I woke up yesterday to gray skies and drizzle; the ideal weather for a comforting bowl of stew. Since my eating habits the last few days haven't been especially honorable I wanted to make amends with a healthy, light, vegetable-packed meal. For this reason I eschewed rich beef in favor of chicken, and from there knew I would have to include some type of bean, because I love beans and cook with them a lot.
What I ended up with was a somewhat bastardized version of the famed "pasta e fagioli." It was a perfect tonic to slurp down under a blanket on the couch, next to my hubby, as rain pelted the windows and the wind blew.
Chicken, White Bean & Spinach Stew
3 - 3 1/2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
6 cups reduced-salt chicken broth
3 carrots, sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/8 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary, crumbled
1 can cannellini beans
1 cup small dried pasta of choice (I used Barilla Ditalini), cooked as directed on box and reserved
1 bag baby spinach, long stems removed
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
1 lemon, zested; then cut in half for juicing
fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese
extra-virgin olive oil
Place thighs in soup pot; cover with chicken stock. (If stock doesn't cover chicken, add enough water so it is just covered.) Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic cloves, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary to pot.
Simmer thighs for 20-25 minutes, depending on size, until they are cooked through and tender. Remove thighs from pot with tongs and set aside until cool enough to handle. While chicken cools, mash vegetables in pot with a potato masher until well-broken up and rough looking (if vegetables aren't soft enough to crush, let simmer until they are). Continue to simmer broth, uncovered, to reduce and concentrate flavors; at the same time, pick meat off the bones and roughly shred it into bite sized pieces. Add chicken to pot, along with white beans and red pepper flakes; simmer about 5 minutes to meld flavors.
Just before serving, add pasta to warm through, then add spinach and stir until it is just wilted. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 of lemon into stew, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle stew into bowls. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top. Add a sprinkling of grated cheese and a spot of lemon zest and serve with more cheese on the side.
Update: The sauerkraut has been burping downstairs... it's aliiive!