Then it's Chili Cookin' time in NC!
I am very excited to participate in Gloria Chadwick's monthly Chili Cookoff Challenge for the first time. This contest is part of a big ol' celebration of the publication of Gloria's new cookbook, Foods and Flavors of San Antonio.
A copy of which one lucky person will win by participating in my vintage recipe contest, Everything Old is New Again. Other prizes include some fabulous vintage style aprons. Please come and join the fun! The deadline for submissions is April 1. Check it out!
But back to the important thing: CHILI!
"The aroma of good chili should generate rapture akin to a lover's kiss."As I was developing my recipe for the Chili Cookoff Challenge, I did a little research into the history of chili. Apparently chiles have been cultivated across the Americas as early as 6000 years ago. While the origins of the dish we know as chili are somewhat murky, there is general agreement that it did not originate in Mexico. According to food historian Linda Stradley, chili may have made its first appearance in San Antonio. As you probably know, few things are more hotly debated than what ingredients should be included in a proper bowl of Texas Red. I was intrigued to learn that Tex-Mex Chili con Carne does not include beans, and tomatoes are optional.
Motto of the Chili Appreciation Society International
Motto of the Chili Appreciation Society International
In the American Southwest of course, the most important question about chili is "Red or Green?" My friend Sandy, a member of the Navajo Nation, says the thing she misses most about home is green chile. You can learn more about New Mexico chile here.
For my original recipe I have chosen to create neither red or green chili, but a "white" chili honoring the centuries-old traditions of Indian country by including "The Three Sisters": corn, beans, and squash, in my recipe.
The Three Sisters is an ancient method of companion planting used throughout Indian Country, thought to have been first used by the Haudenosaunee people (the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy) of the Northeastern Woodlands. As far as I know, my nation, the Anishinaabe, who call the frozen tundra of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota home, were not farmers, though The Three Sisters are included in the traditional foodways of many nations.
They are called "The Three Sisters" because the three crops are planted in the same mound. The corn stalk provides support for the climbing bean vine, the beans add nitrogen to the soil, and the squash leaves choke out weeds by spreading across the ground to create a natural mulch, their thorny fruits a natural deterrent to predators. To lean more about creating a Three Sisters Garden and how you can obtain seeds to grow your own, check this site.
Here is my original recipe for
Three Sisters White Chili
This "white" chili, which isn't so much white as saffron-hued, deliciously combines white beans, white corn, chayote squash and eggplant.
12 oz. fully-cooked chicken sausages, Spicy Cilantro flavor or Chorizo flavor.
1/2 lb. dried white beans (Great Northern or Navy beans)
6 c. chicken broth (plus more as needed.)
1 bay leaf
1 t. salt
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
1 lg. onion, chopped
6 lg. cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and chopped into medium dice
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 T ancho chile powder
1 ½ t. cumin
1 t. oregano
1 T olive oil
2 T all-purpose flour
1 pt. half-and-half
1 c. shredded Mexican 4 Cheese Blend
1 c. frozen baby white corn kernels
½ eggplant, peeled and cut into ½ in. dice
1 chayote squash, cored and cut into ½ in. strips
1 T tomato paste
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
⅓ c. chopped cilantro (LEAVES ONLY) plus additional for garnish
It's time to get out my big red soup pot! That always means good things are on the way! I'm going to spray it with non-stick spray, add 1 T olive oil, and heat it over medium heat.
Here are my chicken sausages. I used the Brat Hans brand which my Whole Foods carries, in the Spicy Cilantro flavor. You could also use Chicken Chorizo sausages; or Chicken Italian Sausages. I'd probably go with the spicy Italian, but sweet would be fine too.
Here they are, all naked and ready for slicing and browning.
I have sliced the sausages on the bias (I think they look prettier that way) and am browning them over medium heat.
Here they are, nice and brown! Don't you thing everything looks better browned? Bacon, for example. Or my scary white upper arms. They look MUCH better with a little Fake & Bake! :D
Now take the sausages out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a plate. We'll come back to them later.
Into the pot with all the yummy juices from the chicken sausages, add your dried beans (rinsed, of course), a bay leaf, 6 c. chicken broth, 2 c. water, and 1 t. salt.
Bring the beans to a boil over medium high heat, cover, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the beans are tender but not falling apart. It will take about 2 hrs.
Check frequently to make sure they are not getting too dry, and add additional chicken stock or water as needed.
Now, let's work on our chile-cheese base. Spray a large deep skillet with nonstick spray. Over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil and 1 T unsalted butter.
When the butter is melted, add the chopped onion, salt and pepper to taste, and saute 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.
While the onions are cooking, let's get the chiles ready.
Here are the poblano and the jalapeno chiles:
We're going to stem, seed, and chop them. It's a good idea to use these disposable gloves when working with spicy chiles, and be careful not to touch your face or especially not your eyes while working. We're cutting the poblano into medium dice, and mincing the jalapeno.
Here our chiles are, all ready to be cooked! (At this point, I would wash my cutting board and my knife to get rid of all the irritating hot chile juices.)
Now, mince the garlic and add it to the skillet with the onion, and saute 2 minutes.
Then, add the chiles and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until they are softened and fragrant.
We;re going to add the spices now: add the cumin, ancho chile powder, and oregano to the skillet. Cook them, stirring, for 1 minute. Then add 1 T olive oil to the pan and stir it in.
Now we are going to doux a roux! :) Sprinkle the veggies with 2 T flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, to blend the flavors and get rid of any raw flour taste.
Now, add the half-and-half to the skillet.
Cook the mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a flat whisk, until slightly thickened, about 5 min. Taste and add salt, pepper, cumin or ancho as needed. Be careful about adding more oregano. Too much will ruin the chili and make it bitter.
Our sauce is all thickened! I love this peachy color, so much prettier than plain old bechamel.
Remove the chili base from the heat and stir in the shredded 4-cheese blend until it is melted and incorporated. To keep with the white chili theme, I should probably only use Monterey Jack, but the 4-cheese blend has much more flavor! Set this mixture aside.
While the beans are finishing cooking, let's work on our veggies.
First, peel the eggplant and cut it in half. Chop one half into into medium dice; reserve the other half for another purpose.
Now let's do the chaoyote. It's kind of like a pear, you have to quarter it so you can cut out the core and seeds. Slice it into strips and set it aside.
This is also a good time to get the cilantro ready. It's very important to wash cilantro well, as it holds a lot of sand. I find the easiest way to do this is to drop it into a sinkful or bowlful of lukewarm water to sit for a while. Lukewarm water is much more effective at getting the dirt out than cold. The sand will fall to the bottom of the sink or bowl. Then carefully lift the cilantro out of the water, and dry. Now comes the tedious part. Remove all the leaves from the stems, and discard the stems. You only want to use the cilantro leaves in anything you are cooking. Your finished dish will look prettier, and taste much better, with no stems.
Here is my bowl of liberated cilantro leaves, ready for chopping.
When the beans are tender but not mushy, we can add our veggies. Here is an important fact about bean cookery: while it is fine (in fact, desirable) to add salt to dried beans while they are cooking, do not add any acidic ingredients, like tomatoes or citrus, until they beans are tender. Acid will make the beans tough. Now add the tomato paste, the Rotel tomatoes, the chopped eggplant, frozen baby white corn kernels, the chayote squash, and the browned sausage (I told we'd get back to that!) to the bean pot.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
I love how you can see the individual beans, corn kernels, pieces of chayote, eggplant, and bits of tomato here.
Bring the bean pot to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer gently for 8 minutes, or until the veggies are just tender. Here are the finished veggies:
Now we are ready to add the cheese mixture to the bean pot.
Sitr it in well, and add salt and pepper to taste as needed. If the chili seems too thick, add a small amount of chicken stock.
Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.
Serve in warmed bowls with crusty rolls or cornbread, and offer additional chopped cilantro and cheese, and some sour cream.
This chili is delicious served with Nathan's Fresh Avocado and Tomato salad (dressed with lime juice, olive oil, and salt).
Here is another serving suggestion.
Three Sisters White Chili is amazingly good ladled over a cooked sweet potato half. We are lucky to have some beautiful NC-grown purple sweet potatoes in the stores now, and I thought it would look cool to serve the chili with a purple sweet potato!
(It is just as delicious served over an orange one, too.)
Here, I tried making some orange bell pepper puree (from a fresh pepper that I roasted) to put on top, but it was a little too thin. It tasted good, though!
I'm sure you will think of many other fun ways to serve this chili!