Cuban Chili with Black Beans, Plantains, and Shredded Chicken

It's official, fall is here. The leaves are turning yellow, red, gold, and brown, and there's a chill in the air when I wake up in the morning. The rain has arrived too, but I don't mind. I love the feeling of coziness it brings and the steady drizzle calms my overactive mind. I understand the draw to live in places like Hawaii or Florida or Southern California, but the constant sun and heat makes me crazy. When I lived in Maui briefly, I rode my bike to the beach during thunderstorms to watch the clouds and rain roll over the ocean. I like change and I like seasons. Fall just happens to be my favorite. I start to crave comfort foods like hot soup and cheesy pasta and I also tend to amp up my coffee intake, for better or worse. There's nothing better than sitting down on the couch in the still-dark morning with a hot cup of coffee, wrapped up in blankets, catching up on emails or planning recipes for the week. But this post isn't about coffee, it's about belly-warming chili.      

This chili is delicious and intensely spiced - not in a super peppery way, but in a complex mix of flavors way. I love the addition of the plantains, which add some sweetness and balance out the herb blend. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I like really bold flavors, so my recipes usually call for lots of seasoning. Feel free to use less if you'd like a tamer version. We served this chili with homemade cornbread and dollop of sour cream. And it was so, so good...  This recipe makes a big pot, so stick some in the freezer for days when you just want to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix and not think about making dinner.  

// Cuban Chili with Black Beans, Plantains, and Shredded Chicken // Serves 8-10 generously
The chilies I used in the recipe came from Oaxaca. They smell smoky and dark with a hint of spice, but not super hot like the fiery dried chilies de arbol we also brought home. They are called moras, which means blackberry in Spanish, and usually sold in the States as dried chipotle peppers. The recipe calls for 1-2 dried chili peppers, including seeds, but use your own judgement to decide how hot you want it. 

1-2 small dried chipotle peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz chicken stock, divided
3 medium plantains, peeled and diced
2 cups green bell pepper, diced
3 15 oz cans black beans, drained
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more

1. Soak the chipotle peppers in 1/4 cup hot water and set aside until needed

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large dutch oven or small stock pot. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot. Cover and let cook for 8-9 minutes until undersides of chicken are nicely browned. Flip and cook for another 8-9 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 F. Remove chicken from pot and let cool on a plate. Reduce heat. 

3. In same pot, add onions, garlic and 1/4 cup chicken stock and cook uncovered until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add plantains plus another 1/4 chicken stock. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add green bell pepper and another 1/4 cup chicken stock. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add black beans, tomatoes, remaining chicken stock, bay leaf, spices, and salt. Cover and bring to a simmer. 

4. Remove the chipotle peppers from the soaking water and add soaking water to the pot. Finely chop the peppers and add to the chili.

5. Using two forks, shred the chicken and add to chili. Stir well and let chili simmer for at least one hour.