Buffalo Chicken Chili

BuffaloChickenChiliVertbfLORich had a work dinner at a restaurant in town with a menu that screams (to me) pretentiousness – when you go on about where the greens and cherries in a particular salad are from, I begin to wonder about the pedigree (or lack thereof) of the rest of the ingredients; were the pistachios not free-range, is this anonymous blue cheese not the same as the Maytag listed elsewhere? Or maybe it’s a style book thing – you only list the source of the first one or two ingredients? It was a puzzlement. We both thought he might be in for a tiresome evening of corporate bonding and mediocre food; but a quick check on Yelp yielded so many great comments that he cautiously looked forward to it.

He ended up having a great time and a terrific meal – highly praising the Scotch Egg and the Gunthorp Farms Pork Chop  – tho’ again, I continue to wonder; if the good Mssrs. (family?) Gunthorp provided the pork, Indiana the duck and the Amish the chicken; what about the poor, sourceless rabbit? Inquiring minds tend to dwell on stuff like this…

All of this is going a long way around to explain why I found myself looking through the freezer for some leftovers for my dinner. This can be an adventure since I have freezer MariesCroppedlabels that I almost always neglect to use. At first, I thought last night’s leftover selection was a forgettable ginger chicken stir fry experiment, but on closer inspection, it turned out to be Buffalo Chicken Chili – a recipe I saw on Rachael Ray last fall and resolved to try (no, this leftover hasn’t been in the freezer since last fall, I finally got around to making it this spring). It was OK, but not quite as good as it had sounded. I obviously thought it had potential, because I did save the leftovers; and after having a perfectly lovely bowl last night, I know the two things the original dish lacked: a minimum overnight rest and Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing.

The rest (in this instance, in the freezer) allowed the flavors to combine; and the Marie’s – well, there really isn’t any substitute for Marie’s, is there? I don’t know if it’s because this is the blue cheese dressing we always had when I was a kid, but every other brand I’ve tried is simply not right. For salad, or even more importantly, Buffalo Wings – it HAS to be Marie’s. OK, on to the recipe:

•2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
•2 lb ground chicken (I used boneless, skinless breast)
•2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
•1 large onion, chopped
•4 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
•4 cloves garlic, chopped
•1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
•1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper
•2 cup chicken stock
•1/2 cup hot sauce
•1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
•1 (15 oz) can stewed, fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes
•Cooked rice
•Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing

Place a large pot over medium-high heat olive oil. Add the chicken and lightly brown for five minutes.

Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot.

Add the hot sauce, tomato sauce and the stewed, fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes to the chili and bring up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes more to let the flavors come together.

Here is where I would cool the chili and save for dinner tomorrow. Serve over cooked rice and top with Marie’s.

Rachael’s original recipe called for topping tortilla chips with blue cheese, warming in the oven and serving the chili with that. I was NOT a fan; but if you’d like to try it that way, here’s the option:

While the chili is simmering, pre-heat the broiler.

Spread tortilla chips out on a cookie sheet. Top with the crumbled blue cheese and transfer to the oven to melt the cheese, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Top each serving of Buffalo Chicken Chili with a few blue cheese chips.

Hmmm, I think I’ll make this again soon (my version) and serve it with Ina Garten’s guacamole salad.

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