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Ina Garten's Chicken Chili Features An Unexpected Secret Ingredient

ina garten in home
ina garten in home - Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Visiting Ina Garten's East Hampton home in "The Barefoot Contessa" always offers a fresh look at recipes and the best cooking tips that will change your life. The famous cook seemingly has no lack of time or resources to -- for lack of a better term -- spice up some recipes. In Garten's twist on classic chili, she replaces the traditional herb of cilantro with another zesty herb -- basil.

"Most chili has cilantro in it," Garten said on "The Barefoot Contessa" while prepping the recipe, "but I personally hate cilantro, so I'm going to put basil in instead. It gives a great flavor." Cilantro is a staple in many traditional Mexican dishes despite its divisiveness. Due to genetics, some of the population find that the herb tastes soapy. Taken from the leaves of the coriander plant, cilantro has aldehydes, which give off an unpleasant taste to certain people. To less sensitive groups, cilantro gives a strong hint of lemon and pepper and can be used as a garnish for stews or chilis. Garten's replacement sidesteps this rigamarole altogether, giving a fun twist to her dish without the controversy of cilantro.

Read more: 11 Of The Best Cooking Tips From Bobby Flay

Basil In Mexican Cuisine

bouquet of fresh basil
bouquet of fresh basil - Mmeemil/Getty Images

In practice, basil is perhaps most closely associated with Italian cuisine. The herb pairs well with tomato dishes and is a welcome addition to many meals such as pasta, pizza, or bruschetta. However, Ina Garten's choice to add basil to the mix isn't entirely out of left field. While it may not be as common in Mexican dishes as cilantro, it has earned its seat at the table.

Less overpowering than the might of cilantro, basil is an almost sweet addition to sauces and side dishes. One of its most notable appearances is as a common ingredient in salsa. The tomato base pairs well with the delicate leaves. Salsa also has the benefit of having many other ingredients that can add to the flavor profile. Basil has also been known to be an agreeable addition to enchiladas and burritos, though not as prevalent as in other dishes. It finds its home most comfortably in meals with a soup-like consistency which makes it perfect for Ina Garten's chicken chili.

Ina Garten's Not So Secret Ingredient

Bowl of chili with garnish
Bowl of chili with garnish - Thecrimsonmonkey/Getty Images

Chicken is also not a customary ingredient for chili, but many things, including basil, can enhance your chicken chili. Ina Garten has a mind for this more than most and knows exactly what pairs well together. Roasting the chicken with the skin on, she states in "The Barefoot Contessa," is the best way to keep the meat moist. It is also an ingredient that pairs well with the basil and tomato concoction. Like in Italian cooking, Mexican cuisine (or more aptly for chili, Tex-Mex cuisine) has discovered the genius of pairing tomatoes and basil together. The different ways to use them seem inexhaustible and are even better with chicken.

It may not be unheard of to use beef with tomato and basil, but chicken is such a lighter option. Garten herself comments that chicken is healthier -- especially when taking the skin off. With these components, the celebrity chef has made a less authentic, but just as delicious option. There are many ways to combine chicken, tomato, and basil, and this is one of the more innovative. A hearty meal on a cold day, Garten has outdone herself again.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.