I love when you can take something classic and timeless and give it just a bit of a creative nudge in a whole new, awesome direction. Sort of like that men’s business suit made of sweatpants material that I keep seeing advertised in the margins of my Facebook…only better.
Chili is one of those fundamental menu items that needs little introduction. It’s the stuff of family lore, cook offs, and regional variations and never fails to satisfy when a soul needs hearty, spicy sustenance. Chili has its own National Day – the fourth Thursday in February, if you want to mark your calendar now – and it’s the official food of the state of Texas, which is fitting because the first written description of the dish was the result of a visit to San Antonio in 1828.
United States President Lyndon B. Johnson – a diehard chilitarian – was quoted as saying, “Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing.” That spicy bravado alone should make a simple Oregon boy such as me avoid even trying to cook up a pot of the stuff, but the BFD is not one to back down from a challenge. And so, I give you this delicious recipe for Chicken and Chickpea Chili. (In an effort to stave off any letters of ridicule, the Curly-Haired Chick is a Texas girl and she was very pleasantly surprised by how good this version is. So there!)
The first thing you need to know about this recipe is that it has a SECRET INGREDIENT. (I capitalized that so you wouldn’t miss it!) We both know that any recipe that has a secret ingredient is a powerful thing, so treat it with care. The covert addition in this case is…wait for it…unsweetened cocoa powder. Many varieties of mole sauces contain chocolate, so this isn’t a revolutionary addition, but it brings a wonderfully subtle body to an already delicious mixture.
I love shredded chicken, so I added it to the pot along with chopped carrot and wild rice. Not your typical chili vibe, but it all works together brilliantly. All of the requisite spices are there – chili powder, cayenne, and cumin – but the traditional pinto or kidney beans are replaced with chickpeas. The difference in texture is noticeable and quite nice.
You can whip up a batch of this chili in under an hour and it’s amazing hot out of the pot, but I honestly think it tastes even better the next day…or the next day…or…
Be bold…double the recipe and have a chili-filled week. Sure, people may make a slight face when they walk into your house (unless you keep it well-ventilated) but, when you give them a bowl, they’ll join right into a chorus of percussive praises for your impeccable cooking skills. As they say…”Beans, beans, the musical fruit…”
Now, I’m going to put my sweatpants business suit on and go enjoy a hearty helping of chili goodness. You do the same.
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- 1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- Sliced green onions and shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
- Cook wild rice according to package directions.
- Cook the chicken breasts in a skillet until done all the way through, remove from pan and use two forks to shred. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large stock pot. Sauté the bell peppers, carrots, and onions until softened, about 5-10 minutes.
- Add the shredded chicken to the pot and mix with the vegetables.
- Sprinkle in the flour, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly for about a minute.
- Stir in the tomatoes and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce hear and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the chickpeas and wild rice and simmer until thoroughly heated, about 5 minutes.
- Serve while hot, garnished with green onions and shredded cheese.