Every time I make this dish it is always a little different. The flavor combinations of green chile, creamy white beans, tender chicken and earthy cumin come together perfectly in this light summer chili but my earlier versions of this dish were good but not great and I wanted to keep tweaking the recipe until it was amazing. I have finally found the perfect combination of meat, beans, smoky veggies, spicy chile and flavorful cumin with this latest version.
The first change I made was to use ground chicken instead of diced chicken. This chili recipe is good with diced grilled chicken thighs but the cumin permeates the ground chicken and creates a chili with an amazing taste.
The next change I made was to brine my beans before cooking. I like the flavor and texture of beans from a can where the beans have a whole structure with a creamy interior and great flavor. When I cook dried beans to get them as tender as canned beans I would usually have to cook them until they fall apart.
Then I found out about brining beans before cooking. I often brine meats before cooking especially if you buy free range chickens or fresh heritage pork. These meats are not commercially brined and can turn out tough if not cooked carefully. Brining will also distribute flavor through out the meat and help your meat stay tender. Same technique evidently works with dried beans as well. The bean will stay whole and the interior is creamy and perfectly seasoned.
This is a link to an earlier post on brining meats.
Brining beans is a new technique for me and is one of those kitchen skills that is useful for making perfectly cooked foods and saves money. Cooks Illustrated has this great video on the how and whys of brining beans. I highly suggest you try it next time you cook dried beans.
You are welcome to use canned beans but I just wanted to share this bean cooking revelation so when you do have extra time or want to save money you can cook dried beans perfectly.
Amazing White Chicken Chili with Grilled Veggies, White Beans and Poblano Chilies
2 lbs ground chicken (I use a combination of thigh meat and breast meat)
1 large red onion cut into large circles
3 medium zucchini sliced lengthwise in half
3 bell peppers cut in half (I like to use a combination of red, yellow and orange)
4 poblano chilies or 1 cup fire roasted green chile from a can like Hatch Fire Roasted Green Chile
3 carrots peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 15oz cans of white beans or 1/2 lb white beans brined and cooked ahead of time
1 24 oz can of Muir Glen fire roasted and crushed tomatoes
2 tbs avocado oil, canola oil or olive oil
1 tbs ground cumin
1 cup chicken broth, stock or water
fresh cilantro, sour cream and jack cheese to garnish
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Heat the grill to cook the veggies. While your grill is heating start browning the ground chicken in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot with 1 tbs avocado oil and season with sea salt the pepper.
If you do not have a grill you can use a grill pan, roast your veggies in a hot oven or buy them grilled at Whole Foods or your local specialty store that has such wonderful luxury items as grilled fresh veggies.
Toss the veggies in 1 tbs avocado oil and season with salt and pepper. When you grill your veggies for the chile make sure your grill is very hot because you will just be marking the veggies and getting a good smoked flavor in them. The veggies do not necessarily need to be cooked through on the grill since they will finish cooking in the chile and if you under cook your veggies on the grill they will hold together better in the chile.
The poblano chiles should be cooked much longer than the rest of the veggies since you want to get the outside skin blackened over at least 60 percent of the chile.
While your veggies are cooling add broth, beans, cumin, roasted tomato, to the ground chicken.
Dice the zucchini, onions. bell peppers and carrots into a small dice. Peel the black skin off the poblano chilies and dice into a small dice as well. Here is a good article on roasting and peeling bell peppers and chilies. How to peel poblano peppers.
Add diced veggies into your chile and taste for seasoning.
Add salt and pepper as desired.
Let chile simmer for about 10 minutes and serve hot topped with cheese, fresh cilantro or sour cream.
Just a quick note on a new pantry item that I cannot do without. I buy this tasty oil at my local Costco. Hope you can find it in your local store or buy it at Chosen Foods online. Avocado oil makes perfect salad dressings and is also great for high heat cooking. Popcorn turns out sublime when made in avocado oil. It does not have a strong flavor but adds a nice creamy flavor to foods.