In spite of the wild weather in Southern California, Peter and René braved a drive down the 5. One of their daughters is a big Harry Potter fan. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate her birthday with a visit to Universal Studios and Harry Potter Land. It turned out to be a great visit. They helped with hanging pictures and moving heavy furniture. But the highlight was the gathering around the family table at Carol’s house. The star offering before dinner was what Carol called a cheese tart. There will be more about it in a later post, but it was beautiful and delicious with layers and layers of filo (and butter) filled with four different cheeses and then baked.
Dinner turned out to be a wonderful gathering with simple food and lots of laughter. Carol specifically wanted to keep it simple, so she made a salad and chili. She asked me to make something else because she planned to cook her chili without onions in deference to her and her allium-averse family. I could appease the onion lovers. She wound up making black bean chili with tender chunks of beef rather than the usual ground beef. So I decided to cook white chili with chicken and white beans. The result posed a dilemma for some of the folks around the table: they couldn’t choose between black and white; they wound up opting for both. I made some southern buttermilk cornbread, and Carol made a delicious lemonade birthday cake for the celebrant. It was an outstanding family gathering, and no one wanted to break it up, but Harry Potter beckoned early in the morning. It was a long drive across LA.
Here’s the recipe for White Chili. There are those in our family who cannot tolerate any spiciness, so this recipe uses only mild green chiles. But you can pep it up with hot green chiles or hot sauce. You can also put a bottle of hot sauce on the table so that each person can adjust according to his or her preference.
- 1 pound great northern beans
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large boneless chicken breasts
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 large carrot cut into thirds
- 1 stalk celery, cut into thirds
- ½ large onion
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 7 ounce can chopped green chiles
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
- salt and pepper
- Siracha, to taste (optional)
- 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
- The night before, place the beans in 2 quarts of water to which has been added the baking soda. Bring to the boil, boil for 2 minutes, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the beans soak overnight.
- In a large cooking pot, place the chicken breasts in the chicken stock along with the carrot, celery, and onion. Bring to the boil. Boil gently for 25 – 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate. Cool and strain the cooking liquid, and set aside. Rinse and dry the pot.
- Heat the oil in the clean pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, stir, and cover. Sweat for 5 minutes. Do not brown the onions. Add the green chiles and cook, uncovered for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for another few minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour. Add the reserved cooking liquid along with the garlic powder and cumin. Crumble the oregano between your hands and add to the pot. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Drain the beans and stir into the soup. Return to the boil and boil slowly until the beans are tender.
- Cut the chicken into ½ inch cubes and add to the mixture. Adjust the seasoning again. Add the optional Siracha to taste.
- Stir in the cornmeal and simmer for another 5 minutes until the soup is thickened.
- Serve immediately. You may wish to add garnishes such as Fritos chips, chopped onion, chopped cilantro leaves, grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, and sour cream.