Saturday, November 10, 2012

SOUPer saturdays - jerk chicken chili

Jerk.  I had never heard of such a thing - in the food-sense, anyway - until my honeymoon.

(I love this story.)

John and I were working in the kitchen of his duplex just a few months before our wedding.  We had not yet decided on a honeymoon destination when the phone rang.  You have to understand, even today, I'm a dreamer and terribly naive, and so 15 plus years ago you can imagine how much more was the case.

As I picked up the phone, the really nice and excitable lady on the other end was promising this super-trusting giddy bride-to-be the trip of her life with the love of her life, and before the night was over, it was a done deal.  A "cruise" to set out from the tip of Florida to the.... BAHAMAS... for only a few hundred dollars.

So, months later, we're married and unloading our bags to board the... umm...  I'll be kind here...


A boat.  Not a ship.  And a boat that maybe was a little nicer in it's younger days????


John had tried to tell me not to expect much, but you know me...


For the two-hour trip, we laid in the sun (peeling paint off the boat's floor) and talked of things to come.  We ate the "buffet" (as our plates and glasses slid on the table from side to side), and we anxiously waited for the upcoming entertainment in the "performance hall," (two u-shaped padded booths with a teeny tiny curtain-covered inset).

This was the best part.

We took our booth... just us... and watched a younger version of Wayne Newton walk into the room, open the curtain, step behind the curtain, and pull the curtain closed (mind you, we could still see his forehead above the curtain), just to watch him come right back out from behind the curtain, only after he pushed "start" on the CD player.  And, boy... did he ever have that half eye-wink/head-cock thing down pat...

Great memories.

At any rate, we finally made it to the islands without fail (or food poisoning) and had a fabulous time.  There's more I could tell about what else was in store, and what fabulous "deals" were included in our "great low price", but I'll spare you.

The one thing I did love on the islands was the food.  It was so flavorful and interesting... complex might be a good word.  And it was here that I was introduced to Jerk.

When looking for a different kind of chili to take to a get-together last week, I ran across this one in my search.  I think I chose it more for the laughs it brought me thinking of the story I just told, than the recipe itself, but I'm glad I did.  I didn't change a thing and it turned out really nice.  As with all chili it seems, the longer you let it set, the better it gets.  John and I both had it for meals following, and it seemed to improve each time.

As you look at the ingredient list, don't let any of them scare you.  For some traditional cooks, chocolate and cinnamon in chili doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I urge you to give it a try.  And for a smooth finish, stir in a bit of sour cream.  It's wonderful.

Thank you for indulging me in my sharing of probably the best memory I have of the "early days."  Life with my sweet husband has been a ball, and it just gets better and better...

Happy Weekend, everyone!  Get simmering!

Jerk Chicken Chili - makes 12 servings
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 large rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded (about 6 cups)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, undrained or partially drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) small white beans, undrained or partially drained
  • 2 tbsp. chopped pickled jalapeƱos
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. cornmeal or 3 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. water (optional for thickening)
~ Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.
~ Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.
~ Add herbs and spices (chili powder through allspice), cooking and stirring constantly 
    until fragrant.
~ Add chicken and stir to coat with spices.
~ Add broth, tomatoes, beans, and jalapeƱos, bring to boil, cover partially, reduce heat, and 
   simmer to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.
~ Stir in garlic, cilantro, chocolate and thickener (if using), bringing up the heat, and 
    allowing chili to thicken.
~ Turn off heat and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from Smells Like Home.