This Tuesday Dinner: Cilantro Chicken Chili with Chickpeas

By the time you read this post, I’ll be on Long Island or, at the very least, on a plane en route to John F. Kennedy Idlewild International Airport. My sister, at age 30, is having her tonsils removed and I’ll be on hand for a few days to drive her, feed her and listen to her whine. It should be awesome. I’ve been told by nearly everyone whom I’ve mentioned my trip to that tonsillectomies in adulthood are worse than those during childhood. I’m quick to remind them that I’m not the one having surgery.

Anyhow, we’ve discussed before that The Wife is not the most adept cook. She does quite well while baking, but if left to her own devices, she’ll eat scrambled egg whites or peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. While planning our short week for dinners, I wanted something that would produce leftovers that she could eat in an effort to cutback on the peanut butter sandwiches. Truth be told, I found this recipe during the spring. Like much of the paper on the desk in our downstairs office/baby-changing area, it got shuffled into a pile. Saturday night while unshuffling those papers, I ran across it.

The dish goes together quite easily, but the key is advance preparation. Like any chili, this one works best when prepared a day or two in advance and allowed to sit. The flavors mature and infiltrate the dish. It’s a chili at heart, but comes together more like a gumbo and works best when served over rice. I went with basamati rice made with chicken broth. The dish overall worked well, but I would suggest a liberal use of salt when it is called for, as the broth, chickpeas and chicken are pretty bland otherwise. Also, I admit this is a little soupier than you may like, but I was worried about how the basamati would absorb the broth. Turns out, my liquid anxiety was unfounded. That said, a little juice isn’t a bad thing, right?

Cilantro chicken chili with chickpeas
Adapted from The Washington Post

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin, or to taste
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked no-salt-added chickpeas, drained
  • 3 1/2 cups no-salt-added or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 to 1 lemon)
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Cut chicken breasts into smaller pieces. Drop the chicken pieces into a food processor and chop until fine.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a a 4-quart pot, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring, until the chicken loses its raw look. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a clean bowl. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding a tablespoon of oil as needed.

When all of the chicken is cooked, add the remaining tablespoon of the oil to the pot. When it is hot, add the onion and bell pepper. Season with salt to taste. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables have softened.

Stir in the cumin and coriander; cook for 1 minute, then return the chicken to the pot. Add the chickpeas and broth, stirring to combine. Cover; once you hear the mixture bubbling, immediately reduce the heat to medium-low so the mixture is barely bubbling at the edges. Partially cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Combine the lemon juice and cornstarch in a measuring cup, then stir it into the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from the heat.

Stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Let cool at room temperature before refrigerating. Reheat over medium-low heat and serve hot over long-grain rice.


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