The original name of this recipe is “White Christmas Chili,” but I don’t know why “Christmas”–we actually had it for the first time on the night before Thanksgiving, courtesy of our friends Karen and John. The “white” is obvious enough; the meat is chicken, the liquid is chicken stock, and the beans are cannellini, also known as white kidney beans.
I’ve modified that original recipe a few times over the past ten years. Neither of us is a huge fan of beans, but you can’t really reduce the amount of beans (especially if some of them are mashed) without changing the consistency of the final product–it’s much too soupy. I wound up cutting the total amount of beans (from 5 cans down to 4) but changing the proportion of whole to mashed (two of the four cans are mashed, as opposed to just one of the original five). Incidentally, the fact that the recipe calls for canned cannellini is a nice change from all those recipes calling for dried cannellini, which I don’t think I have ever seen, even in Italian markets. (Maybe it’s different in the Northeast?)
The spices, on the other hand, have been increased from the original recipe. (Clockwise from the top: Mexican oregano, medium hot chili powder, cayenne, ground cloves, and cumin.) I specify Mexican oregano, but other varieties can be used as well (Greek, Turkish, Italian…) and it won’t make a huge change. The chili powder can, of course, make a big difference. I use Penzeys medium hot, which is similar to their regular chili powder but also contains “red pepper” (maybe cayenne?). Using yellow (Spanish) onions instead of white (Mexican) is okay too, but there will be more of a difference, since white onions are sharper than yellow. (Don’t use the really sweet onions, like Vidalias, or red onions.) If you can’t find cans of diced chili peppers but can find cans of whole peppers, only use 1-2 cans instead of the 3: it turns out that nearly one-half of the volume of a can of diced is liquid, but a can of whole contains virtually no extra liquid and, as a result, a lot more chili pepper. In the end, you might find it a fairly hot chili–and it is, by midwestern standards–but you can always add more sour cream.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 small white Mexican onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 15- oz. cans cannellini rinsed and drained
- 2 15- oz. cans cannellini rinsed, drained and mashed
- 3 4½- oz. cans chopped mild green chiles, drained
- 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- ¾ teaspoon medium hot chili powder or 1 tsp. regular chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 cup chicken broth preferably homemade; if not, with as little sodium as possible
- salt to taste
- In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Add onions and cook about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about a minute more.
- Add chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.
- Stir in remaining ingredients and broth; bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes (or more). Stir occasionally and adjust for salt as needed.
- Serve with garnishes such as grated sharp cheddar, sour cream, and chopped cilantro.