OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for creamy chicken and white bean chili.
Weather-weary readers, it’s always good to maintain a growth mindset (“embrace challenges” and all that), and turn crummy situations into opportunities for cozy food. Of course, that’s easy to say when the power is still on. If you’ve been using your backyard as a walk-in freezer for the past week, we see you! Hang in there; this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, we’ve been drawing inspiration from hyggelig; we’re reconnecting with a love for hot water bottles, perfecting our cocoa game and discovering new ways to base meals entirely around melted cheese. This week’s recipe, while (sadly) not a bowl of fondue, is still very cozy indeed. Best of all, it aims to save you a trip to the store, instead using a few pantry staples like dry beans, frozen chicken thighs and basic spices like Mexican oregano — or just “oregano,” if you’re a certain brand of Latinx seasonings sold in mainstream grocery stores. But Mexican oregano is not like regular oregano — the two herbs aren’t even in the same plant family. What the heck is Mexican oregano, anyway? Read on to find out!
Pass the pizza rolls, breweries on the brink, the OG algae, seedy genes, and (yes, there are still) good things in markets
Science confirms: Weed gives you the munchies
Leave it to our friends at Washington State University to formally study and publish the effects of cannabis on appetite. Next, maybe they’ll qualify the mechanisms of how bong rips influence flavor perception of Cougar Gold.
Oregon’s beer scene drying up?
Draft beer sales from Oregon’s many craft breweries took a hit in 2023, with 30 breweries shuttering and more struggling. OPB’s Allison Frost chatted about it with the vice president of the Oregon Brewers’ Guild and a brewer on Think Out Loud.
Now that’s an old growth forest
Recent fossil evidence discovered in the Olympic Peninsula reveals that Pacific kelp forests are much older than scientists previously thought — the fossilized holdfasts (the primitive “roots” that anchor kelp to rocks) dated to around 32.1 million years ago, blowing the previous oldest kelp specimen (14 million years old) out of the water.
Botanists and molecular biologists at Oregon State University are hard at work unlocking the secrets of the chia genome with the goal of breeding a more nutrient-dense crop in the near future. No word yet on how well genetically modified chia seeds will develop into Bob Ross’s afro.
Good things in markets
What’s good in markets, you ask? Farmers’ markets around the state have been shuttered by the winter weather and grocery store shelves have been hit hard by shoppers stocking up and a slowdown in deliveries from sketchy road conditions. That’s OK! There are so many ways to use the cabbage, leeks, and root vegetables that always seem to be safe from the snowpocalypse mobs. Try making seasoned rutabaga oven fries, or a silky celeriac mash to eat with your favorite braise. Stuff an onion with sausage and herbed bread crumbs or make a Koryo-saram morkovchka (carrot salad) to eat with dumplings and stew.
We’re also still seeing chanterelles in the produce aisle, but after the freezing temps those are sure to be over until next fall — grab ‘em if you see ‘em (and sauté them with lots of butter, shallots and thyme to eat on a creamy bowl of polenta). Trout and winter steelhead are really good this time of year, and pair beautifully with winter citrus.
Recipe: Creamy chicken and white bean chili
One-pot meals will always have a place in our meal plans, but especially so when we’re snowed in and suddenly juggling the boredom of little people who, for the love of all that is good, really should be at school. You want to dissociate by smelling something simmering all day — preferably something that tastes good with chips and copious amounts of melted cheese. This creamy chicken and white bean chili is comfort food cranked up to level 11 and even though it looks like it’s on the rich side, we find the piney-citrus notes of Mexican oregano to really punch through the sour cream. Mexican “oregano,” it turns out, is actually a verbena, not a mint like the other oregano used widely in Mediterranean cooking. Depending on your power situation, you may want to make this in your fireplace (in which case we recommend using a cast iron Dutch oven instead of a countertop pressure cooker), but if you do have power, whether you use a slow cooker or a fast cooker is up to your preference and scheduling needs. Remember: no need to pre-soak dry beans unless you’re not sure how fresh they are (anything older than 2 years will benefit from a soak to ensure even cooking). Makes 6-8 servings.
Note: we typically use homemade stocks, which we never salt — it’s easier to control salt in the final dish that way. If you’re using store-bought stock or broth, it’s nearly always going to be salted, even if you opt for low-sodium. You should always adjust the amount of salt you use based on your taste and dietary needs.
1 lb dry medium-sized white or yellow beans (such as mayocoba, navy, or Great Northern)
1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
½ cup peeled garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp coarse kosher salt (see note)
2 tsp MSG (optional, but why not live deliciously)
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (or low-sodium chicken broth)
1 cup water
4 oz can diced green chiles
1 cup salsa verde
1 jalapeño, diced
½ a medium-sized onion, diced
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Jack or white cheddar cheese
Toppings: Lime wedges, cilantro, minced onion or sliced scallions, diced avocado, salsa verde and tortilla chips
- Look over the beans and remove any pebbles or beans that look donked-up. Place the beans, chicken thighs, garlic, salt, spices, chicken stock, and water in a large pot with a lid. If you’re using a pressure cooker, affix the lid and cook on high pressure for 35 minutes, allow natural depressurization for 10 minutes and then release the final pressure manually. If you’re using the stovetop (or fireplace!), bring the pot to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the beans are al dente, about 1 ½ — 2 hours, adding more water as needed to ensure the beans stay covered with ½ inch of liquid. If you’re using a slow cooker, turn the pot on high and simmer for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are al dente but nearly done, about 6 hours.
- Give the pot a stir. It’s ok to break up the chicken thighs a bit with your spoon but don’t worry about shredding the chicken yet. Add the diced green chile, salsa verde, onion and jalapeño. If you’re using a pressure cooker or stovetop, simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. If you’re using a slow cooker, continue cooking until the beans are tender, another 1-2 hours.
- When the beans are tender, use two forks (or honestly, a wooden spoon and the side of the pot) to shred the chicken in the chili. Stir in the sour cream and shredded cheese, and gently simmer, stirring, until the cheese is melted, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve with whatever toppings you like.