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Eric Akis: Spiced chicken adds Jamaican flair to triple-bean chili

This flavourful chili, full of vegetables and three kinds of beans, is enriched by the addition of cubes of nicely spiced jerk chicken.
Tasty jerk chicken is cubed and simmered in this chili, rich with beans and vegetables. ERIC AKIS

If you enjoy a meaty bowl of chili and want a change from the beef often simmered into it, I have a recipe for you to try. To prepare it — and this might sound odd given that chili is a Tex-Mex-style dish — you start by making Jamaican-style jerk chicken.

To do that, boneless chicken thighs are spicily marinated and then roasted. The chicken is then cooled, cubed and simmered in a vegetable- and bean-rich chili; tastily infusing its Caribbean-style flavour into it.

To further enhance the chili, bowls of it are topped with sour cream and cilantro. It’s also served with tortilla chips for dunking into it, and lime wedges and hot pepper sauce, for squeezing and sprinkling on it at the table.

Jerk Chicken Chili

Already flavourful bean and vegetable chili is further enriched by simmering in cubes of nicely spiced jerk chicken. Any leftover chili you have, once cooled, will freeze well.

Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: 55 minutes

Makes: four to five servings

For the jerk chicken

1 or 2 small habanero, Scotch bonnet or serrano peppers, or 1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and very finely chopped (see Note)

1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tsp ground allspice

1⁄4 tsp ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp lime juice

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

550 grams boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5 to 6, depending on size)

• salt to taste

For the chili

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 small to medium green bell pepper, diced

1 small to medium yellow bell pepper, diced

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can bean medley, drained well, rinsed and drained well again (see Note)

1 (14 oz./398 mL) can diced tomatoes

1 (14 oz./398 mL) can crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• tortilla chips, cilantro sprigs and sour cream, to taste

• lime wedges, for squeezing

• hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste (optional)

To make the chicken, combine all ingredients, except the chicken and salt, in a shallow dish. Add the chicken, ensuring each piece is nicely coated. Cover, refrigerate and marinate chicken two to four hours, depending on how much time you have.

When chicken has marinated, preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set chicken flat on the baking sheet. Top chicken with any marinade left in the dish. Season chicken with salt, and then roast 20 minutes, or until cooked through.

Let chicken cool until safe enough to handle. Now set on a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Set the cubed chicken back on the baking sheet and set it aside for now.

To make chili, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a medium to large pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers and cook until softened, about four minutes. Mix in tomato paste, chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook one minute more.

Add beans, tomatoes, stock, 1 Tbsp brown sugar and corn to the pot. Mix in the cubed jerk chicken, along with any of the seasoning/liquid you find on the bottom of the baking sheet. Bring chili to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain that simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface.) Loosely cover the pot (don’t completely cover, steam needs to escape.) and gently simmer chili 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until chili is rich in flavour.

Thin the chili with a bit more stock if you find it too thick. Taste and season the chili with salt and pepper, as needed. Ladle chili into bowls and let diners top theirs with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro sprigs. Serve the chili with tortilla chips for dunking into it, and lime wedges and hot pepper sauce, if using, for squeezing and sprinkling on it at the table.

Note: Wear rubber gloves when chopping and handling hot chili peppers and be careful not to put your fingers near your eyes or skin. Bean medley is a mix of different canned pulses, such as beans and chickpeas. You’ll find it at most grocery stores.

Eric’s options: If you like tangy cheese sprinkled on chili, top bowls of this one with grated aged cheddar or Monterey Jack. For a very filling meal, you could also serve the chili with rice.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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