There was a dream
One day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage a broke in and demanded that somebody free it – Avett Brothers
My first attempt at a contest worthy chili was a mild disaster and a qualified win. Actually that is kinda how this whole weekend felt. For example, took the dogs to the river to play on this the first gorgeous day of the new year.
Had a great time with the pups soaking up some much needed Vitamin D until my shin made contact with a jagged rogue stump protruding into the path. Now I look totally rough and tumble with a giant gash in my leg and occasionally leg spasms. That being said my creation is good, really good actually, but it took twice as long as expected and I don’t think I could call it chili. At the end of the day the minor inconveniences were worth it.
After putting sleep before local veggies and missing the All Local Farmers Market, I determined White Chili would be my first Chili Competition test run. The white chili was probably what I was looking forward to most as I was the most unfamiliar and had being hearing its praises sung all week.
After perusing recipes and asking opinions I endeavored to make my own version for dinner tonight. I failed. I had reduced fat Oreos and a Dos Equis for dinner and white chili for dessert. Feeling the need to appease my inner snob that says dried beans are immanently better than using canned I unwittingly signed myself up for a five hour chili epic adventure.
The journey began like so many culinary adventures do…at the grocery store. I rounded up my cast of characters, all except for my new found friend cilantro, who was no where in sight. Cilantro and I have had our run-ins, but only recently I have I begun to truly appreciate the bright, clean freshness it can bring to my favorite spicy dishes. Instead of using fresh cilantro I found Goya’s Recaito which can be used as a sort of cilantro paste in stews, chilies, or rice, among others. So far I am a fan.
The chili began in two different pots that would merge in the slow cooker. In one pot I had chicken thighs simmering in water, Dos Equis, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and a halved lime.
In another pot garlic and and onion quickly sauteed to which recaito, jalapeno, green chillies and the dastardly dried great northern beans were added.
Add the broth and seasonings and there you have your white chili base.
Once the chicken cooked and cooled I pulled it from the bones and threw into the slow cooker with the corn at what I thought was the half way point. FALSE! The chicken actually simmered with the chili for three hours, I was a little scared I was going to end up with overcooked chicken, but that was not the case, it was quite tender and tasty.
I checked in an hour after the chicken was added and when the chili “should” be done, it was not. I checked in an additional hour later, still rock soup. Thirty minutes later I was beginning to think it was going to take an overnight stewing. At almost exactly the four hour mark I experienced a chili miracle. The beans were DONE!!! I added a cup of milk and some cornmeal and let thicken for a few minutes and we were in business.
At this point I was full of oreos and beer and no longer hungry, but for the sake of an honest chili assessment I fixed a bowl topped with pepper jack cheese.
It was good, really good. The spice was right on point, present but not overly challenging. The chicken and beans were tender and the corn added a nice toothsome crunch. But, ultimately, to me this is not chili, and I am not sure if creativity is going to win a chili championship. When I think chili I crave tomatoes. I had to re-categorize the white chicken chili as a mexican chicken stew and then I was a big fan. Part of my lack of enthusiasm could probably be credited to my frustration and exhaustion. If my opinion changes during lunch tomorrow you will be the first to know!
White Chicken Chili
5 Chicken Thighs
1 Dos Equis
1 tbs Whole Pepercorns
2 Bay Leaves
1 Lime, halved
5 Cloves of Garlic
2 Cans of Green Chilies
1lb Dried Great Northern Beans
8 Cups Chicken Broth
1 tbs Recaito
1 Whole Jalapeno
1 tbs Cumin
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Chipotle Powder
1 Can Corn
1 cup Whole Milk
2 tbs Cornmeal
Grated Pepper Jack Cheese
Cover chicken with beer and water. Add halved lime, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Cook on med-high for 20-30 minutes, or until just done. Let chicken cool. Remove meat from bones and set aside.
Saute garlic in onion in oil with salt and pepper until it just becomes translucent. Transfer to slow cooker. Add chilies, jalapenos, reciato and beans. Pour in broth. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and chipotle.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, checking every hour for bean doneness.
Halfway through cooking add chicken and corn.
When beans are tender add milk and cornmeal. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.
Serve with grated Pepper Jack cheese.