Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Famous Chili

I have to admit that I use the term "famous" loosely, because my chili is different every time I make it.  But people still seem to like it, so I tried to write down an actual recipe this time. You see, I make chili a lot! It's probably my "desert island" food (you know, if you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to have...).  I honestly could eat it every day.  So I've definitely developed particular likes and dislikes.  But what I like most about it is chili's seemingly unending variations.  Which brings me back around to why my chili is different every time.  I am constantly switching up the types of seasonings and chiles I use, so it's really never the same  thing twice.  

I realize that chili doesn't seem particularly "Christmasy", but we always had it as part of Christmas day dinner.  I don't know why, exactly.  Maybe it was because Mom was too tired to cook a huge meal, and everyone was tired from getting up early and opening presents?  Anyway, it was part of our holiday tradition, so I thought I would share.  This is not my mom's chili, however.  Hers had celery in it.  As a kid, I didn't know any better, but now I do.  So no celery in my chili, ever. But this recipe is more of a guideline. You can adjust it to your personal heat preferences, meat choice, or even make it vegetarian (add more veggies -- red, orange, yellow bell peppers, portabello mushrooms add an almost meaty texture, more beans, use vegetable broth or water instead of chicken stock). Some purists would say that there shouldn't be any beans in a chili, ever, so there are a lot of views and variations.

Here is what I put in my chili tonight, because, frankly, it's what I had (minus the corn, which was most likely still in the freezer...).  The small container at the bottom of the picture holds my frozen chipotles in adobo, because I never use an entire can at one time (or at least I've never seen a recipe that does it).

So, hopefully, you'll find this as tasty as I do, but feel free to tweak it according to what you and your family like.  I don't mind at all.  :-)

Marna's "Famous" Chicken Chili


1.5 lbs chicken breast, cubed into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. Penzey's Mitchell Street Steak Seasoning (you can use chili powder as a substitute)
2 dried guajillo chiles
1 dried anaheim chile
2 cups chicken stock (plus additional)
2 medium onions, 1/4 in dice
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tbsp oil (I used olive, but you can use canola, too)
1 tbps chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 green pepper
1 14 oz can black beans
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1.5 cups fresh or frozen corn

Heat  a cast iron skillet (or 5 qt dutch oven if you just want to use one pot) over medium-high heat.  Put dried chiles in pan (dry -- no oil or anything) and heat the chiles until fragrant (about 5 minutes or so), using tongs to turn over once.  Meanwhile, heat 2 cups chicken stock. When the chiles are warm and fragrant, pull them off the heat and cut off the stem.  Pull out the seeds (most of them should just shake out, but you might have to rip open the chile to get at the ones still attached to the ribs).  Put the chiles in the warm chicken broth and let soften for 10 minutes. Once softened, put the chiles and the chicken stock in a blender and add the chipotle.  Blend (take out the middle of the cover if the chicken stock is still hot) until smooth.

While the chiles are soaking, in a soup pot or dutch oven (if you didn't use it for the chiles) cook the chicken breast, seasoning with salt and the Mitchell Street Steak Seasoning, over medium heat until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.  Add the oil, onions and garlic.  Cook until softened, but stir occasionally so the garlic doesn't burn.  Add the tomato paste and cook until carmelized (it will start smelling sweet and turn dark, dark red -- almost brown), then add the green pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes, then add the pureed chiles and chicken stock, chicken (with any accumulated juices), tomatoes, and black beans.  Add more chicken stock if the mixture looks too thick.  Cook for 30 minutes, then add the corn.  Cook until the corn is warmed through (it should only take 2-3 minutes).

Serve with the usual accessories: cheese, sour cream, cilantro, chopped red onion (or spring onions)...or nothing at all.  This chili has layers of flavors that you'll enjoy all by itself.

This recipe makes a generous amount.  Probably enough to serve 8 as a main entree.  Maybe a couple more if you serve it with corn bread or on top of spaghetti (chili mac).

Tips and Hints:

Chipotle chiles in adobe can be found in the international or Latin section of most groceries.  You will usually have a lot left over, so I freeze mine, then scrape off what I need for whatever recipe I'm making.

This makes a medium-spicy chili (it had a kick that builds on your tongue, but it shouldn't make you cry or sweat).  You can adjust the heat of the chili by reducing the amount of dried chiles, or leave out the chipotle, if you like.

I think chili is better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to more thoroughly blend.  Just let cool on the stove top for a while, then put the pot in the fridge overnight.  Re-heat the next day.  A word of caution, though.  The spiciness will also intensify, so adjust for your personal preferences accordingly.

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