As I write this I have a newborn lying on my chest. Our second daughter, Juniper Louise, was born right before the New Year. She is such a miracle. A beautiful, sweet, exhausting miracle. My mom flew in last week to help out, and she has been absolutely spoiling us with her cooking, cleaning and errand-running. The first thing she did upon arrival was to pull out a file folder of recipes and ask us to choose a menu for the week. Since I’m usually the one menu planning and cooking for others, this is luxury beyond words. One of the first dishes we chose was her White Bean & Chicken Chili. This chili is a longtime family favorite and has nourished my two older brothers and me through some of life’s biggest moments, including the births of our (now) nine collective children.
It’s comfort in a bowl—satisfying and homey, yet light and nutritious—perfect for snow days, sick days, football games or even ordinary Tuesdays. My mom was an elementary school teacher for over twenty years and originally got the recipe from a fellow teacher friend, who would apparently bring in leftovers for lunch, leaving all of the other teachers scorning their ham and Swiss sandwiches. It’s straightforward and simple, using shredded rotisserie chicken and canned white beans, and yet it’s rich and flavorful.
The chili admittedly takes over an hour from start to finish, but it requires only about 20 minutes of prep time. From there it can go into a slow cooker for several hours or it can be forgotten about on the back of the stove while you go about your business (you can even prep the vegetables the day before and store them in a large ziplock bag in the fridge to hurry things along). The only finishing touch is to set out an assortment of toppings (e.g. chopped green onions, cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado wedges, tortilla chips, hot sauce—I personally prefer a “fully loaded” bowl), and dive in.
We’ve been truly spoiled by the support of our family and friends during these past couple of weeks. How lucky I feel at this moment, feeling Juniper’s warm breath on my neck, listening to the sound my mom’s knife as she preps tonight’s meal (pork tenderloin with chimichurri sauce—did I mention she’s spoiling us rotten?). This time is so fleeting. And I feel so blessed.
White Bean & Chicken Chili
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion , finely diced
- 3 stalks celery , finely diced
- 1 poblano pepper , seeded and finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper , seeded and finely diced
- 3 large garlic cloves , minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 4- ounce can diced green chiles
- 3 15- ounce cans cannellini or navy beans , drained and rinsed
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 rotisserie chicken , meat shredded (skin and bones discarded, or you can save the bones for stock)
- Toppings: sour cream , shredded Monterey jack cheese, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, diced avocado, crushed tortilla chips and/or hot sauce
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, celery, poblano pepper, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. At this point you can either finish cooking the chili on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. If cooking on the stovetop, dump the remaining ingredients (except the toppings) into the pot with the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how much time you have and/or how lazy you’re feeling (this is a very forgiving chili), or until the vegetables are tender and the chili has thickened slightly. If using a slow cooker, scrape the vegetables into the slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients, season with some more salt and pepper and cook on low for a couple hours. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Do Ahead: The chili can be made up to 3 days in advance. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
- To serve, ladle the chili into bowls and serve with the toppings of your choice. Enjoy!