February 26, 2015

Southwest Chicken Chili

It's been snowing for the last few hours up here in Madison, and judging by all the stuff on Instagram and Snapchat from my friends back home, even the south is getting hit with some winter weather, though hopefully it's no snowpocalypse. Basically, everyone could use some piping hot comfort food (especially on National Chili Day!), particularly when it's secretly healthy and surprisingly easy to make. It may look like this chili has a laundry list of ingredients (which it kind of does), but it essentially consists of three main categories: chicken, vegetables, and spices.

I'll start with the spices since you honestly can't have chili without them. Here, I use copious amounts of garlic powder and onion powder (the staples) plus paprika, chili powder, and cayenne. You can adjust those based on your heat tolerance, but remember that you're also adding jalapenos (and other hot peppers if you so desire), so don't go overboard. It's much easier to stir some more in close to the end if it's not spicy enough than to try to mute over-seasoning. I also add some cumin because it's one of the key flavors of southwestern cooking.

Ok, I'm going a little out of order here, but I'm going to talk about the chicken. For ease of buying, cooking, and shredding, I just use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The skin would just get soggy while it simmers in the crockpot all day/night, and there's enough flavor from the other ingredients and tenderness from the long cooking time that bone-in just isn't necessary. If you have another cut or something is on sale, go with that, but I generally stick with the boneless, skinless breasts. Regardless of the cut you choose, it's still really important to sear it until it's golden brown. Otherwise you're going to end up with poached chicken (without that lovely flavor that comes from browning meat), and you won't have anything to cook the vegetables in.

Does it make sense why I went out of order now? I hate wasting the fat from cooking meat, whether it's bacon fat or, in this case, chicken fat. Cooking the onions, peppers, jalapenos, and garlic in the chicken fat sops it all up and enhances their flavors. I don't add the beans, corn, tomatoes, or green chiles since they are more watery and won't benefit from browning in the skillet anyway.

Once the chicken and the onion/pepper mixture are cooked off, it's time to load everything into your slow cooker. If you don't have one, I highly recommend getting one since they are pretty cheap and you can make delicious things like sausage, bean, and kale stew and, well, southwest chicken chili. I stir the cooked vegetables, beans, corn, tomatoes, and green chiles together, add the spices and nestle the chicken into the mixture. I use a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes for the convenience and the moisture, and the corn can be fresh, canned, or frozen depending on the season. The whole thing is cooked on low for 5 or 6 hours before the chicken is tender enough to be shredded. Shredding the chicken is really simple; I use my hands or two forks to pull it into bite-sized pieces. They go back into the slow cooker for another 30 minutes or so to soak up more flavor, and then it's ready to eat!

2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
1 Bell Pepper, Diced
1 Jalapeño, Minced
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 16 oz Can Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed
1 16 oz Can Kidney Beans, Drained and Rinsed
2 Ears Corn
1 28 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
1 4 oz Can Diced Green Chiles
1 14.5 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Cumin

Heat some oil in a large pot. Sear the chicken until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per side, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Saute the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic in the chicken drippings until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the black beans, kidney beans, corn kernels, diced tomatoes, green chiles, crushed tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper in a crock pot. Stir in the onion and bell pepper mixture, then add the chicken and cover with the vegetables. Cook on low for 5-6 hours, shred the chicken, stir the chicken in, and cook for another 30-60 minutes.

Serves 8
Recipe Adapted from Oh So Decadent

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