A Little Warmth in the Cold Winter
Living in Chicago my whole life, I know more than anyone how harsh and cruel winter can be. If we’re not being blanketed in snow, then we’re being ripped apart by arctic winds.
Winter in Chicago is the time of the Holidays, the Bears, the Bulls, movies, and of course comfort foods. I myself like to take the season to make those hearty soups, stews, and other meals that are perfect for staying indoors…without drastically adding to your waistline.
This concoction came about when I wanted to make chili one day, but wasn’t in the mood to slow cook a big pot for eight hours. It was also just after New Years and I like many out there became ever so conscious of just how much I gained from the Holidays. I can’t guarantee this dish is as low-calorie as a salad, but it’s definitely one you can eat without guilt and yet add a little warmth to your winter.
Zesty Chili Chicken
- 3 ounces of olive oil
- 3 lbs of boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 cup of onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 can (29 ounces) of tomato puree
- 1 cup of celery, chopped
- 1 cup of bell pepper, chopped (use any color you like)
- 2 cans (16 ounces each) of chili beans in sauce
- 1 tsp of chili powder
- 1/2 tsp of dried parsley
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of basil
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1/2 tsp of pepper
- 1/2 tsp of hot pepper sauce
- Place about two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and heat it up on medium heat.
- Cook all the chicken halfway in the frying pan and set aside. You basically want to sear the outside a bit of each piece, but not cook it all the way.
- In a stock pot (large pot), place the rest of the olive oil and heat it up on medium heat.
- When hot, place the onion in the oil and cook it until it’s soft and starting to turn brown. Add in the garlic and cook it with the onion for 2-3 minutes.
- When the garlic and onion is cooked, add the tomato puree, and then add the celery, bell pepper, chili beans, chili powder, parsley, salt, basil, oregano, black pepper, hot pepper sauce, and the chicken.
- Stir it all up and then bring it to small boil. Just where the tomato is bubbling, but not spouting all over your kitchen.
- When tomato is bubbling, lower the heat and let the mixture slowly simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Spoon out a piece of chicken and check it. The dish is done when the chicken is fully cooked.
The reason I only have you cook the chicken halfway in the pan is because we’re going to finish cooking it in the pot with the mixture. If you cook the chicken all the way in the pan, then it will come out overdone and rubbery in the pot. Plus the finishing in the pot soaks up some of the flavors.
Watch out for that tomato when it gets hot and bubbly. It can start spouting and make for a nice mess to clean up afterward.
If you would like the mixture to have a little more sauce/liquid, just add some water (or even beer). If you overdo it and now it’s too soupy, add some cornstarch mixed with water to thicken.
You don’t have to use boneless/skinless breasts and you don’t even have to cube them. You can cut them into strips, or even leave them as whole pieces. This is even a great idea if you have leftover chicken. Just pull all the meat off the bones, skip the part on sauteing them in the frying pan, and just toss the meat into the mixture when it’s time.
One other variation you can try is instead of using the chili sauce in the beans, drain them and add beer to the mixture. Just drain the liquid out of the cans and then fill them up with the beans still in there. Easiest way to add beer but not make the mixture too liquid.