I haven’t been as good a pantry cook as I was in my BGSK days. Since I do so much weekly chef-ing and recipe development, my fridge is usually stocked with a good amount of random fresh produce, and half cups of this and that finished product. Making a quick meal for myself usually involves folding bits of leftover veggies into eggs, or boiling water for pasta or rice, and placing this and that in the microwave.
The main difference between then and now is that I used to entertain more. I know I’ve been raking myself over the coals for this a lot this month. But most of my past budget consciousness came from the need to not spend $50 if I decided to have 8 people over for dinner. Sure, my friends got used to some pretty humble fare by the end of the month. But they appreciated the effort nonetheless, and it did lead to a different type of culinary creativity on my end.
If I were to throw a pantry dinner party tomorrow, the result would be pretty ridonc. I’ve lined the majority of my studio apartment’s wall space with various jars and canisters containing grains, nuts, flours, dried fruits, and the like. The two cabinets where I’ve stuffed other random pantry fare, threaten to burst open and vomit all over my floors at any minute.
Last Friday, I was supposed to go out to dinner with my friend Blake. We had wild plans to trek to Carroll Gardens and try a new restaurant. But it was scream-worthy cold outside, and I just didn’t feel like swaddling my face in 2 different scarves. So I selfishly invited him over for dinner, and then wisely decided I couldn’t possibly go outside in the cold to source ingredients.
Usually, I get so tempted to try out new recipe ideas, that sometimes I don’t force upon myself the necessary constraint of only buying one or two new items to add to what I already have. And what I already have is a lot. Not everyone has chicken thighs and bacon in their freezer, green chiles and white beans in the pantry, and a very elaborate spice rack to pull from. But for me, this Chicken and White Bean Chili was the perfect pantry dish.
I love one-pot stick to your ribs kinda food when the weather is right. This chili feels like just that kind of dish. But in reality, it’s not so bad for you. If you’re still keeping to your resolutions, try skipping the bacon and using chicken breasts instead of thighs. Certainly don’t put a fist’s worth of cheddar cheese on top, as I did. Either way, this recipe is perfectly comforting. And better yet, it’s always at your fingertips if weather or laziness strikes.
Chicken and White Bean Chili
Makes 2 servings
2 slices bacon, diced
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
One 15-ounce can northern white beans, rinsed and drained
One 4-ounce can diced mild green chiles
1/4 cup finely diced cilantro stems
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1. In a large lidded Dutch oven, brown the bacon over high heat. When crispy, remove to a bowl and set aside.
2. Combine the chili powder, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with the spice blend.
3. Add the chicken to the pot in batches, turning the heat down to medium-high if smoking, until nicely browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to the bowl with the bacon.
4. Add the onions to the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Season with salt and saute, scrapping up brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth, white beans, green chiles, and cilantro stems. Fold in the reserved chicken and bacon. Bring to a simmer, then cover with the lid, turn the heat down to low, and cook for one hour, until the chicken is tender, but not falling apart.
5. Remove the chicken to a bowl and shred using two forks. Puree 2 cups of the chili using a blender, or simply use an immersion blender and puree about 1/4 of the mixture. Return the pureed beans to the pot along with the shredded chicken. Place the lid back on the pot, and simmer on low for another 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours, until the broth has thickened and the chicken is finely shredded.
6. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve alongside shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and/or diced avocado.
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