White chicken chili, how I love you. You're deeply flavorful. Brothy, yet hearty. You're subtly creamy without being nap-inducing. You come together quickly—and mainly from a handful of pantry staples. Best of all, you scarcely need adornment, but you let me cover you with all sorts of tangy, crispy, complementary handfuls anyway: crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack, and hot sauce. And you always cheer me on when I go back for a second—or third—bowl. —Ella Quittner
Season the chicken breasts all over with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over a medium flame a few minutes until melted and foaming. Add the chicken breasts and brown on one side. Flip, and brown on second side. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Turn the flame down to low and add the remaining butter. Heat until it begins to foam. Add the onion, jalapeños, white part of the scallion, carrot (if using), and 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot, and sauté about 5 to 6 minutes until the onion pieces are golden and starting to brown around the edges.
Make a well in the center and add the cumin and cayenne pepper. Sauté for 30 seconds, then pour in the chicken broth and use it to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the diced green chiles, lemon juice, beans, and the browned chicken breasts. Cover and bring to a rolling simmer, then cook uncovered (still at a rolling simmer) about 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by roughly one-quarter and the chicken can be easily shredded with two forks.
Use a slotted spoon to skim off the film that’s collected at the top of the broth. Remove the chicken breasts to a separate large bowl, and shred with two forks, then return the shredded chicken to the pot. Stir in most of the 1/2 cup finely chopped scallion greens, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish, and remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with additional salt and lemon juice.
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.