>White Bean Chicken Chili

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I’ve been on a soup kick lately.  Last night I wanted something warm and savory and filling for dinner.  We’d been to a movie in the afternoon, and lunch had consisted of popcorn and a soda.   Suffice it to say, we’d had enough trans-fats to last us a while.  I went back to How to Cook Everything for some ideas.  I came across Bittman’s recipe for Chili con Carne, for which he had four variations – one of which was a white bean/chicken version.  It seemed simple enough, and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry/freezer.  This is my adaptation.

I had a pound of dried navy beans in the pantry, so I soaked them while we were at the movie (Avatar – see it if you haven’t already).  Then I boiled them with a diced onion until they were tender.
Additionally, I had some frozen chicken breasts that I baked off at 375 for about 45 minutes.  These I diced and added to the bean cooking liquid along with a quart of chicken stock.
As an aside – this is my favorite way to prepare chicken breasts for use in other dishes (casseroles, soups, etc.).  I simply take them out of the freezer, put them on a foil-lined baking pan, and bake them until they’ve browned and much of the liquid has cooked out of them – I don’t even season them.  Baking them like this concentrates the flavor, and they have an essentially chicken-y essence to them.  They are a little dry on the outside, but remain moist and tender on the inside.  Also, it requires no additional fat.
The remaining ingredients for this chili are remarkably simple – garlic, cumin, oregano and a fresh or dried chili (I used a red jalapeno that came from my summer garden and had been frozen).  Just add these when you add the chicken, along with salt and pepper to taste.
I was a little concerned that there wouldn’t be enough flavor to satisfy my palate, but it was remarkably tasty.  It certainly wasn’t your typical red chili, with all of its beefy, chili-powdery richness, but it had an air of refreshing simplicity that was just what we needed after our gluttonous indulgence at the movie theater (notice that the recipe calls for no oil or fat whatsoever).  We garnished it with some jarred salsa, sour cream, sharp cheddar and tortilla chips.
 
White Bean Chicken Chili
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
1 pound dried white beans (I used navy)
5 chicken breasts – pre-cooked (I suppose you could use a rotisserie chicken here)
1 medium onion, diced
1 quart chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1. Pre-soak your beans, drain, place in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven, add the diced onion, add enough water to cover and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender (about an hour).
2.  Dice the cooked chicken.  When the beans are tender, add the chicken, broth, and remaining ingredients.  Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until flavors have blended – about 30 minutes more.
3. Garnish with salsa, sour cream, cheese, fresh herbs, tortilla chips, corn bread, or a combination of any of these.
 
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