The Girl has been begging me to find a White Chicken Chili recipe to try. She adores it ever since she had some at a friend’s house.
Now, as a good Southern girl, I think of chili as a brown/red sort of color.
White seems so… blechy and plain. Boooooooring. Flavorless.
Think about it. Foods that are white are generally tasteless on their own, e.g., rice, potatoes, mushrooms.
But not white chocolate. That is the be-all, end-all best. thing. ever. Right next to dark chocolate. And wine.
Or all three together.
Oh. My. Lands. I just had a moment there. So need to do that three-at-once thing. Yum-my.
And while I’m on it, chili should have meat and beans in it! None of this beans only or meat only crud. What up with that? Pretty sure the cowboys had beans in their pot because it was portable as they rode on the range… Of course their meat was probably from a not-s0-obliging cow that they were herding, but I won’t go there.
By meat, I mean hamburger because I’m
cheap wise in how I spend my butcher money.
Off soapbox now. Soapbox boy, you may put it away now. (But have it handy in case I run on another tangent.)
So in an effort to show some love to The Girl, I’ve decided to see if I can’t satisfy this craving that she has and find a recipe that will appeal to my visual appetite as well.
I’ve scanned and scoured the net, looking for something that might fit the mold. Maybe I’m too picky or have high expectations, but really, I’ve got nothing that matches what I want.
So you know what that means, right?
I hit the kitchen with a wide open imagination. This adventure could be good or it could be a catastrophe.
Oh, what fun!
This will be my first live-cooking blog ever! Woo hoo! (Oh, dear Lord. Please let this recipe not fall into the “catastrophe” category. And if it does, help me to deal with the blow to my pride… and have enough leftovers to manage dinner.)
So here’s what I know I need so far:
White beans – I’m thinking Navy beans.
The rest? I’ll make up as I go along.
Okay, I’m back from the store. I was out of white beans and I wanted a jalapeño to kick things just a wee bit. I bought a small one, so it’s going to be more like a knock to the shins rather than a roundhouse to the kidneys.
Let’s get started!
I think I’ll make this recipe a crockpot recipe. If you want to cook it quicker and over the stove, it’s easier to modify.
I love onions in my chili, be it white or red chili, onions are going in! I took a small onion and diced it into small pieces. I’ll figure out when to add them at some point.
Garlic is a given, so I took four cloves, peeled them, cut off the bottoms and the whacked each of them with the side of the side of my large knife blade. By whacking, I mean that I place the flat side of the knife over the clove and then hit the knife with the heel of my hand. This movement crushes the garlic clove, releasing the oils/juices differently. That and I saw it on a cooking show once and thought, “That looks sooo cool!” I whack them whenever I get a chance. After whacking each clove, I diced them finely.
I have the jalapeño seeded and diced into small pieces as well.
Note: Do not touch eyes after handling jalapeño unless you like the red, weepy look in your right eye. And you get a kick out of that stinging, painful feeling.
That’s all from what I’ve gathered from reading about jalapeños, mind you. (Excuse me as I go grab another Kleenex to wipe the tears way… again.)
For the chicken: do I want to poach and pull the chicken apart like I would for chicken noodle soup or shall I dice it and have chunks in the chili? I’m going with chunks this time, so I’ll cube it and cook it up in a skillet.
I first salted (kosher salt) & peppered (fresh ground) the chicken and then diced it into small cubes. Tossing it into a skillet over medium heat, I cooked it in a bit of olive oil for about 3 minutes, stirring to allow for even cooking.
Since I want the onion to be tender, I tossed the onions and the garlic in with the chicken and let them cook for a few minutes. Heck. I’ll throw the jalapeño in there too. Might as well infuse the flavor early, using the heat to encourage the pepper to release some of those oils. I cooked the mix for about 5 minutes, stirring often while starting the base.
For the base for the chili, I’m going with chicken stock. (Normally I think tomato sauce base, but since this recipe should be white, that leaves color out!) However, I have the dilemma of needing to thicken this chili (as I would with my traditional chili); chili should be denser than a broth. I’ll work on that problem when I get there.
I put 4 cups of chicken stock into the crockpot. Didn’t have any stock freshly made, so I opened a box of chicken stock and poured it into the crockpot that was turned on low at this point.
Okay, in all sincerity, I never have homemade stock on hand. I just put that bit in there to make you think that I was all that with a cherry on top, but truth willed out. (I tried being a homemade stock person long ago, but I decided that it just wasn’t worth my time and effort, not when I can get a box for $1.29 at Aldi, and it tastes delicious. Woot.)
I decided on three cans of navy beans, but really I could have gone with cannellini or Great Northern beans. If this recipe goes well, I’ll try a different bean next time.
I poured two cans into the crockpot, liquids and all. The third can I dumped into a bowl. I had an idea for thickening.
I mashed and mashed and mashed those beans with a fork, scooping out a little of the broth to help with the mashing. I decided against processing them because I want the texture of the mashed beans to contribute to the overall presentation of the dish. If it’s too weird, I’ll pulverize them in the food processor next time. In they went with the other beans.
I added the cooked chicken, onions, garlic and jalapeño mixture to the crockpot. Already this dish smells divine!
I need some kind of spices in the soup now. I like cumin, and it won’t alter the color too much.
I think some thyme or oregano will work well too. I’m going with oregano. It will give it a nice flavor along with the onions and garlic.
I hope this isn’t turning too Italian-ish… but maybe that’s where the white chili came from in the first place. I should look that up.
That’s all I want to do with this meal for now. I’ll let this soup simmer for a few hours on low and see how it tastes later.
It’s later, about 3 hours. It’s missing something. I threw in a little garlic powder and a little more salt & pepper. I’ll let it simmer a little more to see if that will give it a little something. The jalapeño didn’t give it as much of a kick as I hoped it would. Next time I’ll use a larger one.
Alright, it’s dinner time. This soup is finished due to timing alone.
Oh, and I made my cornbread as a side. If this dish was intolerable, I would have a smidgen of redemption with that beloved bread.
I topped it with shredded cheddar cheese, just before serving. I could have added a dollop of sour cream on top… but I was out. Oh well. We’ll live.
I served the soup to the family who knew that I was flying solo on this one. I saw a bit of hesitation as the bowls were filled and passed around the table. Though they’re used to my playing with my food, they don’t always know when I’m going it alone. They knew this time and it added a weight to their opinions.
I watched with bated breath as they each lifted a filled spoon to their lips. Two swallows and one slurp was heard around the table. (Still working on manners for The Boy! Gah.)
The verdict? It was delicious, but slightly on the salty side. I shouldn’t have added it that last go around. It wasn’t so much salt that the dish was ruined, just enough to know that it was a seasoning… not really wanted with salt. It should be an enhancer, not a distinct flavor… unless you’re eating french fries. Then tasting the salt is a good thing.
They each had two bowls, so I guess they weren’t just being nice about the opinions. :)
The Girl really liked it, though she said that she thought there should be some green chilies in it, in addition to the jalapeño in it. Next time, I’ll add a can of green chilies to it, just for grins and giggles.
So overall, this whole make-up something-as-I-go-along thing worked out pretty well! See, anyone can just wing it and hope for the best.
I’m just happy this time didn’t end with a round of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and cornbread as the backup plan.
If you want to try your hand at it, here’s the recipe in printable form. And if you come up with something better, pass it on! I’m always ready to learn at the feet of a different master.