Chicken, Cannellini Beans, & Greens Stew
I am very much in sync with this month’s Bon Appetit magazine - it’s the BA stew edition, baby! It’s getting chilly here in Chicago, the leaves are changing colors, and there is pumpkin everywhere. So what could be more perfect than a warm, hearty bowl of stew? I spend a lot of time on the BA YouTube channel, learning techniques and new recipes from their kitchen staff. So when I had some time to kill before an event this month, I went for a copy of their magazine at a nearby magazine stand. Aside from the gorgeous photographs, the October issue features multiple easy but tasty stew recipes and I’m excited to take on a few of them this fall and winter. BA suggests making a big stew and a whole mess of toppings for a dinner party, which I think is a very low-stress solution to hosting. You can also make a big batch for yourself and not share!
Stews generally follow a formula: build a base, usually with vegetables like onions, carrots, garlic, or ginger; add some depth with something like bacon, anchovies, or tomato paste; toss in the main event, like meat or hearty vegetables; add some herbs and spices; and let it do its thing for a a while. Serve with something crunchy or contrasting on top. Most stews are better the day after (it’s just stew science).
The one below is inspired by the BA chicken and kale stew. My major modification here was adding some cannellini beans to make it more filling. I’m also not a huge fan of kale, so I added in some fresh watercress towards the end instead. The stew had great depth of flavor and was super satisfying - we had it for dinner the first night and took the leftovers for lunch the next day. When it is refrigerated, the bacon fat rises to the top - just get rid of two-thirds of this fat and then reheat your soup.
The recipe is a basic recipe that most home cooks can handle but man, the crispy chicken skin topping was a game changer than I never would’ve come up with. It was so tasty that I forgot to photograph it but imagine salt, crispy, chicken-y chips, crushed over your stew. You have to do it!
2 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
4-5 skin-on chicken thighs, patted dry
2 cans white cannellini beans
2 medium red onions cut into eights or 4 shallots cut into quarters
1 head of garlic, cloves roughly smashed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bag or 4 cups of watercress or any other greens, like spinach or kale
1 bunch parsley, stems tied together with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
6 cups of water
2 green chiles (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
To serve (optional)
Pickled red onions
Red pepper flakes
Crispy chicken skin (see method below)
Heat a heavy bottomed pot (like this one) on medium low heat. Add the diced bacon to the pot and cook for 8-10 mins, or until the bacon is crispy and the fat has rendered. Drain and remove the bacon into a separate bowl.
Season the chicken thighs well with salt and pepper. In the same pot, increase the heat to medium and add your chicken thighs skin-side down - spread the chicken out as much as your pot allows. Cook for 8-10 mins on one side and brown for 3-4 on the other. The chicken will not be fully cooked; you’re simply trying to brown the meat and render the chicken fat. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it cook.
Next, add the shallots or red onions to the pot and cook in the bacon and chicken fat for 6-8 mins, or until translucent and slightly browning. Add in the crushed garlic cloves and cook for an additional 3 mins. Add the white wine to the pot and cook for 3-4 mins, or until two-thirds of the liquid has disappeared.
Once the chicken has cooled, pull off the skin and set aside. Add the skinless chicken thighs to the pot with the onions and garlic and toss gently. If using, add your green chilies.
Add the 6 cups of water to the pot, followed by the crispy bacon, bay leaves and parsley bunch. Bring the pot to a boil and cover partially with a lid, leaving a crack for the steam to escape. Cook this for 1 hour 15 mins, or until the chicken comes apart easily from the bones. Lastly, add 2 drained cans of cannellini beans and watercress leaves, cover partially again with the lid, and cook for an additional 15 mins.
When you’re ready to serve, place a chicken thigh per person in a bowl and pull apart the meat and discard the bone. Ladle the rest of the soup on top of the chicken. Top with your toppings of choice and enjoy!
Crispy chicken skin
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lay out the chicken skin on a baking sheet, on a silicone layer or aluminium foil sprayed with some cooking spray. Cook for 15 mins. Remove from the oven, let cook, and roughly chop or crumble over your soup!