November 2, 2013

Freezer Cleanout Challenge: Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili


A couple of weeks ago I opened the freezer and almost broke my toe. Sadly, this freezer attack (this time, the perpetrator was a sliding slab of rock hard bacon) was subconsciously expected. I jumped back quickly and the bacon slab slammed to the ground, slid a few inches, and stopped. Then began an avalanche of every other frozen, odd shaped, stuffed-into-any-available-crevice food item.

This avalanche was the equivalent of a sit-down intervention, just a bit more active (and frantic).

I knew my tendency to freeze everything was catching up with me in a big way. Not only was there no  more room, but the whole freezer screamed "open me and risk a trip to the E.R.!"

Oh, and there was also the whole part about not having any idea what's in there anymore or how long it's been in there.

Please tell me you know what I'm talking about.


Freezer addicts, you know who you are. We're the breed that hates to waste food and just knows we'll have some better use for the rest of that bacon slab at a later date... that may just never come because now the bacon is hidden behind half a steak, some broccoli spears, and that chipotle-cilantro butter you made for steaks last Thursday.

As I shoved the freezer door closed, crinkling bags and shifting containers still precariously moving inside, I made a vow: for the next month (at least) I'd cook dinner only with items out of the freezer -- no adding!

Thus this chicken chili was born. It uses some frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs, some of the bacon that attacked me, and a few fridge and pantry items. I was proud of myself for making a dent in the freezer.... It was a step forward, post-intervention.

If we're going for honesty here, a few days later I took a step back as I packaged up leftover chili into little containers and... yes... froze them.

Hey, awareness is the first step toward change, right?

My freezer challenge isn't over. Future posts are TBD as I make my way through the cavern of cold! Hopefully someday soon I won't open that little door with fear for my life, but confidence about what's inside. Stay tuned!

Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili: makes 6-8 generous servings
1 bag dried white beans (cannelini), rinsed
about 6 cups water
2 strips thick cut bacon, diced
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt + pepper
olive oil for the pan
1 large red onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1 t. dried basil
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. paprika
2 large Idaho potatoes, diced into 1/2" pieces
2 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
salt + pepper to taste
hot sauce and shredded cheddar, optional

In a large slow cooker, add the dried beans and 6 cups water (enough to cover the beans by a couple inches), and turn the cooker onto low and cover. Preheat a large pan or dutch oven to medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Once hot, add the bacon and cook until just crisp. Set aside. Add the chicken thighs to the bacon grease and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on both sides a few minutes, then add this and the bacon to the slow cooker.

Add olive oil to the pan and again allow to heat through. Then add the onion and carrots and stir. Make a clearing in the middle of the pan/pot and add a little more oil. Then add all of the spices to the oil clearing and allow to heat, about 1 minute, before stirring in with the carrots and onions. Once the vegetables are slightly golden, add these to the slow cooker along with the diced potatoes. Return the pot to the stove and use the chicken stock to de-glaze the pan, scraping up all the flavorful bits before pouring this into the slow cooker and adding the bay leaves.

Slow cook on low 6-7 hours, or high 3-4 hours. Remove the bay leaves, salf + pepper to taste, and top with hot sauce and shredded cheese.

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