Chicken Chili

Inspiration: So this is one of those recipes that I’ve been making for years in one form or another. It used to be on my blog a few years back, but I took it down because I’ve made some significant changes since then that I really think improve the dish. Brandon always tells me that this is his favorite chili every time that I make it, and it’s really up there for me, too. I can never really pick a definitive favorite, though. How can you choose between chicken chili or a really great tomato-based, ground beef chili? Or chile verde with pork? The decision is not one that I’m ready to make.

What We Loved: This chili has a really great depth of flavor for how simple it is to make. It’s one of those meals that can come together in an hour, yet it tastes like it’s been cooking all day. One can of navy beans is pureed and acts as part of the sauce, which I love, and the intense flavors of the green chiles, chili powder, and cumin really provide a great backbone for the chili. Plus, I just love any dish that begins with sauteeing onions and peppers in a good pat of butter. When those vegetables get nice and softened in the butter, they contribute so much richness to the dish. And that’s not even to mention the chicken, which is the main component of the chili and a lovely star, at that – especially if you use nice, tender chicken thighs. We’ve tried different toppings for this chili, and we just love it best with freshly shredded pepper-jack cheese and fresh cilantro. A nice cheesy kick and a fresh herbal bite really add that finishing touch.

Tips: I’ve really been digging navy beans lately instead of cannellini beans when I’m looking to use white beans in a dish. I mainly prefer them because they’re much smaller, which means that they don’t mush apart as easily or lose their skins in your dish like cannellini beans tend to do. Plus, I feel like they have a better flavor, and they’re never mealy, which cannellini beans can sometimes be. Any kind of white bean that you prefer would work, though.

Chicken Chili
Source: Original Recipe

1 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
About 1 cup chicken stock
About 1 cup half and half
Approximately 4 cups cooked and shredded chicken
2 cans diced green chiles
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pepper-jack cheese, shredded
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a soup pot. Add the onion, red pepper, and jalapeno pepper, and saute until softened.

2. While the onions and peppers are cooking, process one can of navy beans in a food processor with a bit of chicken stock until smooth.

3. Add the garlic to the pot, and stir to combine.

4. Add the pureed navy beans, second can of navy beans, chicken stock, half and half, chicken, green chiles, chili powder, and cumin to the pot. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add a little bit more stock and/or half and half.

5. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the flavors have had time to meld, at least half an hour. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Reduce to the lowest setting on the stove and keep warm until ready to serve.

6. Serve garnished with freshly shredded pepper-jack cheese and cilantro.

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Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

*Photo and Content Updated February 2012*

Inspiration: Craving for chili? Check. New cookbook (thanks Brandon!) with an interesting Cincinnati chili recipe? Check.

What we Loved: There aren’t many things better than a bowl of chili covered with cheese, are there? Cincinnati chili is a little different because it has some sweeter spices in it like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, and the result is a dark, smoky, and complex dish that is really a nice change of pace from a regular tomato-based chili. There are plenty of rich and savory flavors, a touch of sweet thrown in, and the wonderful spicy kick that every chili needs. And with a pound of kidney beans, a pound of ground beef, and plenty of diced tomatoes, this is really a thick and hearty chili, too.

Tips: This is our version of Cincinnati chili – certainly not anything super authentic. Cincinnati chili is normally served over spaghetti and can include cheese, onions, and beans as toppings (though the beans are included within this version). We don’t generally eat pasta,  so we skipped the spaghetti and just ate it straight from the bowl topped with cheese and onions. I’d advise using heaps of cheese.

Cincinnati Chili
Source: Adapted from The Daily Soup Cookbook

1 lb red kidney beans (alternatively, you can use two cans)
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
Onions, finely chopped

1. Cover the beans with water, and soak overnight. Drain and rinse, then pour the beans into a pot. Cover again with water, and cook for 1-2 hours, until cooked through and softened. Drain, and set aside. If you are using cans, no prep is necessary.

2. Crumble the beef into the pot, and cook until browned and just about cooked through.

3. Add the onion to the pot, and cook until tender. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

4. Add the chili powder, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cayenne, bay leaves, and salt. Stir to combine, and cook until the spices are fragrant.

5. Add the tomatoes and the beans. Simmer for as long as you’d like, at least half an hour.

6. Remove the bay leaves. Serve topped with cheddar and/or onions.

Chile Verde with Cannellini Beans

Inspiration: Brandon and I had a family chili cook-off to go to over Halloween weekend, and we always like to try to bring something different than a standard chili. Last time, we took our white chicken chili, and after some experimenting around this year, we settled on making chile verde doctored up to be a little more “chili-like” with a good bunch of cannellini beans and a few habeneros. Not a traditional chile verde per se, but something a little different!

What we Loved: Brandon and I both adore salsa verde and eat it all of the time, and this recipe is basically salsa verde in chili from. So for us, what’s not to love about the tart, spicy, fresh cilantro flavors of salsa verde mixed with tender pork and creamy cannelini beans? It’s really a great combination of flavors. The pork was fall-apart tender (maybe Brandon’s favorite part of the dish?), and we thought that the heat level was just right.

Helpful Hints: We made this chili a few times to get it just to our liking, so we learned a few things along the way. First, taking the time to cut your pork into nice small pieces is really worth it, because it makes the final result feel more like a chili than a stew or soup. But, it’s kind of a pain because pork shoulder is very fatty and therefore hard to cut. The second time around making this, I had my butcher chop my pork shoulder into stew-cut chunks, then I cut them down myself even further. Starting with a huge piece of pork shoulder yourself is not fun. Second, the cannellini beans make all of the difference in adding to the chili-like feel of the dish (in my opinion, at least). They’re not traditional to chile verde, but we like the flavor, and they add a remarkable substance/thickness. Third, plenty of salt is a definite must (just make sure to taste as you season). And fourth, you can vary the thickness and texture of this recipe depending on how much chicken stock you use. The chile verde in the picture above is a little thinner than other versions that I made, and the leftovers are always thicker, too.

Chile Verde with Cannellini Beans
Source: Adapted from For the Love of Cooking, originally from Arturo Vargas via Simply Recipes

I’ll post the recipe as I made it for the cook-off, which made a large crock-pot full of chili.

For the tomatillo sauce base
25 tomatillos, husked, cleaned, and sliced in half
3 poblano peppers, seeded, stemmed, and sliced in half
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large bunch cilantro
2 jalapenos, seeded and stemmed

To complete the chili
4 pounds pork shoulder, excess fat removed and cut into small pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
Dried oregano
3 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 habeneros, seeded, stemmed, and minced
1 lb dried cannellini beans, or about 3 cans (if using dry, soak/prep first according to package instructions)
2 cups chicken stock, more or less if desired

1. Place the tomatillos and poblanos cut-side down on a baking sheet. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves. Broil until the top of the vegetables are blackened, about 8 minutes.

2. Place the poblanos in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes, then peel the skins from the poblanos and discard. Peel the skins from the garlic and discard.

3. Place the tomatillos, poblanos, garlic, cilantro, and jalapenos in a food processor, and process until smooth.

4. Season the pork well with salt, pepper, and oregano. Saute in batches until nicely browned, and set aside.

5. Add the onions to the same pan, and cook until softened, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporating into the onions. Mix in the garlic and habeneros, and cook for an additional minute.

6. Place the pork, onion mixture, cannelini beans, and tomatillo sauce mixture into a crock pot. Mix well, and then add the chicken stock until the thickness is to your preference.

7. Cook on low for approximately 3 hours if using canned beans or at least 8-10 hours if using dried beans.

Chile Colorado

Carne con Chile Colorado

Carne con Chile Colorado

*Photo Updated January 2012*

Inspiration: Brandon and I don’t really need many reasons to make a nice Mexican supper. When it comes to Mexican food, I think we could happily eat it every day. Especially Rick Bayless’ Mexican food.

What we Loved: The sauce in this dish has a really unique and smoky flavor, almost like a rich mole sauce. I was surprised with the complexity, given that the ingredient list isn’t very long, but I think that the particular peppers that are used really just have layers and layers of flavor. After we toasted the peppers to make the sauce, the rich aromas in the kitchen were amazing, and they carried through right into the meal. Brandon and I both thought that the cilantro garnish really added a fresh and crisp citrusy flavor to the dish that was really the finishing touch.

Helpful Hints: Having a wonderful husband to prepare this dish while you work on making some soup for lunches is helpful indeed.

Also…I searched for New Mexico chiles for a while and finally stumbled upon them at a local market, but I’d say to definitely hunt for them if you’re going to make this dish. I tried to make it with different red peppers (ancho?), and while that dish was very good, it wasn’t anything similar to this dish. The sauce was savory and spicy, almost like that of a pork stew, while the sauce using the New Mexico chiles really turned out quite similar to a rich mole.

Carne con Chile Colorado
Source: Rick Bayless

2 lbs pork shoulder, cubed
8 dried New Mexico chiles
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, as needed
Water, as needed
Cilantro, to garnish

1. Remove the stems, veins, and seeds from the chiles. Break the chiles into large pieces.

2. Heat a nonstick saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the chiles and cook until they just start to turn color, pressing down occasionally with a spatula. Flip the chiles, and repeat on the second side.

3. Remove the chiles into a shallow bowl. Cover with water, and top with a small plate to weigh down the chiles. Let the chiles soak for 30 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water, reserving one cup of the water.

4. Put the chiles in a food processor with the onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, and the cup of chile water. Puree until smooth.

5. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Season the pork cubes with salt and pepper. Add the pork cubes in batches to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes to form a brown crust. Flip, and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove the cooked meat from the pan and add the next batch. Make sure to work in batches so that the pan is not overcrowded, which will prevent the meat from forming a nice crust.

6. Add all of the meat back into the pan. Add the red chili sauce, using it to deglaze the pan while scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan with a spoon.

7. Add about 2 cups of water to the pan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for 1 hour. If the sauce is too thin at this point, remove the lid and increase the heat. Cook uncovered until the sauce is the desired consistency.

8. Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Carne Guisada

Inspiration: Being in a meat CSA has a ton of benefits. First and foremost, B and I are always sure that the meat that we’re eating has come from humanely raised animals, which is the reason that we joined the CSA in the first place. Awesome, awesome, awesome. But another added benefit is that we always have a freezer full of different cuts of meat that we have to build our menus around. It’s fun to figure out what to make with a random leg of lamb or an emu steak or, in this case, an English roast.

What we Loved: I’ve been making an effort to clean out my pantry and use up random ingredients, so I changed this recipe to use an extra can of tomato sauce that I had floating around. I immediately regretted the decision, thinking that by substituting tomato sauce for chopped tomatoes and water, I had ruined the recipe and made it into something much more like a tomato-based chili. But you know what? My worries were for nothing, because this meal was awesome and completely unique. The only liquid ingredients that I used were the tomato sauce and a bottle of Negra Modelo, and the prominent flavor of the stew was really that of the Negra Modelo. The beer is rich, nutty, a little bit sweet, a little bit smoky…and the stew was just the same. Such a fantastic flavor. The meat was incredibly tender and shredded right apart in the stew, and the garnish of cilantro added such a fresh herb flavor. And what better compliment to the meal than a couple of cold bottles of Negra Modelo?

Helpful Hints: The original recipe calls for simmering the stew on the stovetop, but I cooked mine in the crock pot all day because I had a bunch of errands to run. I think the sauce would be a little thicker if you simmer the stew on the stovetop, but the crockpot version was wonderful, too.

Carne Guisada
Source: Homesick Texan

I made some changes to the ingredient list and also cooked the recipe in my crock pot. I have a stove-top safe insert for my crockpot, but I will give the instructions for a regular crockpot. If you have a stove-top safe insert, just cook everything in the insert.

2 pounds beef roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 serrano peppers, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 12 oz bottle Negra Modelo
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 bay leaf

1. Brown the beef in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the beef to the pan in small batches, which will allow a nice brown crust to form. Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.

2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the saute pan. Add the onions and peppers, and cook until the onions are translucent and starting to brown, approximately ten minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan while the onions are cooking to release the browned bits. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

3. Place the beef and onion mixture in your crockpot. Add the tomato sauce, Negra Modelo, cumin, chili powder, oregano, cilantro, and bay leaf.

4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Guinness Beef Stew

Inspiration: I love St. Patrick’s Day. Love it. It’s one of my favorite holidays, and I always look forward to it every year. I love the good food, the nicer spring weather and sunshine that’s finally settling in, the good drinks, the celebration of such a great culture…I love it all. In fact, I like to make the holiday into St. Patrick’s Week around our house. This past Saturday, I made this stew in the crockpot in the morning, then B and I went out for some lunch and shopping downtown.  We stopped in at the Irish pub (one of our favorite places in town) for a couple of pints of Guinness, and they were having their “St. Practice Day” party with Irish music, bagpipes, etc. It was so much fun, and coming home to this hearty stew for supper (alongside a nice, cold glass of Bailey’s) was just perfect. It was a great start to our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and a long menu of Irish food that I have planned!

What we Loved: B and I both devoured this stew. My favorite part was the broth, which was just outstanding. It was so rich and flavorful with the juices from the meat and the flavors from the bacon, Guinness, tomato paste, and all of the seasonings. And after cooking for 8 hours, the meat and the carrrots were so tender that they just fell right apart. As we sat at the table eating this, it was cold and rainy outside and the wind was howling. It really was the perfect night for such a comforting stew.

Helpful Hints: The actual Guinness flavor in this stew is really very subtle, so I wouldn’t worry about adding it if you’re not a huge fan of Guinness or beer in general. It certainly doesn’t taste like you’re eating a beer stew! The broth just has a wonderfully rich and intense flavor that I’m not sure would be the same if you left the Guinness out.

Guinness Beef Stew
Source: Adapted from Vintage Victuals

5 slices bacon
1.5-2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can Guinness (about 15 oz)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste

*I made this recipe using the stove-top safe insert of my crockpot. I’ll give directions for cooking without the stove-top safe insert, but if you have that particular crockpot, then just cook everything in the insert on your stove-top.

1. Add the bacon to a large saute pan, and cook until browned. Remove the bacon to a plate, and set aside.

2. Add the beef to the pan in batches, browning it in the bacon grease. Cook the beef pieces for 2-3 minutes per side, just enough to create a nice, brown crust. Remove the meat as it is browned to the plate with the bacon.  

3. When all of the meat is browned, add the carrots and the onions to the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are softened and browned. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

4. Pour the Guinness into the pan, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spoon.

5. At this point, transfer everything to your crockpot. Add the Worcestershire, thyme, bay, beef broth, and tomato paste. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and mix to combine.

6. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Pork, Chorizo, and Mushroom Stew

Inspiration: B bought me the most fabulous slow cooker for Christmas. My last slow cooker, which I really loved, was a really nice (or so I thought!) Kitchenaid slow cooker whose ceramic pot cracked all the way down the middle one day while I was cooking a nice pot roast. And after only 10-15 uses! Needless to say, I was really upset with the fact that it broke and with Kitchenaid’s customer service, and I had to resort to using my old, pretty terrible crockpot for at least a year because I didn’t want to spend the money to replace my nice one. So this past Christmas, B hooked me up with a fabulous All-Clad cooker that has an aluminum insert that’s also safe to use on the stovetop and in the oven, which means crock pot cooking all in one pot, with no worry of a cracking ceramic insert! I didn’t even know such a thing existed, and I’m still unnaturally excited about it :) B showed me this recipe on the Williams Sonoma site that made use of the all-in-one pot functionality, so we spent a nice Sunday afternoon changing the recipe to suit our tastes and creating a lovely, Sunday night stew.

What we Loved: What didn’t we love about this stew? It was incredible. It made our home smell so delicious and hearty all day long as it cooked, and the end result was an intensely flavorful stew with fall-apart pork pieces, ridiculously tender chorizo pieces, and a rich and earthy sauce. The sauce was particularly enjoyable because it contained all of the flavor from the vegetables and garlic, as well as all of the juices and fats from the three different types of meats that cooked in it. And I just loved the rich red color! We put the whole cloves from a entire head of garlic in the stew, and they ended up with a softened, roasted garlic flavor that I really enjoyed. A clove on my spoon with a bit of the sauce was a little piece of heaven! I was also very surprised by the chorizo, which was more tender than I ever thought it could be. All-in-all, this was a very meaty, filling, and wonderful stew that was so perfect for a cold Sunday evening.

Helpful Hints: As B was cooking the bacon, which is the first step of the process and which renders the fat in which to cook the pork and vegetables, we realized that our bacon wasn’t very fatty (as far as bacon goes, anyway) and wasn’t rendering enough fat. So, we added some of the discarded pork fat to the pot with the bacon, and this browned up wonderfully and added plenty of extra fat and flavor to the pot.

Pork, Chorizo, and Mushroom Stew
Source: Adapted from Williams Sonoma

We used the cassoulet recipe as a base and changed it to suit our preferences and make a stew. Here’s what we did.

4 oz bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
2-3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (I used a picnic roast), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
24 oz baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 28 oz can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
24 oz Spanish chorizo links, sliced
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1. Add the bacon pieces to a saute pan or dutch oven (I used the stovetop-safe insert of my crockpot). Heat over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned, approximately 7-8 minutes. Remove the bacon  from the pot and set aside.

2. Add half of the pork to the pot and brown it on all sides, approximately 7-8 minutes total. Transfer the cooked pork to a platter, and repeat with the remaining pork.

3. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot. Cook until all of the water releases from the mushrooms and evaporates, approximately 15-20 minutes.

4. When the mushrooms have started to brown, add the wine, and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, and broth.

5. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the pork, chorizo, garlic cloves, and reserved bacon.

6. If you aren’t using a stovetop-safe crockpot insert, transfer the contents of the pot to your crockpot insert. Cook on low for 9-10 hours, until the pork pulls apart with a fork.