I always get requests for this recipe, because it’s hearty, warm and satisfying, without the heaviness of standard chili. Usually this chicken chili makes its first appearance in my home on Halloween—hence the orange bell peppers. We have a tradition of hosting a bunch of families for the pre-game trick-or-treat fun. You know, the kind of party that involves quickly chugging your wine and slurping your food before the kiddos speed out of control in a sugar-high, costumed frenzy?
Typically, I set up a toppings bar next to the tureen of chili and serve a crisp green salad on the side. When entertaining with families, it’s smart to have a couple of options for the kids. With the heat wave we’re experiencing right now, this is a satisfying “fall” meal without being overwhelming.
This recipe calls for San Marzano tomatoes, which I know are a bit expensive, but they really do elevate this dish, creating a wow factor that has no substitution.
Roasted Chicken Chili
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe
For the chicken:
4 large chicken breasts, skin on (or 2 whole chicken breasts, split)
Glug of olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the chili:
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped leek
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (or juice of half a lemon)
2 chiles de arbol, pinch off the stems
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can substitute with hot paprika, but the smoked is so much tastier)
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes or fresh garden tomatoes, chopped
Chopped green onions, tortilla chips, white cheddar and sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast your chicken first, while you prep your other ingredients. Rub olive oil on the chicken breasts and season well with salt and pepper. Place breasts on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes until just cooked through.
Note: This simple method of roasting chicken tastes so good, you could just serve it now and skip the chili! And it is a go-to method for family meals. When I’m making this chili, I will roast a few extra breasts to have on hand for chicken salad or tacos later in the week.
In a skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin and chilies de arbol. Be careful not to burn. Remove from pan and crush with a mortar and pestle.
In a large Dutch oven or pot, cook the onions and leek in the oil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until translucent. If the pieces begin to brown, add a splash of water. Turn the heat down to medium, add the peppers and continue to sauté for an additional 10 minutes.
Next, add the garlic, crushed chile de arbol, toasted cumin and other spices, bay leaf and salt. Cook for 1 minute. This process will perfume your kitchen like no other. Then add the wine and turn up the heat to medium high, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. As the wine begins to evaporate, add the tomatoes and crush them with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After the chicken is roasted, let it cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin, and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, partially covered, for another 20 minutes. Before you are ready to serve, remove the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the toppings; don’t skimp on the sour cream!