LAYERING FLAVOR: White Bean, Chicken & Vegetable Chili

It's officially soup season my friends! Even in sunny Santa Barbara, we are finally enjoying some cool mornings and chilly nights - and all I'm craving is soup, soup, soup. This week I whipped up a batch of one of my favorites - White Bean, Chicken & Vegetable Chili - and we've been happily dishing up leftovers all week long. The recipe for this soup is below, but first I'm sharing a few quick tips for layering complex flavors into simple, nourishing soups.

The key to elevating a dish is knowing how to layer flavor throughout the cooking process - so here are three Farmbelly tips to use the next time you pull out your soup pot:

IT ALL BEGINS WITH AN ONION. Plain and simple - something magical happens when onions are softened lovingly in a healthy dose of butter and/or olive oil. When sautéing onions, make sure the butter or oil is hot and sizzling before you toss in the onions, and add a pinch of kosher salt to bring out some moisture and speed up the cooking process. As the onions begin to brown and caramelize, use a flat wooden spoon to scrape up and spread out those slightly burned bits (that's where all the flavor lives)!

TOAST YOUR SPICES. Once your onions are softened and golden, that's usually time to add your spices and dried herbs. Continually stir and toast the spices over medium heat before adding any additional liquid - you're adding another key layer of flavor here!

ADD SOME FLAVOR BOOSTERS. The next time you have an extra rind of parmesan cheese hanging around, don't throw it away! I keep a ziplock bag in my freezer full of extra parmesan bits, because they are a dreamy addition to simmering soups. I throw in the rinds whenever I add the broth, as it adds creaminess and depth without overpowering the other flavors. Other go-to flavor enhancers for soups is a bit of acid - my favorites are lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, which add a little zip to an otherwise ho-hum soup.

FINISH WITH FRESH HERBS. This soup wouldn't be the same without a few handfuls of chopped parsley tossed in just before serving. If you're going to add fresh herbs, make sure to do it at the end of cooking, as fresh herbs have a more delicate flavor, which can get lost if added too early. Basil, cilantro, dill, and chives are some of my other favorite herb garnishes to kick a dish up a notch. 


WHITE BEAN, CHICKEN & VEGETABLE CHILI

This soup is hearty, healthy, and chock full of vegetables and warming spices. It comes together quickly and is best served on a chilly day with a side of warm skillet cornbread slathered in butter and honey. | SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions | diced
  • 1 can (4-oz) diced mild green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use more if you prefer extra spicy)
  • 4 cloves garlic | minced
  • 4 carrots | chopped in 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 lb small red potatoes | washed and quartered
  • 3-4 lb cooked rotisserie chicken | meat removed and shredded
  • 6 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)
  • 2 15-oz cans white beans | drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more to taste)
  • Handful freshly chopped parsley
  • Avocado & plain greek yogurt (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the green chiles and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the carrots and potatoes, coating them in the spices.

Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer - partially covered and stirring occasionally - until the potatoes and carrots are tender, 20 minutes. Next, add the shredded chicken and white beans, heat for until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Add more kosher salt to taste, and thin with more broth or water if needed.

Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley. I like to let the soup sit for at least 30 minutes at this point to let the flavors meld together. Reheat if needed and serve with more parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, and if desired - diced avocado and a dollop of plain greek yogurt.