fanfare from my relatives. After only one go around, every last drop had vanished without a trace. I admit I was proud, if not a little shocked, at my family's edible accomplishment. (It was a really big pot of chili.) When my brother-in-law declared it to be the new annual tradition, I realized I had to get it down on paper.
For my family's sake, I finally took the time to measure out each ingredient, clock the cooking time, and taste (and taste) it towards culinary perfection. It makes plenty of leftovers for my house of just two--there are still a couple of full Tupperwares waiting in the fridge, right alongside the extra triple-chocolate trifle. For once in my life, I'll skip dessert. I'm saving room for the soup!
White Chicken ChiliServes 6 - 8
This recipe is really good right off the stove, but it keeps getting better if you are willing to wait. Use a heavy hand when you season--now is not the time to cut back on salt, be sure to grind in plenty of black pepper.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced small
1 - 2 stalks celery, diced small
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 (4 ounce) can fire-roasted green chiles
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
6 cups chicken stock
2 (15.8 ounce) cans white beans, such as Great Northern or Cannellini
2 cups fresh or frozen yellow corn (thawed if frozen)
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (or turkey)
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk (or heavy cream)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sour cream and grated cheddar, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large heavy stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook until very soft, about 8 - 10 minutes. Add the green chiles, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne; sauté for an additional minute or two.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the white beans, corn, chicken, Tabasco, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about an hour.
Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the milk and continue whisking until a thick paste forms, about 2-3 more minutes. Stir the paste into the chili until it is completely incorporated and there are no lumps.
Continue cooking the chili over low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 45 minutes to an hour. Season to taste, using a generous hand, with additional salt, black pepper, and cayenne. (Once it's done, I like to turn it off for a few hours, then heat it again before serving. The flavor and texture just keeps getting better with time.)
Serve chili with sour cream, freshly grated cheddar, and additional hot sauce on the side.
Related: Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings
(Images: Nealey Dozier)