I know it's been a while. I'm so sorry. This holiday season has been keeping me quite busy. I'm not cooking as much as I'd like to and the last thing I made, a hoisin glazed pork loin with roasted acorn squash wasn't good enough to post. I hate when that happens. You spend time and effort on something and the final product completely unremarkable. Not terrible, just not great. In a weird way, I find that more annoying than if the meal were a disaster.
To combat my disappointment, I felt the need to turn to a recipe I've done before, one where the results are reliable and delicious. The thing is, there aren't that many dishes I've made, that I would make again, that aren't posted here already. There are a number of very early recipes that I posted before I started taking photographs that I considered doing an update on, but then I remembered this recipe, which I adapted from the Whole Foods Cookbook. The book has a very good chapter on soups and even a special subsection on interesting and unique chilis. It's been quite cold here in LA so a bowl of chili seemed like the perfect choice.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) or you could use 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
4 cups or so chicken stock
1 pound chicken breast, about 2 large
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 6 cups), I used white sweet potatoes - I prefer their texture in something like this.
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and when it shimmers, tip in the onions and the diced bell pepper. Stir to coat with the oil and let cook for about 2 minutes until they soften a little. Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic, spices and the chipotle and stir to coat. Continue to cook for another 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and sweet potatoes and give everything a stir to combine. Nestle the chicken breasts down into the stock and potatoes. The stock should not quite cover all the ingredients. Crank the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.
Once the stock is boiling, reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken breasts from the chili and let rest on a cutting board for about 10 minutes, until they are cool enough to handle. The chili can continue to simmer on low. Using your hands, shred the chicken breasts into nice bite-size, rustic chunks. (You don't have to do this step, although I really like the way it looks in the finished product. If you prefer, you can just cut the raw chicken into large chunks before you add it to the chili.)
Return the shredded chicken to the chili and add the beans. Continue to cook uncovered for about 10 more minutes, until the beans are heated though and it has thickened a little. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
To serve, ladle into bowls, spoon a dollop of sour cream or yogurt in the center, grind over a little black pepper, and scatter with the sliced scallions.
I'll admit that this is not a very glamorous dish, but it is so satisfying. The flavors are actually sort of reminiscent of the Sweet Potato Salad I have posted on the site, but kind of in stewish form.
Usually when I've made this, I use a fresh jalepeno, but I had some chipotles in my freezer so I substituted them and I think I liked it better. They gave the chili a smoky heat that seemed really right and was nicely juxtaposed by the creamy beans and the soft, sweet potato. This was also the first time I poached the chicken breasts in the stock, rather than cutting them up before hand and I think it worked really well. The rustic, shredded chunks look so homey. And although it seems like a extraneous garnish, I strongly recommend the yogurt and the scallions. The yogurt really tames the heat and I quite like the tang, while the scallions give it a freshness and I just love how the green pops against the orange.
One warning, try not to cook this too long. Some soups and chilis do benefit from long cooking times, but this one not so much. The potatoes will break down too much and the whole thing can then just turn into a mush. Having said that, this chili is better the next day. The flavors have a chance to meld and permeate the chicken and sweet potatoes.