Last week The World Health Organization reported that processed and red meats are bad for us. Let me be the first to say what you all are thinking. “Good Grief!” Is there nothing left for us to eat now but air and water? No wait, I’m sure those cause cancer, too. Right now, The World Health Organization is like the boy who cried wolf. When the news of this came out, I’m sure you and your office mates, friends and family, all rolled their eyes and continued to eat that Oscar Mayer cheese hot dog or greasy, charbroiled burger from your favorite burger joint. If I didn’t fear getting pecked alive by mangy seagulls, I’d walk out of a local delicatessen wearing a link of sausages like a feather boa just to protest. I’m all for helping people live healthy lives, but this scare tactic approach just seems to make people do the opposite. There are many reasons people eat the way they do and sometimes that has nothing to do with the ability to choose. Sometimes choice is a luxury and food is just what happens to be up for grabs and available. Let’s talk about that perhaps, and maybe, just maybe, there will be some real discussion to be had about preventative health.
But I’ll get off my soapbox for a moment and share a story about the inspiration for this next recipe instead. It has nothing to do with science, cancer, or red meat. It’s a sort of coming-of-age story about the time I first learned how to cook a pot of chili. Interestingly enough, I did not make my first pot of chili with red meat in it in the South where I lived for nearly six years in Texas. No, I learned how to make chili from a little recipe card I picked up probably next to the spice aisle at my local grocery store, because back in the mid-90’s I had absolutely no idea how to cook so I took every bit of help I could get. I had just graduated from college and moved here to the “big city” of Seattle. The closest I had come to cooking was heating up Top Ramen in the microwave, or sometimes just eating it straight from the package like potato chips, and dusting it with that super yellow flavor seasoning that came with it. (I’m sure that stuff gives you cancer, too). I had a desire to cook, not just because I was hungry, but because I had finally reached a point in my life where I was beginning to understand that food was not just a necessity, it was something that I could also create. I didn’t have much when I came here, but I knew that if I learned how to cook I’d be giving myself a gift that would reap rewards and save me in many ways in the future. I had no idea then I’d later come to make a living from it. That pot of No-Fat Black Jack Chicken Chili is one I go to at least a few times a year when the weather dips below 50°. I’ve tweaked it over the years and it’s just as good, if not simpler, than the original. So if you’re feeling inclined to heed the latest warning about red meat, rest assured this chili is only harming poultry and that’s a whole other conversation…
Red & Green Chicken Chili
Adapted from Marge Poore’s The Complete Chicken Breast Cookbook
1 1/2 pounds trimmed and diced chicken breasts (or if you prefer, boneless, skinless thighs)
1 medium red onion, large dice
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, “Mexican style” or “fire roasted salsa style”
1-15 oz can black beans, rinsed
1-15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 small lime
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and rough chopped
1 Tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 Tablespoons canola oil
Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook chicken for about six minutes or until tender and no more pink remains. Drain excess liquid and set aside.
While chicken is cooking, saute red onions over medium-high heat in a large stockpot with 3 tablespoons of oil, for about five minutes or until soft. Add in minced garlic and saute until garlic becomes just slightly fragrant.
Add canned tomatoes, beans, chicken stock, cooked chicken, jalapeño and all the spices. Simmer over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. Just before serving, add in cilantro.
Garnish with a squeeze of lime. No kidding, the lime really makes it.