As the cold and rainy season has returned to Vancouver, I have been craving the comfort of braises and stews. In the last few years, I have relied on a couple of recipes from Michael Symon's cookbook Live to Cook — Pork Cheek and Black-Eyed Pea Chili and Braised Short Ribs With Pickled Green Tomatoes. They're both great, I'll make them again this winter, but this week I decided to try something new.
After browsing my favourite recipe sites (also an excellent cold weather activity), I picked out J. Kenji López-Alt's The Best White Chili With Chicken. With beans and gooey cheese, it looked like the kind of comfort food I was craving. And I suspected that its richness would be nicely balanced by the fresh chilis, lime juice, pickled jalapeño brine, and cilantro. I was also intrigued by his technique of roasting the chilis then peeling them in the recipe's chicken broth, so that no chili flavour is wasted.
Almost everything went according to plan — the chili purée tasted amazing, the poached chicken stayed juicy, and there wasn't too much of a mess in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I was foiled by the beans. I followed the recipe's suggestion of using dried beans, soaked overnight in salted water. But after two and a half hours of cooking they were still crunchy. I did some research and the likely culprit was that I bought old beans. Bummer. I fished the crunchy beans out of the chili then I ordered a pizza.
The next night, I used canned navy beans to finish the recipe. It turned out well, it was definitely tasty, though I suspect that I lost a little freshness by cooking it so long the night before in the futile effort to soften the old beans. I'll definitely cook this recipe again, but I think I'll go with canned beans until I find a reliable source for dried beans.