White chili is one of those Tex-Mex hybrids that you won’t find in Mexico, or even very often in Texas. It seems to be a Northern adaptation of traditional chili, with white beans and chicken as its base. All I really know about the dish is that it’s really good with pheasant, however.
Regular chili is classic “red food” – haven’t you noticed that people really, really, like food the color red? While chili is basically the same stew only with white beans, no tomato and green chiles instead of red. It’s a great change of pace, especially in spring.
You can make your white chili in one of two ways: You can use a whole pheasant, simmer it gently to make a pheasant broth, pick off all the meat and then use the broth and the meat in the chili. Or, you can do this the quick and easy way by using chicken broth and whatever pheasant you have lying around. I’ll go through each option in the recipe below.
The secret to my version of this chili are my smoked, preserved jalapenos, which are insanely good. But you can’t buy them anywhere, so use canned roasted Hatch chiles or jalapenos instead. If you want to make your own smoked and preserved jalapenos, here is the recipe
This chili will work with skinless or skin-on birds, and not just pheasant, either: Try making it with quail, turkey, partridge or grouse, too.
Serves 6 to 8.
10 cups water
2 bay leaves
6 to 10 cracked black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or a fresh thyme sprig
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, or a fresh sprig (optional)
6 to 10 crushed juniper berries (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 poblano or green peppers, diced
1 28- to 30-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 28- to 30-ounce can white hominy corn, drained and rinsed (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small can of green Hatch chiles or jalapenos
Chopped cilantro and limes to garnish
1. If you are making the broth yourself, put the pheasant in the water and bring it to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, drop the heat to a simmer and skim any scum that floats to the top. Add the herbs and spices and simmer for 30 minutes. Pull out the pheasant and pick off all the breast meat. Return the pheasant to the broth and simmer gently another hour. Take the pheasant out again and pick off all the rest of the meat from the bird. Reserve all this meat for the chili. Strain the broth and reserve it.
2. To make the chili, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and poblano chiles until they just barely begin to brown on the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
3. Pour in 1 quart of chicken stock or the broth you just made. Add the beans, hominy (if using) and the spices. Bring to a simmer. You want a dense stew, not a soup here, so you might not need all the broth you made; use it for something else (it’ll keep for a week in the fridge).
4. Add the reserved pheasant meat – or coarsely chopped pheasant meat if you did not make your own broth – and the green chiles. Add salt to taste. Simmer this just until the poblano chiles are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Finish the chile with fresh cilantro and lime juice, and maybe a little green chile hot sauce if you like.
A member of both Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Hank Shaw is a hunter, cookbook author and award-winning writer. His website is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.