Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tomatillo Chicken Chili

While I am all about perusing the web for cooking inspiration, most often I get inspired by others' work and make it my own given the ingredients and tools I commonly use.  However, what we have here is a bookmarked recipe that I've pulled up many times in the kitchen.  I make special trips to the grocery for poblanos and tomatillos for this one.

I like this Tomatillo Chicken Chili because it reminds me of the homey soups and stews of Latin America, but a bit lighter and crisper in flavor.  I love caldos*, sopes, pozoles, moles, and pepian**, and this recipe reminds me much more of those textures and flavors since the chicken is cooked in vegetables and pulled apart.  In other words, its nothing like traditional chili that is bean-y with ground meat.
chile & peru, 2008
lomo saltado, caldos, & cortados
me & bree
One thing I love about Chicago is that ingredients for any cuisine are plentiful, but authentic ingredients for Latino recipes are completely mainstream at the grocery.  Bodegas will carry anything you couldn't find elsewhere, and they are usually right next store to the bigger groceries, anyways.  While Wicker Park is a highly (or, overly) gentrified neighborhood, I'm happily placed on the outskirts where my Mexican neighbors' roosters wake me up in the summertime.  Its fantastic.  I would tell you about the market down the block that sells the absolute best tacos in the city from the back counter, but I simply can't bring myself to give it away.  I'm pretty sure it has something to do with getting very fresh meat from local roosters.

Ingredients (makes 6 servings):
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8-10 tomatillos
  • 2 poblanos
  • 2 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can of green chilies, whole or diced
  • 3 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. coriander
  • 1 1/5 tbsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro and a lime for garnish
  • A food processor is necessary for this recipe (yay, ninja)

To prep, turn on the oven to broil and soak your tomatillos in a large bowl of water.

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot.  Salt and pepper your chicken breasts, then add them to a very hot pot to brown.   Turn them to brown on all sides, but no need to cook through completely.  Remove from the pot and set aside.  
While the chicken cooks, roast your whole poblanos over an open flame on the stove top until blackened on the outside.  Let cool and rinse under cold water, removing much of the charred skin.  If you don't have a gas stove, you can certainly skip this step and use the fresh poblanos.  Place poblanos and onions in the food processor and pulse until a chunky salsa consistency is reached. Add this, along with the jalapenos, garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, and some salt to the hot pot.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until soft.

While the vegetables cook, remove the skins from the tomatillos and place on an aluminum-lined baking pan.  Rub or spray with a little oil, and broil them for about 7 minutes, until blistered.
Remove about a cup of the vegetables from the pot and add them to the food processor with 1 cup of stock and 1 cup of beans.  Blend until smooth, and return to the pot of vegetables.  Before rinsing the processor, blend the tomatillos (and canned chilies, if necessary) until chunky and add those to the pot as well.  
Place the chicken breasts, and any juice on the plate, back into the pot along with the remaining stock.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 20 minutes.  The chicken should be cooked through, so you can remove it again and pull it apart with two forks.  Return the shreds of chicken to the soup, add the remaining beans, and let thicken as much as you want.

Serve with lime and cilantro.

*There are definitely opportunities to walk into a random corner taqueria for good Mexican, but some schnazzy restaurants do Mexican very well.  Xoco (yes, Bayless) has excellent caldos and Mexican hot chocolate.  Big Star, unfortunately, has good tacos.  "Unfortunately," because it is also are run by folks who treat their patrons so poorly that I've been waiting for the opportunity to state that on the internet.  Many have already done so on Yelp

**If you want a very different experience, my absolute favorite place for Guatemalan pepian is El Tinajon in Roscoe Village.  

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