Saturday, January 25, 2014

White Chili and Simmer vs Boil

Nothing warms you up like a good bowl of chili and this year 'white chili' seems to be all the rage. It's really a hearty chicken soup with Tex-Mex flavors. It is healthier than its tomato/beef based cousin but just as satisfying. There is a quick and a longer technique, so I'll describe both for you depending on the time you have available. As always, there is a trade off for flavor unless you've made chicken stock in advance.

Julian's White Chili
Chicken Stock - Simmer vs. Boil
Today I purchased skinless breasts and a thigh with the bone in, as I have the time to make my own chicken stock. If you do not, use previously made stock or store bought. If you are making your own, which will taste better and fill your house with such a comforting aroma, then skinless meat with bone in is the best option.

Skinless chicken breasts/thigh will mean less fat in your stock. The bones will provide flavor. I simply add some chopped onion, carrots and celery to a large heavy pot (or Dutch oven) and cook them quickly with some olive oil. Add a dash of salt and pepper for flavor. To that I cover the meat with enough cold water to at least submerse fully or more. Heat the pot until it is just about, but not quite, boiling. Our goal here is to simmer the meat, not boil it.

Here you are looking to keep the covered pot at just below the boiling point, about 175F-200F degrees. I do not measure the temperature but judge this simply by looking to see if there are a few bubbles coming up every minute or so. I check the pot every 30 minutes to see how it's doing and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Making the Chicken Stock
Avoid a full boil because higher temperatures mean more volatile aroma and flavor compounds will be released, leaving a flatter-tasting stock. Boiling also means more motion within the liquid, which makes it harder to skim off the protein scum which forms on the surface while a stock is cooking, as some of it will become reincorporated into the stock. Boiling induces faster breakdown of proteins and other particulate matter, leaving you with a cloudier end stock and tough, dry meat.

In all I let the meat simmer for about two hours, although it can be done in as little as one hour if you prefer. Then I remove the whole piece of meat, separate it from the bone and discard the bones. Skim the top of the pot to remove any protein solids that have appeared and the stock is ready.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)

3 chicken breast halves
1 chicken thigh
Tender, moist, shredded chicken.
32-46 ounces chicken stock
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, halved and sliced thickly
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can Great Northern white beans (do not drain)
1 15-ounce can Butter beans
1 15-ounce can white kidney beans
1 4-ounce can diced green chilis
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-3 teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

If you are making your own stock, purchase bone in skinless pieces as noted above and follow those directions. Otherwise start with boneless/skinless pieces of chicken. Add about 3 quarts of cold water to a heavy bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the chicken until and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to cool on a plate and discard the cooking water.

Regardless of the chicken cooking method, you should now have cooked boneless skinless chicken. Using two forks shred the chicken. Add the chicken stock to a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven and heat to a simmer. Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add the beans with their liquids, spices and the shredded chicken.Taste the broth with a small amount of chili powder and add more to your taste. Stir until combined and heated through, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and garnish each serving with the chopped cilantro.   

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