Chicken Chili

Chili is a staple within my household. It's on Barrett's request list as soon as the Texas weather transitions from miserable summer into a much anticipated arrival of fall. In fact, this chili recipe is the first thing Barrett cooked for me back in the beginning of our relationship. Isn't it funny how food can sometimes carry massive emotional ties? Maybe that's another reason why I love the meaning behind cooking: the opportunity to bring people together over the dinner table.

Our traditional chili recipe does not actually call for chicken, but rather ground turkey and ground pork. I'll share this version another time, as for today, we're stickin' with the chicken. When you live on a ranch, popping to the grocery store whenever you're needing an ingredient sometimes is not feasible. Creativity is key, and so is using what you have on hand. That's where my chicken comes into play - I had a pack in the freezer that needed to be cooked!

Pro tip: buy your meat ahead of time then throw it in the freezer for later use. A great tool for meal prepping, planning ahead and budgeting.

So, I buy my chicken at our local butcher. I've found that this method of shopping is far less expensive than buying meats from the grocery store. Price compare between your butcher and grocery - you might surprise yourself. The chicken provided by our butcher is far more flavorful, too. Anyway. Four large chicken breasts cost $7.40 from my supplier, and I used two for this recipe, which means I popped the other two back into the freezer for later use. The primary star of this entire chili cost $3.85. Now, add in the canned products such as diced tomatoes, corn, and beans - you're looking at a pot of chili roughly adding up to maybe $9.00 to $10.00. If you have tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, onions and garlic already in your pantry then you're set. If not, it's perhaps a few dollars more for the spices needed. The chili will comfortably feed 5 to 6 people, but like always, I usually whip it together for dinner then use the leftovers for weekday lunch.

Here's what you'll need:

2 - 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion chopped

2 - 3 garlic gloves chopped (we love garlic, but feel free to add as much as you prefer)

2 tablespoons of all purpose flour

1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste

2 14oz cans diced tomatoes

1 14oz can corn drained

1 14oz can kidney beans drained

1 14oz can black beans drained

3 tablespoons chili powder - seasoned to taste

2 teaspoons of ground cumin - seasoned to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste depending on your heat tolerance

Salt and pepper

1 cup water

1) After you've chopped your chicken, your onions and your garlic - please use a different cutting board for the meat because I am not an advocate for salmonella - throw the chicken into a deep dutch oven or regular deep pot, once the olive oil is hot, over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown. Remove from pot and set aside.

2) Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté onions and garlic until fragrant. Then, add your tomato paste stirring to combine. Next, add the 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour and mix well. You'll want to let this mixture cook for about a minute or so. It'll rrrrreeealllyyyyy thicken things up but no fear, this is what you want.

3) Pour the canned goods into the pot. Two cans of diced tomatoes with juice, the drained beans and corn. Typically I use only corn, but the particular can I had on hand was mixed with bell peppers. Another example of using what you've got.

4) Add the cooked chicken back into the pot along with any juices that might have pooled on the plate, along with 1 cup of water. Eyeball this - if it's too thick, add more water.

5) Seasoning time! Your spices go next, and I'll admit that I do not measure so the numbers above are ballpark guesses. Ha. It really depends upon your taste buds, friends! Chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper go into the mixture. Stir, of course.

6) Reduce heat to low and allow the chili to simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes. A longer cooking time means a more bold, flavorful chili. However, if you're starving, I won't judge you if you only let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Last but not least, ladle your chili into a bowl and please don't forget about the toppings. They are a quintessential addition to every chili and well, I love cheese. We stick to the classics: sour cream, grated cheddar combined with pepper jack, lime juice and cilantro. Are you a cilantro person? I've never met a person who said "meh, cilantro is okay." Nope. It's either love or hate, people. Love or hate.

Hold on, let's talk about variations.

I love recipes that are easily changeable to suit your palette. Substitute ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey or a combination of the three instead of chicken. Or! Veto meat entirely and chop up zucchini, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and cauliflower for a vegetarian friendly chili.

You can also serve this chili over cast iron skillet cheesy cornbread or grits. It is perfection on a winter's night... don't ask me how I know.

Happy chili cooking!

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