Ask any of my family members and they will tell you that I am one of the most unobservant people around. I am just not curious about other people and their business. I never stop to gawk at car accidents, I am always the last person to know any of our street gossip and I never notice new haircuts or things like that. My siblings love to tell the following story as a stellar example of how notorious I am for missing the obvious.
In 1999, my dad was sick with kidney disease and heart problems. He needed to have heart valve replacement surgery. After the surgery, the doctor came out of the operating room and told us the surgery went well. I stayed at the hospital a few more hours and then I flew back to Ottawa. Several days later, my sister called me and told me I better come back to Toronto. My dad was fighting an infection and was not doing well. I caught the next flight and went straight to the hospital.
I went directly to his room. I peeked inside and saw a nurse sitting with my dad. He was sleeping. None of my family members were anywhere to be seen. The nurse smiled at me and left the room. I gave my dad a kiss on the cheek and sat down and started talking to him, holding his hand as I sat. It was a warm summer day and I thought it was so strange that his cheek and hands were so cold. After a few minutes I went out into the hall, looking for my mom and my siblings. They all came running down the hall, crying and hugging me. It was at that moment that it dawned on me why my dad was so cold. To this day, I still get teased about how unobservant I can be.
However, there is one place where I am observant – the supermarket. I love to play a little game while waiting in line at the grocery store. I check out the contents of the carts around me. You can usually tell a lot about a person by their choice of groceries. While doing my shopping in the first week of January I inevitably noticed carts full of Lean Cuisine and Weight Watcher’s frozen dinners, diet soda, cans of tuna and lots of fruit and vegetables. This is the month that we typically resolve to eat light and healthy.
Chili is not traditionally known to be a healthy food. Usually made with beef it is high in fat. This chili is made with chicken and therefore much lower in fat and calorie content. The first time I made this chili was at a Potluck dinner at a neighbor’s house. We were standing at the buffet table spooning food onto our plates. The woman standing next to me, had her plate heaped full of the chili I had brought. She remarked how delicious it looked. I smiled and said, “Thanks, I made it.” She asked what kind of chili it was and I answered, “Cashew Chicken Chili.” She almost dropped her plate. It turned out she was fatally allergic to cashews. Hence the name “Killer Chili.”
This chili relies on both dried whole chiles as well as chile powders. The combination of whole chiles and powder add a depth of flavour to the chili that you would not get if you just used chili powder. For the whole chiles, I used both New Mexico and Guajillo chiles. Ancho chiles would also be an excellent choice. I buy my dried chiles on-line from chilly chiles.
The dried whole chiles need to be toasted and then soaked in boiling water to rehydrate them for about 20 minutes. Once they are soaked, I removed the seeds. If , like my sister, you like your chili painfully spicy, feel free to add the seeds as well. The rehydrated chiles get blended with chicken stock and some cashews to create an incredibly flavourful sauce. The cashews add body to the sauce.
Ground cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle chile powder, salt, onions and garlic round out the additional spices. Canned tomatoes and the pureed chiles create a liquid base for one cut up chicken. Once the chile is done simmering, a touch of bittersweet chocolate is added. The chicken is removed from the sauce once it is done and the meat is removed from the bones and shredded. It goes back into the sauce with some canned white and black beans. Rich, sweet and mildly hot, this chile takes the edge off any roughness in your day!
Pam’s Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to this chile.