Updated: Jun 10
I want vibrant colors on my plate...that coincidentally bring vibrant flavors to my mouth.
Today I want to share with you a one pot meal bursting with the flavors and colors that I'm all about. It also encourages creativity and can be tailored to fit your own individual tastes. This creation, in fact, is different every time I make it, depending on who I am with and what I have on hand. It was originally inspired by a recipe from my dear sister-in-law and has evolved as my own culinary choices have evolved.
The basic theme of this recipe is chicken chili.
It begins with onion and garlic. I am a fan of sweet varieties of onion, but any onion will do. If you don't like onion, or garlic, leave it out. But I urge you to try using them here even if you think you won't like them. These two humble ingredients add a layer of richness and flavor to your meal that you will not be able to pick out but you will miss if it isn't there. Finely chop both onion and garlic and sauté in a little oil. I like to salt and pepper my veggies as they sauté. As the color goes from white to translucent to slightly golden, the flavor will change from sharp to mellow to sweet. To the pan, add a finely diced jalepeño. This mild pepper can be made even milder with the removal of the seeds and white pith. In tiny pieces, its heat is diluted even further, but it's flavor shines through. Other peppers are also appropriate depending on what you have on hand and what you like. Try colored bell peppers or Anaheim or poblano chili peppers instead, or in addition. They are also mild but decidedly different in flavor. You can add a can of diced green chilies as well.
Next in the pan -- spices. Some ground cumin, some oregano, some ground cinnamon (yes, cinnamon). This is the trio I like to use with chicken based chili. I encourage you to experiment with your own blend, but don't go overboard. Let the spices complement, not take over, the flavors of the other ingredients.
Now it's time for some liquid. Since the meat I am using is chicken, I will use a chicken stock as my primary liquid. Before I add the stock, however, I will first amp up the flavor with a little white wine - which will be added to the sauté and allowed to reduce a little. This burns off the alcohol and concentrates the flavors. I use what I have on hand, but different wines definitely give different results. Go dry versus sweet here. Or leave it out. That's fine too. Then add your stock. Start with a few cups, add your remaining ingredients, then add more liquid as needed to get the amount you want in your bowl when served. Some adjustment of seasonings may also be required. I like to brighten my chicken based chili even further with a little freshly squeezed lime juice.
As far as those "remaining ingredients"go, here's a guide. I like to add in several different varieties of dried beans - whatever I have on hand, really. These can be previously freshly prepared and frozen (I always have black and pinto beans in my freezer) or they can be canned (just be sure to rinse canned beans well). I also like corn with my chicken chili. I use fresh or frozen, but canned will be OK as well - just be careful when you add any additional salt. The meat I go to for this dish is not ground, but diced cooked chicken. I like a mix of dark and white meat. Cooked, chopped chicken is yet another thing I keep on hand in my freezer. I roast or smoke a whole bird, chop up the meat and portion it into two cup servings which I freeze. The carcass I save for stock. In lieu of cooking your own bird, you can purchase one already roasted at almost any major grocery chain. I stay away from the canned stuff. It's a texture thing.
Let all of this bubble away at a low simmer for awhile, to develop the flavors.
Now comes the fun part - the toppings!
Here's an example of what I have set out for my guests to add as they desire: sour cream, salsa, roughly chopped cilantro, green onions, grated cheddar cheese, grated Monterey Jack cheese, chunks of avocado, blue and yellow corn tortilla chips. You can definitely think of others.
All of this results in a beautiful, colorful bowl of wonderful flavors. Rich, and satisfying to the eyes, nose, and palate!