Whew! In the last eight days I’ve hosted three dinners, one brunch, and one cocktail party. And I’ve washed, I think, eight zillion dishes, even though the Cocktail Host has pitched in mightily and done more than his fair share of scrubbing and sweeping. No matter how often we’ve cleaned up, our kitchen has perpetually looked like this:
I am, to put it mildly, totally tuckered out, so much so that I asked the husband unit to go out and buy us burritos for lunch so I wouldn’t have to face the kitchen again this afternoon. But unless I cook something tonight or tomorrow, we’ll be eating fried eggs and take-out pizza all week. This is when my mind turns to whipping up something fairly simple but substantial that will keep us fed for several days.
Recently I’ve been fixated on this chicken chili recipe that I developed a few weeks ago. Ground pepitas, canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, and a hint of chocolate give the dish a depth of flavor you don’t find in most chilis, and poaching a whole chicken in the liquid (later removing the skin and bones) makes for a much richer and more flavorful chili than you’ll ever get from throwing in some chopped-up boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
In a nutshell, you gather together the ingredients: pepitas, chicken broth, chipotle chiles, a whole chicken, olive oil onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt, canned tomatoes, chocolate, beans (I like pinto beans, my husband likes black beans, and as a result all we had left in the house was kidney beans—ah well!), and fresh cilantro.
Then, before you fire up the stove, you throw the pepitas in the blender or Cuisinart along with the chicken stock and chipotle chiles.
Once you’ve thoroughly pureed this mixture, you saute the onions and garlic.
Once they’ve softened, I throw in all the spices. Often I throw in a tablespoon or so of butter at the same time to help ensure that the spices don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. You don’t have to do this, but you should definitely stir the mixture more or less continually to avoid the spices developing a burned flavor.
Once the spices have toasted for a minute or two, add the pureed pepita-and-chipotle mixture and the canned tomatoes.
At this point you add a whole cut-up chicken, after stashing the backbone and wings in a bag in the freezer for making stock later. Yes, I know that it would be easier to use cubed boneless chicken pieces, but I promise you that this is going to result in a richer, more flavorful chili in the long run. And the technique is not as fussy as it seems.
Cover the pot and poach the chicken for about an hour, turning it every 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. Then use tongs to transfer the chicken to a platter and let it cool until it’s easy to handle. Once you can handle it without burning yourself (don’t rush it!), use your hands to remove and discard and skin and bones and shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. At this point add the chicken back to the chili, and throw in the beans, the cilantro, and an ounce or two of semisweet chocolate. I usually use Ghirardelli or whatever else I have on hand, but since I had this chile-infused chocolate gathering dust in my pantry, I used it, and it was divine.
Just cook everything for a few minutes until everything is heated through, then serve. I like to garnish it with sour cream and a sprinkling of pepitas, but let your conscience be your guide: tomatillo salsa, Jack cheese or queso fresco, or cilantro would all be delightful.
Chicken Chili with Pepitas
2 cups chicken stock, plus more as necessary
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1/2 cup toasted pepitas, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, backbone and wings reserved for stock
3 cups cooked pinto, black, or kidney beans (two 14-ounce cans, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream, for garnish
In a blender or food processor, puree the chicken stock, chipotle chiles and adobo sauce, and pepitas until smooth. Set aside.
In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute until slightly softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, chili powder, and salt and saute, stirring frequently so the spices don’t scorch, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock mixture and canned tomatoes and stir.
Add the chicken pieces to the liquid, adding up to 1 cup more chicken stock if necessary so that the chicken pieces are just submerged. Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer, turning the pieces every 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour.
Turn off the heat and use tongs to transfer the chicken pieces to a platter or baking sheet. Let cool at room temperature until easy to handle. Then, using your fingers, remove the skin and bones and discard. Shred the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken meat to the pot, then add the beans, chocolate and cilantro. Warm, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until heated through. Taste and season with more salt, if necessary. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of pepitas before serving.