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~ January White Out: My White Chicken 'n Corn Chili ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c731cfc4970bOh baby it's cold outside.  Even if the sun does comes out, the temperatures aren't going to tempt me into venturing outside into the swirling tornado of white snow whirling around on my back porch, thanks in part to the snow machines running full throttle up on the Tussy Mountain Ski Slope (almost in my backyard). Staying indoors is on my agenda, and, I am not alone.  The better portion of the entire Northeast is in this deep-freeze with me.  I dreaming of a bowl of steaming hot chili for my dinner tonight, but, a traditional "bowl of red" isn't quite what I have in mind.

IMG_0956During our 35 years of marriage (yep, we celebrated our 35th on January 4th), Joe and I have traveled a lot.  On some of those trysts, we've eaten our fair share of "real-deal" "Tex-Mex":  in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and, the panhandle of Oklahoma too.  Back in the '80's one of my favorite dishes to order was white chicken chili.  You all know what chicken chili is, but back then, it was considered a trendy new twist on chili.  The best one I ever tasted was in a cafe in Tempe, AZ, and, it is that one, which was a blend of chicken breast strips and coarsely-ground thigh meat, that caused me to come up with my own version:  this recipe.

The best college-football bowl-game story ever told:

WCC #1 (with Melted Cheese Intro Picture)The cafe was The Lunt Avenue Marble Club, the year was 1987, and, Joe and I were in town for a full week to attend the Fiesta Bowl. "The Marble Club" was only two blocks from the condo we were borrowing.  Over the course of the week, at our friend Chuck's recommendation, we became regulars at this small neighborhood hangout.  When AZ State won their bowl game the night before ours, we were there, sitting on two bar stools, cheering for the home team. On January 2, we ate our pre-game dinner (their white chicken chile with deep-fried tortilla chips), then walked to Sun Devil Stadium and sat on the fifty yard line to watch #2 ranked Penn State beat #1 Miami for the National Championship.  

After our win, instead of following the PSU herd to Scottsdale, we chose to walk back to "The Club" to partake in our celebratory cocktails. To our surprise, the bartender had VCR'd the game.  When we walked in, the regulars cheered, bought us a round of drinks, put the game on TV for us to rewatch, and, we all partied together well into the morning.  The good guys won.

When tailgate season rolled around in Happy Valley in September of that same year, my recipe was on our menu for the first game at Beaver Stadium.  When the Penn State Student Government Association Weather Service forecasted a "white out" for the season opener (at PSU this means everyone dresses in a white shirt, T-shirt, sweater or sweatshirt), Stan, the founding member of our tailgate group, named my recipe "White Out White Chicken Chili".

IMG_0976Don't let the length of this ingredients list scare you.  It's just chicken, a few chopped vegetables and some great spices -- all of which you probably have on-hand in your refrigerator and pantry.

6a0120a8551282970b017c359a6f76970b6  pounds chicken fillets, or, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, your choice, cut into 1/4 " strips, strips cut in half

Note:  Fillets are the easiest to work with, boneless breasts are a close 2nd.  If you purchase breasts on bones, purchase 8+ pounds.  When you remove the meat, to reveal boneless, skinless chicken breasts, proceed with the recipe as directed.

WCC #10 (Vegetables Prepped)4  pounds whole, boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2  pounds diced sweet onion

8  ounces sliced green onions, white and light green parts only

2  ounces garlic cloves,

1  pound each:  green and red bell pepper strips

WCC #11 (The Spice Soldiers)1  ounce minced jalapeno pepper, minced, more or less, to taste

8  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons corn oil

2  tablespoons Santa Fe Seasons Chile Blend, or 2  tablespoons Mexican-style chili powder

IMG_09491  teaspoon ground cloves

1  1.5 ounce bottle ground cumin

2  tablespoons Santa Fe Seasons Six Seasons, or 2  tablespoons Mexican Oregano

4  teasoons sea salt, plus an additional 1-2  teaspoons, to taste

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

2  teaspoons white pepper

1  40-ounce bag frozen corn

1  40-ounce can great northern white beans, undrained

1  16-ounce can refried beans

grated white cheddar cheese, a generous 1/4 cup for topping each serving of chili

cilantro leaves, for garnishing chili

WCC #7 Chicken Breast Sliced WCC #6 (Chicken Breast & Chicken Breast Pounded)~ Step 1. Slice the chicken fillets into small bite-sized strips and random end pieces.  If you are using boneless breasts, you have a bit more work cut out for you.  Place each half inside of a food storage bag.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a WCC #9 (Thighs Coarsely Ground)thickness of 1/4" - 1/2".  Slice each pounded breast half into 3 strips, then slice the strips into bite-sized strips and random end pieces.

6a0120a8551282970b0134888476be970c~ Step 2. Trim thighs of excess fat, then cut into 1 1/2" -2" chunks.  Place in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Using 10-12 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely grind the thighs.

WCC #12 (Raw Chicken Coated with Spices)~ Step 3.  In a 12-quart chef's pan, melt the butter into the corn oil over low heat.  Stir in the chile blend, cloves, cumin, six seasonings, salt, red pepper flakes and white pepper into the butter mixture.  Add all of the prepped breast and thigh meat. Stir until the chicken in evenly coated in the spice mixture.

~ Step 4.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the chicken, WCC #14 (Vegetables Added)stirring frequently, until the fully-cooked, about 20-30 minutes.

~ Step 5.  While the chicken is cooking prep the onion, green onion, garlic, bell peppers and jalapenos as directed.

~ Step 6.  Stir in all of the veggies and frozen corn.  Return to a simmer and cook until vegetables have lost almost all of their volume, another 20-30 minutes.

WCC #16 (Chile Cooked)~ Step 7.  Add the great northern beans and the can of the refried beans.  Stir until the refried beans are thoroughly incorporated.  Make sure you do this so the refried beans don't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Return to a very gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, about 45 more minutes.

~ Step 8.  Remove from heat, cover pan, and allow chili to steep and thicken for 1 1/2-2 hours -- the beans are going to soak up liquid.

IMG_0986 IMG_0998 IMG_1012~ Step 9.  Gently reheat the chili to steaming. Portion it into desired number of 2-cup oven-safe crocks, placing them WCC #3 (with Melted Cheese Intro Picture)on a baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper as you work.  Top each bowl with a generous 1/4 cup of grated white cheddar.  PLEASE -- no yellow cheddar.  This is a white out!!!

~ Step 10.  Place pan of crocks on oven rack positioned 6" underneath preheated broiler for 3 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

~ Step 11.  Allow to rest 3-5 minutes before serving hot with a salad and tortilla chips for dipping!

White chicken + white beans + white cheese + white bowl = white out!

IMG_1046January White Out:  My White Chicken 'n Corn Chili:  Recipe yields approximately 8 quarts.  As with any other chili, this freezes perfectly.  Portion into desired-sized food-storage/freezer containers, leaving 1/4"-1/2" of headspace at the top of each container to allow for expansion.  Enough for quite a few more of the chilly chili days that lie ahead of us.  You can thank me later!

Special Equipment List:  2, 2-gallon size food storage bags; cutting board; chef's knife; flat-sided meat mallet; kitchen shears; food processor; 12-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides & lid (known as a rondeaux); large spoon; soup ladle; cheese grated; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 2-cup size oven- broiler-safe soup crocks, or bowls, or, ramekins

Tortilla Chips #5 (Finished)Cook's Note:  The perfect, crunchy accompaniment to a bowl of steaming hot chili is freshly deep-fried corn tortilla chips for dipping. Just click into Categories 2, 13 or 17 to get my recipe for ~ Deep-Fried Torilla Chips (Totopos) ~. So much better than store-bought.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen, Copyright 2015)


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