Until recently, I'd always been a chili purist, and so were the eaters whom I cook for at home. That means all beef (cubed, not ground) and no beans (or grudgingly added), with the chili flavor and heat coming from leathery pods of dried (rehydrated) pasilla or guajillo chiles. No vegetarian chili ever satisfied me, and I'd never met a poultry version that I fancied.
But I love a challenge, so I decided to attempt a chicken chili with the heart and soul of a good ol' "bowl of red." After sampling it, my beef-chili-only husband said, "This is my new favorite, and I'm craving more."
The plan: Bring in big flavors to offset the lack of beefy savoriness. I chose chicken thighs, which are richer than breasts. With a good browning to start, I built the fond (the French term for the browned bits on the bottom of the pan). Charring the vegetables adds to the depth, which is further enhanced by canned chipotle chiles. I went with a best-quality commercial chili powder for convenience, eliminating the need for more herbs and spices. With a few tweaks, this recipe became a staple. My next chili challenge? Vegetarian, of course. I'll keep you posted on that one.
Text by Lucinda Scala Quinn