White Bean and Chicken Stew

So I have a tendency to get a little absorbed in cooking shows. Pretty much, eyes glued to the TV screen, perhaps some unconscious drool-action going on. And sometimes, if it seems worth it enough, I just have to ask myself if I really have the gall to attempt to master the master’s dish, as seen on TV. Hard not to want to, I suppose.  But I had to pull the trigger on one, in particular, as it was actually 4hb-friendly! Go figure! Who’s to credit? Well..this next recipe was inspired (and sufficiently Ginger-tweaked-to-taste), by Giada, and has truly become a household favorite.  Ask the hubby.

But first, allow me to be honest.  The term “stew” almost immediately conjures up feelings of disinterest and blandness in my mind.  Soups, in general, just tend to bore me! Give it some girth already! This stew will not disappoint, and is totally worth the time it takes….eh, give or take….10 min of prep & 40 min of stewing (and let it be known that, by “stewing”, I mean the concoction; not my at-times cranky attitude).

Enough already – let the warm stew-liciousness unravel…

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (4-ounce) piece pancetta, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (Trader Joes has these pre-packaged and diced)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 8 spears asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 box Trader Joe’s Low-Sodium chicken broth (or two 14-oz cans)
  • 1/2 packed cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed in drained

Directions:

In a heavy 5-6 quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until nice, brown, and crispy (~6-8 min).  Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, put on paper towels to sit and drain (set these aside until the very end, for garnish).  Leave the leftover grease in the saucepan for sauteeing vegetables in the next step (the pancetta grease will give it extra good flavor!).

Next, add the carrots, celery, onion, asparagus, mushrooms and garlic, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent (~5 min).

Stir in the chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf.  Add the chicken and press down to submerge.  Bring the liquid to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, turning chicken over and stirring occasionally, for 20 min.

OPTIONAL STEP (for those who like it hot):  we add 1 drop of a really hot sauce into our stew – “Devil’s Blood.”  Seriously.  1 drop.  You may have your own varieties (and if so, I should only imagine/hope you already have a good understanding of your own tolerance).  But if you’re into the spice, this really drives the stew home! If you don’t…hey, that’s cool!

Add the cannellini beans and artichokes and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduced slighty (~10-15 min).

Remove the chicken and let sit & cool for 5 min.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Return the meat to the saucepan and simmer for 5 min until warmed through.  Remove the bay leaf and discard.  Season with salt & pepper (and any additional seasonings), to taste.

Ladle stew into bowls, and garnish with the cooked pancetta.

Ta-Da!

Seriously – enjoy that.

So on portioning (or not – it’s 4hb-okay!)…. the fellow and I usually have relatively large bowls of this for dinner, and there is plenty left over for each of us to have a good portioned lunch the next day! Very re-heatable.