ONE OF THE REASONS I STARTED F&H CO. WAS TO SHOW THE WORLD THAT FIREFIGHTERS COOK MORE THAN JUST CHILI. BUT SOMETIMES A BOWL OF THIS FIREHOUSE STAPLE IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED ON A CHILLY DAY. AS WITH MOST TIMES I COOK, I LIKE TO EXPERIMENT WITH FLAVORS, TAKING INFLUENCE FROM MY TRAVELS.
THIS RECIPE IS INSPIRED BY MY FAVORITE REGION IN ITALY, TUSCANY. I CAN STILL HEAR THE CHURCH BELLS RINGING AND SMELL THE WOOD BURNING STOVES AS WE WALKED THE COBBLESTONE STREETS ON MY HONEYMOON. WHEN THERE IS A CHILL IN THE AIR AND I SMELL ROSEMARY AND GARLIC FRYING IN OLIVE OIL, IT TAKES ME BACK TO THAT WONDERFUL PLACE.
AND SO HERE IS MY WAY OF PUTTING ALL THOSE TUSCAN FLAVORS INTO A FAMILIAR FIREHOUSE DISH!
Tuscan White Chicken Chili
with Balsamic Caramelized Onions and Fennel
1 SMALL ONION, chopped
2 GARLIC CLOVES, chopped
2 CUBANELLE a.k.a ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS, seeded and chopped (sub green bell peppers)
1 CELERY STALK, chopped
1 SPRIG OF FRESH ROSEMARY, minced
2 FRESH SAGE LEAVES, minced
1 TBSP. CHILI FLAKES
2.5 # BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN THIGHS
4 THICK SLICES OF PANCETTA, chopped (sub bacon)
2 -19 oz. CANS OF CANNELLINI BEANS
16 oz. LOW SODIUM CHICKEN BROTH
2 tsp. FLOUR
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 tsp. CUMIN
1 tsp. GARLIC POWDER
SALT AND PEPPER, to taste
OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED GARNISHES:
BALSAMIC CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND FENNEL - Recipe Follows
SMOKED MOZZARELLA - cover chili with slices and broil until brown and bubbly
In a large bowl, combine minced sage and rosemary with half of the chopped garlic, chili flakes, a pinch of salt, black pepper and a glug of olive oil. Stir to combine and set aside.
Dice the chicken thighs and put into the bowl containing the rosemary-sage mixture. Stir to combine and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed deep pot over medium heat, cook the pancetta until the fat has rendered. Once the pancetta is cooked, add a glug of olive oil and the onion, remaining garlic, peppers and celery. Add a pinch of salt, cumin and garlic powder and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions just start to color. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine.
Add the chicken to the pot and enough chicken broth to cover. Add water if needed. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
After about an hour, remove about a 1/2 cup of the broth to a blender or bowl if you have a stick-blender. Add one can of the beans to the broth and blend well. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN BLENDING HOT LIQUIDS! Add water if you need to. Place the bean puree back into the pot and continue to cook for another hour or so at a gentle simmer. Taste and check for seasoning and consistency.
Lay slices of Smoked Mozzarella on top and broil until brown and bubbly. Garnish with Balsamic Caramelized Onions and Fennel
Note* - This recipe can be adapted for slow-cooker. Render the pancetta in a saute pan. Add the garlic, onion, peppers and celery and saute until light brown. Place this mixture along with the rest of the ingredients into slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
BALSAMIC CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND FENNEL
1 ONION, thin sliced
1 SMALL HEAD OF FENNEL, white part only, thin sliced, reserve the fronds
2 TBSP. BUTTER
1 tsp. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 TBSP. BALSAMIC VINEGAR
SALT, to taste
In a large skillet, over low heat, add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the onion and fennel with a pinch of salt.
Cook the onions and fennel, stirring often, for about 1 hour. Add a few drops of water if the mixture looks a little dry. When they start to color a nice golden brown, add the balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.