For years I made chili only using ground beef, until I finally found enough courage to step outside my comfort zone and tried it with chicken for a change. I was sold. Sometimes you just have to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of a tried and fool-proof recipe while I yell “Why reinvent the wheel? Leave me alone” at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sad like that.
Now I’m a classic ‘open your fridge and see what jumps out’ kind of cook. I make do with whatever I have so my ingredients tend to vary. Sometimes I’ll add bell peppers, jalapenos, corn or even carrots. Basically whatever I can get my grubby little hands on. That also applies to the beans, whatever I have in my pantry is what goes in. Today it’s white beans.
My version is probably as non-traditional as it gets. Not exactly soul food as it was meant to be, I know. It’s stripped of all pretense. Back to basic, quick but pretty darn tasty with some corn bread or Turkish bread on the side.
3 chicken fillets (or boneless chicken breasts)
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
3 large, juicy tomatoes
1 tsp taco seasoning
2 red chili peppers
1/2 cup bacon (about 5oz)
1 can white beans
1/2 cup red wine
2 garlic cloves
2 red onions
It just dawned on me that virtually all my recipes start by saying ‘chop an onion’. Sorry. Can’t help it, no meal is complete without onions for me :)
It’s often followed by “grate the garlic“. Oh no, I’m becoming predictable! Boring! Like an old, comfortable pair of shoes in dire need of replacement.
But being predictable is not necessarily a bad trait, mind you. Not when the end result is tasty. So back to my old transparent self it is.
Cut the tips off of two red hot chili peppers and roll them between your hands until most of the seeds come out (leave them in if you’re feeling particularly adventurous) and cut them into rings.
Big, flavorful, juicy, bright red tomatoes. They’re so good. I leave the skin on and just give them a good wash.
Now a very easy to way to quickly work a tomato is to simply use an an apple corer.
Now coarsely chop the tomatoes. Such pretty color. Like a huge red wheel.
Cut up about a pound of chicken. I went for chicken fillets (don’t I always?). Season with salt and pepper.
Also set 1/2 cup bacon aside, cut in very small pieces.
Heat 2 tbsp oil and get the chicken in there. Give it about a minute and then add the bacon.
After 2 minutes plunge in the onions, chili peppers and garlic. Cook for 5 more minutes over medium heat while stirring every now and then. I’m using my Dutch oven for this.
Now grab a measuring spoon and get a heaping tbsp taco seasoning in there (you can add a little extra cumin or some curry powder if you like) and 1 1/2 heaping tbsp tomato paste. Cook for two more minutes to sweeten the tomato paste a little.
Here comes my secret ingredient. Pour in some red wine. I’m using about half a cup. This gives the chili such a unique and rich flavor.
Now it’s time for your tomatoes to make an appearance.
Add 1 heaping tsp dried oregano and give everything a good stir. The tomatoes will transform into an amazing juice. Simmer everything over low heat for about 20 minutes.
In the mean time you can rinse your beans of choice. Add them to the chili and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.
When your chili is ready, taste it and season with salt and pepper.
Serve in pretty bowls. Now a good chili just needs sour cream and lime juice in my book. They give it that special finishing touch. I usually garnish with a little sour cream and one or two small lime slices on top, but also serve a few extra limes on the side. Added some flat parsley to create a color effect. I can’t stand cilantro, but if you do, this would definitely be your cue to use it.
If you’re anything like me and only used ground beef so far, go give it a try! Now don’t make me drag you! You know I will!