I hope your holidays have been happy and bright. Ours certainly have been—and still are. We've always loved celebrating all 12 days of Christmas, meaning the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, on January 6. That means we're still feasting with family, albeit with fewer than the 16 of us who sat down together on Christmas Night.

In that spirit, here's a recipe that's perfect for a crowd: easy to make, feeds a lot, and tastes even better on the second day than the first. I was especially pleased that I could make it with almost all local ingredients: the last sweet potatoes from our CSA share, chicken from Maine-ly Poultry, red peppers that I diced and froze last fall, and onions and garlic from the farmers market. The sweet potatoes make the chili lusciously creamy and also absorb the spices well.

There are so many directions you can go with this recipe. I've made it with leftover cooked turkey instead of the chicken, and I often replace as much as half of the sweet potato with butternut or another nice winter squash. My friend Loraine—who gave me the recipe—replaces the water with chicken stock and also adds chipotle chilis. For a vegetarian version, you can omit the chicken and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. And what about a little drizzle of lime juice just before serving? I've never done that before, but I bet it would be great.

Happy feasting!


This recipe is fairly spicy, but it doesn't need to be. If hot food isn't your thing, just cut back on the amounts given for the spices, especially the red chili flakes and cayenne pepper. This serves about six. I always double the recipe, in hopes of having leftovers.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red pepper, seeded and diced
1 or 2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (slightly more if using boned breast), diced
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed—or the equivalent amount of cannellini beans you've cooked yourself
1 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 cups cold water (or chicken stock)
2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 6 cups)—I often use half butternut squash
2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
2 fresh serrano chilis, diced very small
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bunch scallions, minced, for garnish
1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced, for garnish
sour cream, for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, red pepper, and garlic until soft.

Add the chicken and sauté about 2 minutes, until opaque. Add the beans, stock, water, sweet potatoes, red chili flakes, serrano chilis, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered—stirring occasionally—for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve with a garnish of scallions and fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.