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rainy day white chicken chili

October 9, 2010

Both Eric and I had late nights last night, so this morning we caught up on some much needed rest. It rained all day, at some points quite heavily, so once we got up we spent the whole day indoors catching up on computer related projects and being generally lazy.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that if I don’t get out of bed by a certain point the rest of the day is just shot for motivation and energy. In the case of today the problem was definitely compounded by the lack of sun and generally dreary weather. I had lofty plans for some in-depth cleaning and a nice late-afternoon training run, but neither of those things ended up happening.

Being from California, which seemed to be in a perpetual state of drought while I was growing up, I always loved the rain. Even if it was inconvenient and interfered with my plans, I always secretly got a bit of a thrill out of it. Rainy days made me happy back at home. Rain was something different, it signaled a break in the routine; an excuse to bundle up and drink warm drinks and be lazy. I had never really understood why some people disliked the rain, until about a month after moving to Tokyo in September of 2005.

Although rain is not at all uncommon in Japan throughout the year, there are two main rainy seasons. The first, called Tsuyu, runs roughly from the end of May through July and is often characterized by thunderstorms and sudden downpours, while late August marks the beginning of typhoon season. October in Japan is on the tail end of typhoon season and usually a very rainy month.

I vividly remember seeing a calendar graphic on the evening news one day at the end of that very first October detailing the amount of rain that had hit Tokyo over the past 30 days. According to that news report there were only 4 or 5 days on which no rain had fallen for that entire month. It took me until that day to realize that the terrible mood I had been in for weeks was directly related to the weather.

My love of rainy days has returned since that first experience 5 years ago, but the shock of going from a relatively dry climate to a very severe typhoon season was just too much for my system to handle those first few weeks here.

Compared to previous years,  this year has been relatively dry in Tokyo. There was no rain for weeks during the peak of our heat wave in August, and now, 10 days into October, we’ve only had a few days of rain so far. Much like the heavy rain inspired me to make up my first soup of the season about ten days ago, today’s rain ended up influencing our dinner plans as well.

I’d had that pizza idea on my mind going into Saturday, but when dinnertime rolled around it got shoved aside in favor of a new idea that I came up with while talking to Eric about the remaining contents of our waning vegetable box.

(click to see in it’s awesome full-sized glory)

Tonight’s dinner was not a meal designed to showcase as many of my fresh vegetables as I could cram into one recipe. Instead I focused on using up the one that I was most apprehensive about using: okra. I have realized over the last few years that my only true food aversion (other than those related to meats) is slimy foods, and knowing that okra has a tendency to slime when overcooked or used raw, as it often is here in Japan, I was a bit uncertain about it.

I ended up using the okra as a topping, rather than a key ingredient, but I don’t think that every meal from my box has to be all about showcasing that ingredient. I erred on the side of caution and went with a simply pan-fry, and it actually came out quite nice; crisp and tender, and with minimal slime.

White Chicken Chili

300 grams organic chicken breast
200 grams white onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp avocado oil
400 ml chicken stock
480 grams cooked white beans (2 cans or home cooked)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili flakes
juice from 1 lime
nira or cilantro, chopped fine
100 ml whole milk
salt & pepper to taste

Rinse chicken and cover with water in a medium sized skillet. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn off heat. Let sit for 30 minutes to finish cooking, then drain, let cool, and shred. Set aside.

Cook the onion and garlic in the avocado oil in a medium-sized stock pot until transparent and just starting to brown. Add shredded chicken, white beans, stock, and enough water to cover by about an inch if needed. Add seasonings and let simmer for 30 minutes, adding more water as necessary to keep at the proper consistency.

Towards the end of cooking stir in the lime juice, half of the chopped herbs, and adjust the seasonings to taste. Add the milk and let cook for another few minutes to thicken slightly.

Top with shredded cheese, fresh chopped herbs, sour cream or yogurt, avocado, and a splash of lime juice. Makes enough for six smallish servings with generous toppings. Serve with corn chips on the side.

Pan-Fried Okra

1/2 tbsp avocado oil
okra pods

Preheat a medium skillet over med-high heat. Wash okra pods whole and dry thoroughly before using to avoid excess slime. When the pan is hot, cut the pods into 1 cm slices with a dry knife, being sure to wipe off excess mucilage as it collects. Add the oil to the pan, followed by the okra slices. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side until browned and just beginning to soften.

How do you feel about rain? What kinds of foods do you like to eat on a rainy day?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2010 12:18 am

    That looks so good. Perhaps something I will try once I get paid and can afford meat again.

    How’d you feel about the okra? I haven’t had okra since I was 8, so I’m not sure what I would think of it now. The one time I ate it was on my trip to the south to visit my grandmother’s family. When in Alabama, my Aunt Lucy made fried okra. I feel like she may have breaded it, but I could be making that up in my head, since it was 20 years ago, and all. I remember liking it though.

    I really like soups or chili on rainy days. Also hot chocolate, hot cider or even just coffee. Anything warm.

    • October 12, 2010 1:13 am

      It came out really well for one of those things I kind of made up on the spot at the last minute (it really did come together out of one of those “I’m too lazy to knead pizza dough, what’s in my fridge?” moments >_<). I highly recommend trying it out!

      The okra came out better than expected. I know my parents cooked it into things when I was younger, but don't remember how I felt about it back then. More recently I've had it raw on salads here (not a fan), and cooked in Indian food and such, and it's been kind of hit or miss depending on the slime factor. There was still -some- slime in the center, but it had a good flavor, and the slight char from pan-frying pairs really well with the chili.

      Ohh.. hot chocolate. I still have a few mugs of that amazing drinking chocolate you sent me for christmas left. I should totally bust that out next time it rains. <3

  2. October 12, 2010 12:34 pm

    I know exactly what you mean about rainy weather! As a born and raised Nevadan, I always wondered how long it would take for me to resent living somewhere rainy. Apparently my brief stay in Tokyo in high school was during the “dry” season (about two months, starting around Tanabata). I think I would have had a hard time biking in the rain.

    That soup looks amazing, by the way. I’ve never cooked okra.

    • October 12, 2010 1:48 pm

      Thanks! :D

      I honestly never thought it would happen to me, and I think I was the last hold-out among the exchange students that first year. Everyone else complained about the rain from the start, but it took me until the end of the first 10 straight days of heavy rain to really be affected. =/

      Hey, if the Japanese can bike while holding an umbrella -and- texting, you can, too. **

      ** …but I wouldn’t recommend it. >_>

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