Project Weeknight: White Bean Chili

I wanted to make a white chicken chili sans chicken; basically white beans in a white-chili-style sauce. I checked out a bunch of vegetarian, vegan, and traditional recipes. I quickly realized that all I had to do was leave out the chicken and maybe up the bean content. Score!

As you might expect, most of the recipes were very similar. Many called for mass quantities of dairy (cheese, sour cream, half & half) to be stirred in right before service. I really wanted to avoid that. Some called for a lb or two of tomatillos. Although that sounded lovely, I knew the odds of finding them on the way home from work would be low.

When all was said and done, the most promising recipe was a White Turkey Chili from Cooking Light Magazine. The winning features were a reasonable ingredients list (most of which I already had) and simple prep that seemed to fall within Project Weeknight guidelines.

So here's what I ended up with:
White Bean Chili
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 to 2 Tblsp butter and/or oil
1½ cups onion, chopped (~1 good-sized one)
½ cup chopped celery (~3 small ribs, or 2 large)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 Tblsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp oregano (opt.) (Mexican, if available.)
4 cans cannellini beans or other white beans, drained, divided in half.
24-32 oz low-sodium chicken broth (cutting back on the broth will reduce the simmer time.)
1 - 4 oz can chopped green chiles
black pepper

For the table:

  • Shredded cheese (we like Monterey Jack)
  • Avocado, chopped or guacamole
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, hot sauce, or heat source of your choice.

  • Melt butter/heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, bell peppers, garlic, and corn and sauté 5 minutes or so until you see caramelization on the bottom of the pan. Add cumin and chili powder, sauté a minute or so until fragrant.

    Add a cup or two the broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Add the oregano, half the beans, remaining broth, chopped chiles, 1/2 t salt, and black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes or so.

    Mash remaining beans well and add to mixture. Simmer approx. 15 minutes or until mixture is the desired consistency, stirring frequently. Add more salt if desired.

    Put 1/4 cup cheese in the bottom of each bowl, ladle chili on top. Stir. Top with avocado/guacamole.

    Yield: Approx. ~11 cups, Serving size: 1-2 cups

    • Stirring some of the hot cooking liquid into the mashed beans before adding to the pot will loosen them up and make them easier to incorporate.

    • If you have more time, use the whole 32 oz of broth (or more), partially cover the pot during the first simmer and keep it at a bare simmer for 30 mins or more. The second simmer should be uncovered and will take as long as it takes to reduce down to where you want it.

    • I decided adding the cheese to each serving worked better for me since I tend to freeze leftovers. You can add 1 to 1½ cups of shredded cheese to the pot instead.

    • I used 2 cans of cannellini beans and 2 cans of great northern. I added the cannellinis whole and mashed the great northerns, since they were mushier anyway. I'm kind of weird about symmetry that way, though.

    • Subbing 1 can of pintos might be fun.

    • I might add 2 cans of chopped chiles next time. I used mild.

    • This recipe is intentionally fairly mild in deference to my son. The adults added a blob of Asian chili garlic sauce at the table. Good stuff!

    Once recipe called for canned tomatillos. If I can find those, I might stock some for next time.

    It was universally accepted. My son gave it two thumbs, two big toes, and a nose up. But he's in a growth spurt right now so just about anything wins raves from him. Hmmm... maybe I could use that to my advantage next week....

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