Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicken, Hominy, and Cilantro Chili

This is one of my favorite meals ever. Absolutely positively five stars.

The first time I made it, I followed the instructions, and it took around 3 hours (maybe more) to make. So it was another year or so before I made it again. You can use the chicken thighs to make it, like the instructions say, but it's much easier and faster to use boneless skinless chicken breasts. The dark meat will have a better flavor, but this way you don't have to skin and de-bone the pieces, after letting them cool long enough to touch. And it won't make a huge mess. Just let the breasts cool for a few minutes, then shred them with your hands or with forks.

The recipe also calls for a cup of beer. It cooks long enough that the alcohol content wouldn't be anything to worry about (I know most, if not all, of you/us are LDS), but that's still a lot. A couple of tablespoons maybe wouldn't be as big a deal. My husband really didn't want me to use beer. I did some hunting around and found a good substitute on this site: ginger ale. Ginger ale gives good flavor that you wouldn't get if you just substituted water. It give a little carbonation, but it lacks the yeast that beer has. The yeast is what helps the cornmeal really thicken up at the end. It still tastes fantastic, though.

For the chicken stock, I just use bouillon.

I don't normally like to use my food processor for vegetable chopping (I like it for real disintegration, or cheese shredding), but for soups I don't mind it. Just put the peppers and onions (and jalapeƱos, if you have a mini-bowl) in, and it's a snap.

For the polenta: I had to do a little research on this. I learned that it's a dish made from ground maize. Basically it's grits, which are ground hominy, ironically. So I have a can of grits in my cupboard that I pretty much only ever use for this. I don't make the 2 cups that this recipe calls for -- it's overkill. For my husband and I, I just follow the instructions on the canister for 1 serving, and divide it in half. It adds a nice touch. When we have leftovers, I don't bother making the grits again.

I usually use a 15 oz. can of hominy, because I'm not sure I've ever seen a 19 oz. can.

(I've decided that my pictures of soup pretty much all suck and make the food look very not appetizing, and even kinda nasty, so this is a scan of the photo in the cookbook.)

From the Williams-Sonoma Chicken cookbook, page 55,

Chicken, Hominy, and Cilantro Chili

4 Tbsp olive oil
12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
Salt and pepper
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 or 2 jalapeƱo chiles, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup lager beer
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 can (19 oz) hominy, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups instant polenta, cooked according to package directions

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons o the oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In batches, add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour off the fat from the pot. Return the pot to medium heat and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onions, bell peppers, and chiles to taste and cook uncovered, stirring oftenm until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the stock, beer, and tomato paste. Return the chick to the pot. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken shows no sign of pink when the thickest parts are cut into near the bone, about 30 minutes.

Using kitchen tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and let cool slightly. Discard the skin and cut the meat from the bones. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and return them to the pot. In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup of the broth with the cornmeal; stir into the pot along with the hominy and cilantro. Simmer until the chili thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Spoon the polenta into warmed individual bowls, top with the chili, and serve hot.

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