We are a two-chili family. Tom makes a fantastic red chili with sausage and kidney beans; I make white chili with chicken and white beans. Tonight we had some lovely leftover chicken, so it was my turn.
Once my onions and garlic were cooking away on the stove, I searched the pantry for some habichuelas blancas or cannellinis. In vain. No beans at all, in fact, except for one lonely can of black beans.
Now, I believe I mentioned that I make white chili. That means using a light meat and white beans. It’s kept light-colored with yellow bell peppers and green or yellow chiles, so yes, it’s not exactly white, but it’s pale and creamy. Black beans do have pale interiors, but the overall effect is the opposite of white. (I confess it never occurred to me to make chili without any beans.)
Did I panic? No! Well, yes, but only for a minute. I decided to charge ahead with abandon and add the black beans. Since all hope of whiteness had been lost, I also added a reconstituted ancho chile and a few of my beloved red Fresno chiles.
The ancho added a deep, smoky fruitiness, and the Fresnos some sweet heat. The chicken was mostly dark meat, which held up well against the big flavors.
If I’d panicked at the lack of white beans, if I hadn’t been willing to veer from the recipe, we wouldn’t have had what was, according to Tom, one of the best chilis I’d made.
Chicken Chili with Black Beans
makes 4 servings
1 large ancho chile
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 small summer squash or zucchini, chopped
1 fresno chile, minced
2-3 tsp. chili powder (use your favorite)
salt and pepper
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro, optional
grated cheddar, chopped avocado, sour cream for garnish
Put the ancho chile in a small bowl and pour just enough boiling water over to cover. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to allow the chile to soften. (I break the chile into pieces and discard the seeds and stem before soaking, but it’s not necessary.)
Meanwhile, warm the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, squash, and chile, season with chili powder, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes longer or until they’re soft. A few brown spots are just fine.
Discard the seeds and stem of the softened ancho chile (if you haven’t already), but keep the soaking liquid. Tear or chop the chile into small pieces and add to the stockpot along with the soaking liquid. Add the beans and 1 1/2 cups of stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer the chile for at least 15 minutes until the flavors have melded and the veggies are very tender.
Use a stick (immersion) blender to purée some of the chili to thicken it. You’ll want to leave a good amount of the chili chunky. If you don’t have a stick blender, you can use a food processor or blender to purée about a third of the chili. Stir the purée back into the chili. Add more stock if the chili is too thick.
Stir the chicken into the chili and heat through. Garnish as desired with cheddar, avocado, and sour cream.