By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: January 26, 2019 | 8:05 a.m.
You know how sometimes you need to fix dinner and you just don’t know what you want – but you definitely know what you don’t want? That’s the predicament I found myself in recently. It was a really cold day and I was in the mood for something hot and hearty, but I wasn’t in the mood for the hamburger I had waiting in the fridge. I thought about beef stew, but I didn’t feel like going out in the cold to get everything I’d need for that. Chili crossed my mind as a classic for a cold day but I definitely wasn’t up for the acid in tomatoes or hot spices, and besides – hamburger?
Well, after donning my thinking cap I remembered that I had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer, and I like those, but preparing some chicken dish with sides was more of a hassle than I wanted to deal with. I just wanted to throw together a simple, tasty, hearty, no tomato, hamburger-free one-dish meal. Frustrated, I opened the cabinet to look for inspiration. I quickly spotted cans of great northern beans I had recently purchased for a sausage and bean soup that I really like. And I had sausage. But that didn’t particularly appeal to me at the moment, either. That’s when I had my Eureka! moment. I had chicken… white beans… onions… mild green chiles (which I love)… Why not concoct some kind of White Bean Chili?!?! So I did. And it was wonderful! Now I’m going to tell you how to make it!
Tender chunks of chicken breast meat with great northern beans, onions, celery, herbs and spices – Delicious!!!
First, let me say that I get that some people aren’t comfortable with a recipe that doesn’t have exact measurements. So I’m going to share directions for making this exactly as I made it, and if you don’t change a thing it’ll be wonderful. Just know going in that the recipe is extremely flexible. After you hear what’s in it, if there’s something in here that doesn’t appeal to you – leave it out! But I’m probably getting ahead of myself, so let’s just talk about what I did.
I think it’s that I wasn’t in the mood for a whole lot of preparation work, so I’ll admit up front that much of what’s in this dish started off in cans. But I promise you after you put it together, no one will ever suspect that it’s not an old-fashioned, cook-on-the-stove-for-hours feast, and if you don’t tell, I won’t. So first, you take your boneless, skinless chicken breasts, your canned chicken broth, and one chopped onion and cook it all on medium low for about 15 minutes. That’s right – just use good, ready-to-use chicken broth. The slow cooking is so the meat stays tender and absorbs the flavor from the broth. I used “regular” broth, but if you’re on a salt-restricted diet you can use the low-sodium kind. If you like to go organic, use that. The main thing is that, besides adding a really nice flavor to what can be pretty bland chicken breasts, you saved yourself a whole lot of time by not making your own broth.
A little sharp cheddar grated on just before serving adds a pop of color – and a delicious bit of tanginess.
When your chicken is done, remove that from the broth and set it out to cool enough to cut up. While it cools, open your cans of great northern beans, dump them in a colander, and rinse well. This is another major time saver, because you’re reducing the hours of sorting, soaking, rinsing, and slow cooking dried beans to what? Two minutes? Then add those nice, tender beans, your celery, green chiles, and seasonings to the broth. I used about a teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper, a teaspoon of garlic powder because I was out of fresh garlic, tossed in a couple of chopped basil leaves because I’d probably put basil in ice cream, and then stirred in a teaspoon of cumin because, after all, I’m calling this chili! While all that simmers – and makes your house smell heavenly – cut your chicken into bite-size chunks and then add that back to the broth as well. You can simmer as long as you like if you want it thicker – this holds really well – but basically, when it’s all hot and tasty, you’re good to go!
Now getting back to the flexibility I mentioned for a minute, this really was a “taste-as-you-to” dish for me, and there’s no reason that it can’t be for you as well. For instance, if you use more or less (or no!) garlic or cumin, it won’t change anything substantially except the underlying flavor. You can use hotter – or more – peppers. Throw in some oregano if you like. Omit – or increase the basil. If you don’t like it as thick, add more broth during any stage of cooking. If you have any “I don’t like green stuff” folks around you can use that old “Smart Mama” trick and cut your celery into a couple of big chunks. That way, you can cook it in the broth for flavor but fish it out before anyone ever sees it as you’re serving your chili. And speaking of serving, feel free to top each bowlful with sliced green onions or parmesan cheese – anything from slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the old standard shaker parm if you like. Or you can grate some cheddar over it just before serving. I tried all of these options, and can offer a hearty recommendation for any one of them.
A steaming bowl of Hasty Tasty Chicken Chili – perfect for chasing away a winter chill.
Speaking of hearty, you could rightfully call this Hearty Healthy Hasty Tasty Chicken Chili, because besides being thick and chunky and really delicious, it contains basically no fat or added sugars. Pretty amazing for a 30 minute “mostly from cans” dish that tastes full of old-fashioned, slow cooked deliciousness, right? So go ahead! Whip up your own batch of Hearty Hasty Chicken Chili, stash those empty cans away while no one’s looking, and just smile when the “Oohs, and Aahs” start rolling in.
PS: And if you’re cooking for one, freeze serving-size portions so you can look forward to lazy – or super-busy – days winding down with a cup of delicious homemade goodness – right out of the microwave! Enjoy!
Queenie’s Hearty Hasty Chicken Chili
- 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 4 (15.8 oz cans) Great Northern Beans
- 2 (32 oz) boxes Chicken Broth
- 3 (4 oz) cans green chiles (chopped or sliced)
- 2 ribs celery, sliced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 TBSP minced garlic) or to taste
- 1 tsp ground cumin +/-
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
Slow cook chicken breasts (on medium low) and chopped onion in the chicken broth about 15 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken from broth and let cool while you drain and rinse canned beans. Add beans and all other ingredients to the broth while you chop the cooked chicken into bite-size cubes. Add back chicken, simmer for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors, then taste and adjust seasonings to taste, adding more pepper, salt, garlic, or herbs as desired. Enjoy!
NOTE: If you like spicy dishes, you may want to add red pepper flakes, cayenne, or jalapeños. Again, I made this like I like it. Play with the taste until it’s – as Goldilocks said – JUST right for YOU!
look for Queenie Cooks every week online and in the Sussex Surry Dispatch and other local papers for food-related recipes, stories, information, and fun. You never know what Queenie may be cooking up, but you can always count on at least one great recipe to try at home, generally for something you can prepare quickly, easily, and with just a few, common ingredients. Hey! We all have to eat. Let’s have some FUN with it!