Classic Chicken Chili
In the fall, I went on a tour of Lambeau Field. I was in Green Bay for work, and after a late-night fried cheese curd snack and the next morning’s tour of a demi-glace production facility, one introduction led to another and we wound up in the care of the executive sous chef of the stadium, who, before we knew what was happening, began to lead us on a behind-the-scenes-culinary tour. He showed us the prep kitchens and the serving kitchens, the beautiful new dining rooms, and the catering facilities where cheesehead couples get married.
Now you’ll hear a lot of sports atheists like me proclaiming that we’re only into the Super Bowl for the food (if we’re into football at all). But as I learned that day, the football stadiums, with their teams of cooks, specialty stands, and exclusive club room buffets–they’re really in it for the food too.
On the day we visited, most of the kitchens were quiet: there were 11 days until the Bears arrived for the next home game. In the lobby, the sausage stands’ menus broadcast this year’s Sunday specialty–the 22-inch cheese-topped kielbasa called the Horse Collar–but there were none flaming on the turned-off grills. Nearby, the fill-your-own-beer-mug kiosks were totally tapped out. Still, the in-stadium smokers were running, delivery trucks were backing into loading docks, and a tiny batch of chili simmered–just a couple of gallons for an upcoming meeting at one of the clubs.
I say tiny because normally, the Lambeau chefs go through 200 gallons of chili in one game day. 200 gallons!
Anyway, enough about the Packers. Even this non-fan knows they don’t get to play this weekend. So, for your home team–especially if it’s a crew looking to watch the game over a relatively light meal–today’s chicken chili actually does brew a small batch. The recipe takes inspiration from the classic beans-tomato-chili powder combo we grew up with as Yankees, but swaps out the beef for a smaller portion of shredded chicken thighs. There are also a few more vegetables hidden in each bowl than normal.
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large onion, finely chopped (1/3 cup reserved for garnish)
- 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 2 green peppers, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- Handful cilantro, stems and leaves, minced, plus a few whole leaves for garnish
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- One 28 ounce can whole fire roasted tomatoes
- About 1 cup water
- 1 15-ounce can pinto beans
- Rice, for serving
- Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
- Whole milk yogurt, for garnish
- 1 green scallion, for garnish (optional)
- In a large Dutch oven, brown the chicken over medium-high heat. Remove to a plate. Add the onions to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, until tender, then add the jalapeno, peppers, celery, cilantro, and garlic. Cook until all veggies are tender, about 10 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Return the chicken to the pot. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour the tomatoes over the meat mixture, add the beans, and then pour in enough water to cover by about ½ an inch. Mix to combine. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting and cook, uncovered for 35 minutes.
- Use two forks to shred apart the chicken right in the pot - you want approximately bite-sized pieces, but it's fine if some are bigger.
- Serve over rice if you like, with shredded cheddar, yogurt or sour cream, and cilantro or chopped scallions for garnish.