Chili cook-off season is upon us, plus with the weather getting cooler, I thought I should give Chorizo Chicken Chili with Lime Cilantro Sour Cream a second showing on the blog.
Last year, around this time, I was celebrating a big win in a neighborhood chili cook-off. May not sound like much to boast about, but competition was fierce and extensive.
Among the fifteen plus entrants was my good friend, seen below, who thought if he simply showed up with his ChiliChamp T-shirt and drinking out of his previous year’s trophy, he’d take home the hardware again.
Obviously there were no hard feelings when I clenched the title, and we passed the symbolic Chili Torch with a toast.
So anyway, the point of this post isn’t just to toot my own horn (insert tiny toot), but to finally admit just how much forethought went into making my chili.
I may or may not have gotten some carpnal tunnel researching spices, techniques, flavor profiles, and ingredients online. Since I went through all the trouble, here is a complimentary crash course in:
HOW TO WIN A CHILI COOK-OFF
(or just make a bomb-diggity chili)
1. Put some Flavor in your Flave.
Add a little something unexpected to elevate the taste, but not overwhelm it.
Two staple ingredients I usually add are unsweetened cocoa powder and brown sugar, but some other good additives are strong coffee, chipotles in adobo, beer, red wine, cinnamon, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, canned pumpkin, smoked paprika, balsamic vinegar, ancho chili powder, nutmeg, peanut butter, or coriander.
2. Release the meteor.
Sautéing spices with a little fat is essential for releasing more flavor. After I sear the meat and sauté the vegetables, I then add the spices to cook for a minute before I add the liquid.
This is a good tid bit for lots of dishes, not just chili.
3. If you can’t take the heat, don’t tickle the dragon.
You have to go big, or at least bigger, on the spice if you want to clench a title. Heat is expected in chili, and if it is altogether missing you just spent a lot of time simmering a complex pot of soup.
Tying into tip #1, use something unconventional for the heat, not just cayenne pepper. Some good choices are ancho chili powder, freshly ground dried chiles, chipotles in adobo, sriracha or like I use in my Chorizo Chicken Chili, chorizo.
4. There’s something different about you…
If you want to stick with ground beef, more power to you, but add a little pizzaz to go along with it, such as chorizo, breakfast sausage, or Italian sausage. Personally, I’m a fan of using chuck roast, and I’ve made some seriously good versions of this Texas Beef Chili before.
Generally I use a combination of two proteins, which could also be bacon, steak, brisket, short ribs, ground pork, or chicken thighs.
5. Patience. Learn, you must.
Chili is not something you can rush because it needs a long time to simmer and meld the flavors. I’m sure you’ve heard low and slow a thousand times, but there is a very important step a lot of great chili recipes fail to mention…make it the day before!
I’m a big fan of doing this not only for the chili’s advantage, but for my own. I don’t have to sweat over a vat of chili all day long when I plan on entertaining. This is a great secret weapon, but you also have to use it wisely.
Don’t add anything that is going to soak up the liquid or develop a off-putting texture the next day, such as beans or sweet potatoes. Add those while warming it up the next day, which is also a good time to make any other spice adjustments.
6. Throw out those jazz hands.
You’ve put a lot of time and effort into this dish, now make sure you give it some flare. Put some thought into what you are going to serve alongside it to enhance the flavor.
A sharp cheddar, monterey jack, queso fresco, or pepper jack are some great cheese choices. Adding something fresh and light to offset the spiciness, such as fresh cilantro, scallions, avocado, or some freshly squeezed lime, is also a well-played added punch.
The Lime Cilantro Sour Cream I use for this recipe and my Amazing Sweet and Spicy Tacos, is really worth the five extra minutes of effort, trust me. Of course, don’t forget those Fritos or crushed tortilla chips.
- 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed
- 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs*, trimmed and cut in large cubes
- 3 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
- 1/2 tbsp. (heaping) brown sugar
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 28 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 15 oz can white kidney beans (also known as cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
- 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tbsp. finely grated lime zest, about 1 lime
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- salt, to taste
- TOPPINGS: lime wedges, cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, avocado, Fritos (for serving)
Mix the chili powder, cumin, unsweetened cocoa, and brown sugar together in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat; cook and stir chorizo, breaking up with spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove chorizo to a bowl.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the oil and drippings to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. It does not have to be cooked through because it will simmer and cook through later. Remove and add to the bowl with the chorizo.
Add a splash more olive oil then sauté onions and peppers in the pot for a 4 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the chopped garlic and saute for a 30 seconds more. Add the mixed spices to the onion, pepper, garlic mixture and sauté for and additional 30 seconds.
Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping bottom of pan to loosen bits and pieces. Then add the rest of chicken broth, fire roasted tomatoes, chorizo, and chicken to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, or until chicken is tender and falls part easily.
Add the beans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 can of tomato paste (if necessary to thicken) to the pot. You can adjust the amount of tomato paste depending on whether you like your chili thicker or thinner. Season with salt or a little cayenne pepper if you like it spicier.
Mix together all the ingredients. Add salt to taste. Serve chili with desired toppings.
*Chicken thighs gives more flavor, but 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts can also be substituted.