Sunday, October 21, 2012

pumpkin chicken chili

There's something about the crisp coolness of Autumn temperatures and the changing of the leaves - which any good current or former Blacksburg resident will quickly use to point out that God clearly shows his college football loyalties by painting the trees in orange and maroon...Hokie colors! - that put me in the mood for chili. In fact, one of my favorite memories from my years in Blacksburg revolves around chili. Eager to enjoy a day off from school as well as the the gorgeous fall weather and mountains of southern Virginia, four of my closest friends and I decided to explore the local chili cook-off featuring a dozen culinary masterpieces from area restaurants, caterers, and college fraternities. Let me assure you, we had no regrets. I wish I could tell you now what our favorite variations were, but the passage of three busy years have sadly dimmed those finer details from the afternoon - though the cherished memory of yummy hot chocolate, a beautiful hay ride, and a less than impressive corn maze resonates eternal in this heart.

So, the sentimental comfort of chili + the goodness of the season's beloved pumpkin? My curiosity compelled me to action. And, I must say, I was pleased. With just the right amount of spice thanks to a heavy dose of chili powder, just the right amount of chunk compliments of cubed chicken and diced bell peppers, and just the right amount of uniqueness due to the addition of pumpkin, cocoa powder, and cinnamon - this dish is all kinds of goodness.

Pumpkin Chicken Chili
Yield: 4-5

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red onion, diced
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced with seeds and membranes removed
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cubed
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ounces tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and jalapenos and saute an additional 5 minutes. Add the chicken and garlic and saute until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides, stirring constantly. Add the chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, coriander, salt, cinnamon, and tomato paste, stirring constantly until all moisture is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Carefully poor in the wine and quickly scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the spices. Stir in the chicken broth and tomatoes with their juice. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in the pumpkin, cilantro, and cocoa powder. Cover, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Adapted from Civilized Caveman Cooking