The Washington Post
Make the most of leftover chicken with a warm and nourishing chili
What are the benefits of cooking at home on a regular basis? We all know that you can save money if you shop thoughtfully, and you have better control over what goes into your food. But the reason I am most grateful that I got comfortable in the kitchen at an early age is that it has provided me with the security of knowing I can feed myself in a thrifty, tasty way.
That’s because another benefit of cooking regularly is that you get more at ease with making food on the fly. After preparing recipe after recipe, you can look in the pantry, scan the refrigerator and see that this plus this plus this could equal something mighty good.
That’s how this Black and White Bean Chicken Chili was born.
I first made it when I had chili on the brain. I’d read through many of the recipes in Brian Baumgartner’s “Seriously Good Chili Cookbook” and talked with the actor, made famous by the sitcom “The Office,” before writing about and testing “The Office Chili” and another recipe in the book, “Chili Pasta Casserole.”
A couple of weeks later, I roasted a chicken, which we enjoyed, but the next day I wondered what I could make with the leftovers that would make the chicken seem like a whole other dish. In the pantry, I spied cannellini and black beans.
From reading so many chili recipes, I knew I could get good flavor from a blend of smoked paprika, ground cumin and chili powder, which I had on hand. With the leftover chicken, an onion, some garlic and pickled jalapeños, I had this hot bowl of chili on the table in about 40 minutes.
We ate it with what we had on hand: pickled jalapeños on top and a few charred corn tortillas. It was a thrifty and nourishing meal that was also satisfying and delicious. To create this recipe, I remade it, measuring each ingredient and subbing the pickled jalapeños for fresh. I also gussied it up a bit more by topping it with fresh avocado slices, cilantro leaves, pico de gallo and crunchy corn chips.
I decided it was a keeper, and so I’m sharing it with you.
I’d love it if you’d share your meals-on-the-fly story with me. What do you cook when you don’t know what to cook? Is there a dish you’ve developed with a few ingredients and simple preparation that you’d like to share? What advice do you have for novice cooks? Tell me about it via email at