Something about watching sports on TV in the dead of winter creates a yen for chili. Deeply rich, spicy, nourishing but healthy chili. Oh, we’ll eat the versions with multiple meats and sausages all right, but I prefer those bursting with vegetables or beans, chicken or seafood. Since we lost power during a recent snowstorm, I’ve been cleaning out the freezer and refrigerator and came across a couple of quarts of homemade fish stock and some shrimp stock. Instead of making the usual chowder, I made seafood chili. It was based on a recipe called “Steve’s Special Seafood Chili,” from the annual Team Member Chili Cook-off \at our local Whole Foods market. The seafood department wins more often than not and its recipes are always good jumping off points for experimentation.
The distinguishing feature of this chili is that the beans, after soaking overnight, are cooked in fish broth or clam juice. This technique guarantees that the chili is fully flavored with seafood, since the medley of sea-going creatures – mussels, chopped clams, chopped shrimp, and bay scallops – is added close to the end. I spiced up the Whole Foods version with chipotle powder and finely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper, and otherwise tinkered with the recipe. If you run out of fish or clam and mussel juice, you can add a little water or chicken broth. Like most chilis, this one was better the second day. I bet the chili can be frozen, but that would have been going in the wrong direction during our power outage.
White Bean and Seafood Chili adapted from a Whole Foods Chili Cook-off
¾ lb medium white beans such as kidney beans, soaked overnight
6 c fish stock, or a combination of fish, mussel, shrimp and clam juice, or bottled clam juice
1 medium onion, minced (divided into two portions)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 4-oz can chopped green chilis or 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced (more for garnish)
2 tsp cumin seed, lightly toasted and ground in a spice mill, or 1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle powder
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano, or ½ tsp dried
2-3 c diced shellfish (I used ½ c shrimp, ½ c bay scallops, ¾ c chopped clams, ¾ c mussels)
Salt, if needed
½ c chopped cilantro
½ fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
Grated Monterey jack cheese
Tortilla chips or toasted bread
Drain the beans from their soaking water and place in a deep saucepan. Add the fish or seafood stock, and half the onions, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pan and turn the heat to its lowest setting (use a metal disk on top of the burner). Simmer gently until the beans are very soft, 2-3 hours. Add additional liquid (water or stock) as needed. If you’re steaming the mussels, you can add some of that liquid at the end to thin the chili.
In a small pan, lightly cook the remaining onions, garlic and fresh jalapeno pepper, if using, in olive oil. Add the herbs and spices and stir to combine, and then add the canned chilis, if using. Add to the beans and cook for another 20 minutes. By now the beans should be falling apart.
Add the shellfish to the bean mixture, and simmer until the shellfish is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Adjust liquid and taste for salt.
Serve warm, garnished with chopped cilantro, minced fresh jalapeno and a little grated cheese, along with tortilla chips. Makes about 6 generous servings.