- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Autumn has arrived in our small New England college town. The leaves are beginning to take on color. The air has

turned crisp and cool, and a flock of students have returned to the many campuses that dot the area.

The colder weather, the altering landscape and the arrival of a new school year are just some of the things that make fall a special season for me. As a cook, I welcome autumn because the chilly temperatures warrant a change to rich, robust fare. Satisfying stews, thick soups, golden roasted fowl and warm fruit desserts are among my favorite mainstays, especially when entertaining.

One dish I love to make at this time of the year is chili. A pot of spicy broth simmering on the stove with its piquant aromas wafting throughout the kitchen is irresistible to most of us. However, instead of making my usual version with ground beef, I recently opted for a variation.

I replaced the beef with diced chicken breast, added fresh corn kernels along with the beans, and used chipotle peppers in addition to a sprinkling of chili powder for seasoning. This chili was easy to assemble and took little time to prepare.

Cubed chicken and chopped onions were quickly sauteed. Spices and tomatoes were stirred in. Finally, the mixture was simmered in chicken stock until the poultry was fork-tender.

Served piping hot with dollops of sour cream and a dusting of cilantro, the chili made a delicious all-in-one main course.

When my husband, a college professor, began to hint that he would like to invite his freshman class to our house for a buffet, I knew that my new chili would be perfect for this fall gathering.

The recipe easily lends itself to doubling or tripling, the cost is modest, and, best of all, it can be made several days ahead. A salad of mixed greens, fresh orange segments and sliced avocados, a basket of corn bread and a plate of homemade brownies will complete our welcome-back-to-school autumn supper.

Chili with chicken, corn and chipotle peppers

5½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 cups chopped onion

¼ cup flour

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt (plus more, if needed)

4 cups chicken stock

1 28-ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

3 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, coarsely chopped

3½ to 4 cups fresh corn (4 or 5 ears) or frozen corn, defrosted

2 19-ounce cans dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large, deep-sided pot (with a lid) set over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken and saute 4 to 5 minutes until light golden.

Remove chicken from pan and drain on paper towels.

Add remaining oil to pan and heat until very hot. Add onion and stir and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Return sauteed chicken to pan.

Mix together flour, chili powder, cumin and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over onions and chicken and cook, stirring, a minute more.

Add stock, tomatoes and chipotle chilis. Bring mixture to a simmer, lower heat, cover pan with a lid and cook until chicken is fork-tender and mixture has thickened slightly, 25 to 30 minutes.

Add corn and beans, and cook 10 minutes more. Taste and season with more salt, if needed. (Chili can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered.)

Ladle chili into bowls and garnish each serving with a generous dollop of sour cream and, if desired, with chopped cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.


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