Saturday, July 31, 2010

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust

  Today is the first day in a long stretch the heat has not been unbearable.  There was rain for a good part of the morn, and the skies are still gray, even this close to supper-time.  I've loved every minute of today.  I could finally open the windows and take advantage of a nice breeze.  Electric food steamer did a vinegar water steam to combat the area's hard water build-up, and I have a couple of cast iron pieces in the oven getting an overdue cure.  Needless to say, my kitchen doesn't have the most pleasant smell right now.  But to pay homage to my beloved cast iron, I'm going to share a recipe I made a couple of weeks ago, White Chicken Chili with a Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust.  It's a recipe by Gaynell Lawson, from the National Cornbread Festival.  The festival is held once a year in South Pittsburgh, TN - home to Lodge Cast Iron.

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided (I'm fond of yellow onions)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
19 oz cannellini beans (also known as white kidney beans)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can chopped mild green chiles, drained
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (6 oz) package cornbread mix (Gaynell recommends Martha White Buttermilk or Cotton Country)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
Optional for topping - sour cream, salsa, cilantro

  First thing's first.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.

  Take a 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet, and heat the olive oil in it over medium heat.  Once the oil is heated, add in 1 cup of the onions, the garlic, green pepper, cumin, and chili powder.  Saute until the veggies are tender - plan on 3 to 5 minutes.  Once the vegetables are to your liking, add the lime juice, beans, chicken, broth, and the chiles.  Stir until everything is mixed well.  Remove from the heat while you make the crust.

  To make the crust, start by beating the egg in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in the milk, melted butter, and cornbread mix, and blend well.  At this point, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of onions and the grated cheese.  Spoon the mixture over the chili in the resting skillet.  Just try to spoon it over the chili evenly as you can, don't worry about spreading it to cover the chili - it'll do that magic in the oven on its own.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you see the crust is golden brown.  Pull it out of the oven and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.  Scoop it out into bowls and top with your desired goodies - check the optionals on the ingredient list.

Notes:  10 1/2 inch is the size of a standard cast iron skillet.  I personally skipped the extra 1/4 cup of onions in the cornbread.  And a dollop of sour cream is divine in a bowl of this stuff - I didn't need anything else.

For the curious, here are the websites for the National Cornbread Festival and Lodge Cast Iron.

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