White Bean and Chicken Chili (with fixins!)


What drew me the most to this fantastic recipe by John Ash, was the great number of fabulous ingredients that grace the top of this yummy bowl of chili. I'll admit, the poblano peppers, tomatillos, and navy beans were all quite convincing - but when I read what this chili is served with.....I swear, my heart skipped a beat. My mouth might have even fallen open (slightly). I get weak in the knees for toppings. I have a thing for texture.

The chili itself is worth writing home about, too. All around, this dish was a winner. A hit. A home run. I think I asked Dan, "Isn't it soooooo goooooood?" at least three times. Poor guy. He's so patient with me. The combination of spices is perfect (a dash of unexpected cinnamon is genius). I'll just say this....I LOVED IT.

John Ash, as you may know, has a lovely little book called From The Earth To The Table. The book focuses on local and seasonal wine country fare, and the dishes are prepared with diverse and seductive ingredients. He has a wonderful writing style - it's the kind of book that makes you feel like you know the author personally. I love his tips on technique and every dish has a recommended wine pairing, of course. Ash writes that this is his "Wine Country Super Bowl Sunday favorite". Now it's mine, too.

A couple of points:

I don't love preparing chicken. I get all paranoid and overly cautious about salmonilla and cleanliness and whatnot. At most, I'll rinse boneless skinless breasts and poach them for shredding. Dan's really the raw chicken man. He cleans, marinates, grills, broils, etc. I'm a lucky girl. So having said that, I decided to make this chili in the morning because we were having it for an early dinner with Dan's parents. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, which I was very excited to buy, as I imagined they would lend a rich flavor that you just don't get with white meat. I knew thighs were fatty, but WOW. After 45 minutes of repeated semi-lethal attempts to cut off the fat before cubing, I finally gave up and ended up throwing away 70% of the meat. I know. Terribly wasteful (I'm still harboring guilt over it). But I was so tremendously displeased with, and a little repulsed by the whole event of "dealing with the chicken thighs", that I couldn't go on. Besides, I had completely mutilated the poor things. They were not salvagable. It was actually an awful mess and a horrible sight. The fix? I picked up a freshly roasted chicken and carved off the best pieces of dark meat.

One of the garnishes called for is corn chips. I much prefer the taste of fresh tortilla strips baked until crisp in the toaster oven and highly recommend doing this instead. It's quick and worth the little trouble it entails.


                      1 pound dried small white beans (I used navy)
                      5 cups chicken stock
                      1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
                      sea salt and freshly ground pepper
                      4 tablespoons olive oil
                      1 cup onion, diced
                      2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
                      2 medium fresh poblano chiles, chopped
                      1 tablespoon ground cumin
                      1 tablespoon dried oregano
                      1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                      1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
                      2 cups fresh tomatillos, chopped
                      1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Rinse the beans well, put in a large bowl, cover with cool water by at least 3 inches, and soak overnight. Drain the beans, put in a large pot with the stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on the bean used. Check to make sure the beans are covered with stock while cooking. Add more stock or water if needed.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and quickly brown the chicken on all sides. Set aside. Add the onion, garlic and chiles to the pan and saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly colored. Add the cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and pepper flakes and saute for a minute or two longer. Add the chicken, onion mixture, and tomatillos to the beans. If there are any browned bits in the saute pan, deglaze with a little white wine or water, scrape the bottom, and add to the pot.

Bring the chili to a simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional pepper flakes, if using. Stir in the cilantro just before serving.

Serve with finely sliced raw green cabbage, sliced radishes, chopped avocados, lime wedges, corn chips, and grated Jack cheese on the side.

 Recipe by John Ash, From The Earth To The Table.

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