I fell in love with the San Francisco Chronicle’s cookbooks while visiting San Francisco nearly a decade ago. This recipe is from their 1997 edition with the yellow cover. In contrast with most of the recipes I post, this requires a bit of dedication. It’s not that it’s particularly tricky. It’s more that there are a lot of steps, and you need a good, solid day to make it.
Fortunately, it’s a great diversion on a snowy day, and the reward of a steaming bowl when the day is done makes it worth while. It’s also a great recipe to make in big batches to keep in the freezer. In fact, I was thrilled to present a container as a gift to a friend last week. I simply grabbed one of the containers I’d kept in the freezer and off I went!
And for those of you with workplace chili contests, this is absolutely a contender. Whether it brings home a blue ribbon or not, you’ll be proud it was in the running, and your co-workers will thank you, too.
The ingredients that make this so special, in my mind, are the tomatillos, roasted Anaheim chiles, beer and rice vinegar. The rest are pretty common among chili recipes.. but with these additions the recipe turns from simple comfort food to gourmet fare.
1 pound dry Great Northern or navy beans
8 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces Mexican beer (not dark) –I used a gluten free New Planet beer
2 cups diced onions
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and diced*
4 Anaheim or New Mexico green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded**
1 tablespoon dried oregano***
1 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds***
1 1/4 pounds skinned, boned chicken breasts (or the parts you like)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 tablespoons ground New Mexico chile (or chili powder)
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed by soaking
1 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (or regular sharp cheddar cheese)
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
To make the beans, wash and pick over to ensure there aren’t any pebbles mixed in. (This rarely happens to me anymore but it doesn’t hurt to check.) Place in a large pot. Add the water, onion, garlic cloves and a grateing of black pepper. Simmer for 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender. Add the salt during the last 30 minutes of cooking. (Adding salt too early can toughen the beans.)
To make the chili, While the beans are cooking, place the beer in a 4-quart pot. Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos, green chiles, oregano and cumin. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Cut the chicken into strips, then dice. Add to the pot along with the chicken broth. Sprinkle in the ground chile and simmer for 15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can add chicken thighs and drumsticks on the bone to the broth, cook, then simply remove the meat from the bones later.)
Place the tomatillos, minced cilantro, vinegar and salt in a food processor and process to a salsa consistency. Stir into the chili. Add the drained cooked beans and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning: add salt, if desired.
Either sprinkle the cheese over the top of each bowl, or mix into the pot of chile until melted and blended. Garnish with cilantro.
*To handle the jalapeno chiles, use a small ziplock baggie as a glove to keep the hot oils off your skin. Otherwise, you can burn your fingers, and if your finger ends up near your eye, you could burn your eye.
**To roast and peel the Anaheim chiles, place on a cookie sheet under the broiler for about ten minutes per side. You may want to put a layer of aluminum foil on the sheet first, to help with cleanup. Once the chiles are blackened on each side (yes, really go for black), carefully remove from the oven and drop into a large ziplock bag. Seal the bag and let them sit for about five minutes. This steams the chiles and makes it easier to peel off the skin.
Place the chiles onto a cutting board. Chop off the stem end, then slice from end to end. Prod open the chile and slide the seeds out with the dull side of your knife. Then peel the skin off with your fingers. (Anaheim chiles aren’t hot like jalapenos.)
Once the seeds and skins have been removed, dice and add to the chile.
***Spice flavorings are amplified and enriched by toasting briefly before adding to a recipe. Simply place a dry skillet (no oil) onto a lightly warmed burner. Measure your spices and sprinkle over the skillet. Allow to warm briefly without burning, just a minute or so depending on the heat of the skillet. Add to your recipe immediately.