Soup on the Lawn

Soup on the Lawn ingredients

White Chicken Chili (from Cook's Illustrated, Jan-Feb 2007)
Serves 6-8

Rhymeswithsmile note: this soup is a little labor intensive, but extremely tasty.  Like, you could win soup contests with this gem.  Don't be alarmed at the peppers - the soup is not spicy unless you add the jalapeno seeds at the end.  

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves or thighs, trimmed of excess fat and skin
table salt and ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeno chiles
4 medium poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
4 medium anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces (substitute additional poblanos and jalapenos if anaheim chiles are unavailable)
2 medium onions, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp. juice from 2 to 3 limes
1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate; remove and discard skin.

While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 of the jalapenos; mince flesh.  In a food processor, process half of poblano chiles, anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through.  Transfer mixture to medium bowl.  Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium.  Add minced jalapenos, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.  Remove pot from heat.

Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl.  Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 3 cups broth, and chicken breasts to dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs), 15-20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate.  Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Mince remaining jalapeno, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (if desired), and set aside.  When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones.  Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeno (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

We had this hair-brained idea not too long ago that we would make five gallons of soup, invite our neighbors over, and eat soup together on our front lawn.  It was a crazy move.  We'd met one family across the street, and the folks on either side of us, but that was about it ... so the other 37 invitations we distributed were to strangers.  Why not?  I mean, really.  There was nothing to lose.  If it was a flop, all the excess soup would carry us into the new year.  If it was successful, then maybe we'd have some new friends to sled with this winter.

Did my precious husband want to make something easy, like tomato-basil soup?  Or chicken noodle?  No.  He remembered this soup that we had had with our landlady when we first got married, and promised that he would do the cooking if I could prep the ingredients.  So, our crazy Soup on the Lawn adventure was escalated by a rather detailed, intense recipe that called for (in my opinion) excessive amounts of chile peppers of three varieties.

But ... it was SO. WORTH. IT!  The soup, though delicious, wasn't even the best part.  We had about 40 people show up (including kids) - a neighbor up the street contributed a crock-pot of chowder to the party (she wheeled it over in her kids' wagon), the family across the street brought glow-stick bracelets for all the kids, and our next-door friends pulled their picnic table out front for additional seating.  Other neighbors filtered in, some shyly, some boldly ... but they came!  They CAME!

There were really neighborly conversations going on, about speed bumps and charter schools and area bagel places.  There was a fire in the fire pit, parents losing track of their kids, and more desserts than any one neighborhood could possibly have eaten.  It felt so good.

One of the best things about this neighborhood potluck was that if we needed something - additional chairs, say, or another ladle - all we had to do was ask someone to run home and grab it.  


And now, a note about cooking in quantity ... 

We multiplied the original recipe by 7, figuring that one batch would make about two and a half or three quarts of soup.  Five gallons = twenty quarts, so that's why we multiplied by 7 instead of a more normal number.

If you had looked in my fridge late last week, you would've seen 23 pounds of chicken, three giant bags of peppers, enough onions to make you weep for days, and cilantro out the wazoo (good thing it wasn't my Fridge Finds Blog Party day!).  

I did as much of the prep work as I could the night before - quartering onions, cutting peppers, smashing garlic cloves, and measuring spices.  My goal was to make the actual cooking process go as smoothly as possible, without being hung up by "oh, I forgot to chop this ingredient".  It was intense.  I cried (15 medium onions will do that to you).

While I am not usually a stick-exactly-to-the-recipe kind of gal, I did really try to stay as mainstream as I could with this recipe.  I knew that the original quantites produced a delicious soup, and I wanted to keep it as experiment-free and last-minute-freak-out as possible.  So, I followed the actual recipe.

1 comment:

  1. A neighborhood potluck! Where people came!! Wonderful. (And the soup sounds darn good, too.)