Chili Blanco

"From morning till night, sounds drift from the kitchen, most of them familiar and comforting....On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it; it dries the wet sock, it cools the hot little brain."
- E.B.White (1899-1985)

"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."
- Ina Garten (1948-)

The idea of making chili has been on my mind a lot lately. My wife and I love Stagg's Steak House Chili. It is a love unconditional. But we rarely keep pre-made food at home, I would prefer to make something rather than buy it. As a culture we are moving further and further away from cooking the basics, forgetting that food always tastes better home-made. The food companies that claim their pre-prepared things are better than you can do yourself are snake-oil salesmen. There's a ridiculous Clubhouse commercial where a woman claims that the brand's Gravy Mix and turkey drippings are better than making it from scratch, how stupid do they think people are? They just spent hours cooking a turkey for loved-ones and they blow off good gravy for powdered? It's sad if people are. This is not to say that there are some products, Stagg's recipe for Steak House Chili for one, that are exceptional. These rare, shining examples are the ones that make me want to cook--to create a version at home that is as good, but most likely better than the dish than inspired it.

On the way to work this morning I could see the trees starting to change colour along the Don valley. The cooler weather and shorter days are coming. During this time of year I can't help but think of all those comforting autumn foods, and the best of all in my mind is chili. Chili is chunky comfort. So I got home and makd a batch of chili blanco (or white chili, also known as chicken chili). As I've been searching through chili recipes trying to find a version close to Stagg's, I've come acros a few for chili blanco. It is one of those recipes that you can taste the dish just by reading the ingredient list and every version tasted good. What makes it such a great and simple recipe is that you use precooked chicken (those rotisserie jobbies you see in the grocery store works great, or that leftover bits from yesterdays roast chicken) and the rest of the ingredients are mostly canned stuff that I usually have in my pantry. So what I give you is the version I came up with, which is made from scratch. And nothing is better than scratch.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh jalapeño chile
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 can (398 ml) cream-style corn
1 can (125 ml) chopped green chilies
2 1/2 cups low sodium organic chicken broth
1 can (540 ml) navy beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1-2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Sea Salt and fresh ground White Pepper

1. Add onion and cook until tender.
2. Mix in garlic, jalapeño, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano, and ground white pepper. Cook together to let flavours mingle.
3. Add bell pepper, navy beans, cream-style corn, chicken broth. Bing to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
4. Stir in chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and serve immediately. A dollop of sour cream would go down a treat.

To Finish
I topped the finished dish with sour cream and sprinkled over a pinch of Ancho Chili Powder. It serves between 4 to 6.


Anonymous said...

Well said - nothing is better than scratch. Of course, that statement assumes that you can cook and have a good range of equipment at your fingertips.

Regrettably, for a great many people, that isn't the case so there are likely a whole bunch of people who can't exceed the results in that gravy pack. Then again, those folks didn't roast a turkey in the first place so you're right - the commercial is absolute bunk!

Al said...

If you truly want it from 'scratch' then shouldn't you dump the canned products? Soaking some dried beans overnight will give you a much better texture than the mushy canned ones.

Also most of the cans that the beans are packed in have the Bisphenol-A plastic lining with it's worrisome health implications.

Paul said...

Of course you're right, Al. And I do have dried beans in the pantry. I chose the canned so the meal would be done by the time my wife came home. Why stop at dumping the canned? I could make my own chicken broth as well, cut the corn from the cob in my fridge (I should have grown it), dried my own home-grown oregano, heck, make my own cheese and cheddar it. But hey, you have to draw the line somewhere, right?

Paul said...

I don't know about the good range of kitchen equipment, Dana. I think of all the wonderful women cooking in the most basic settings and putting out beautiful meals. I remember watching the PBS show Martin Yan's China a couple of weeks ago and he visited his mother's kitchen and it took up (no kidding) 3 square feet.

I think it comes down to the want to cook more than the ability. I haven't been cooking that long (maybe two years) and have had my share of kitchen disasters but I find I really love cooking, so I continue. I am ignorant of the basics but I read and try and sometimes succeed.

As to that silly commercial, yeah, they spend hours cooking the turkey but can't spend ten minutes throwing a glass of white wine in the pan and mixing it together until it reduces. Salt and pepper and you set.

Anonymous said...

This is a great way to use up your canned ingredients, the chili looks really tasty, I've never made white chili before. I'd love to feature your recipe on our Demy, the first and only digital recipe reader.

Panic said...

I made this a couple weeks ago, and it was lovely. My variation had a cup of cream and some "pumpkin spice" and was super lovely. A definite winner. Thanks for the inspiration!

Panic said...

Woooops! Meant to comment on the squash and kale soup, not the chili! Durrr. :(

alex said...

These look delicious. . I'm bookmarking these to try this weekend.