Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lemon Braised Chicken and Beans with Mint Pesto

I had put off this recipe from The Kitchn for a long time, mostly because I don’t want to cook with dried beans at this point (I don’t have enough space in the pantry to keep them on hand anymore). The recipe calls for a lot of mint, too, and I was hoping the mint in my garden would grow enough for it, but I decided that given the hot climate, summer probably wasn’t going to help things. I felt that this would be a great seasonal recipe, though, in the sense that it seems like a transition between spring and summer, so I forged ahead. (If you don’t have that kind of weather yet, don’t feel jealous; I’ll be roasting down here when you enjoy pleasant summer weather, and you can make that chicken then.)

I ended up using mint from the grocery store, and I again referred to this article from Serious Eats to figure out I needed 3 cans of beans instead of 1 pound of dried beans (and no water). I also omitted the dill, because I’m not crazy about it. Anyway, the result was fantastic! The beans were a creamy, lemony delight, and pretty much overshadowed the chicken, as good as it was. We had lots of leftovers, too, as the recipe makes about 6 to 8 servings. My version is below. If you feel like it, you could use basil instead of mint for the pesto. It would change the taste, but it would still be wonderful. Note that while the dish cooks for a long time, it’s mostly hands-off and very easy to make.

For the mint pesto
4 packed cups mint leaves (or basil, see note above)
1/3 cup blanched almonds (optional)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil, plus more if necessary
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the ingredients in a small food processor until finely chopped. If not using immediately, store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap completely covering and touching the surface of the pesto to prevent oxidization.

For the chicken
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced
3 cans (15 oz. each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 lemons
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme

Heat the oven to 350 °F. In a 4-quart (or larger) Dutch oven or heavy ovenproof pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender and the onion is nearly translucent. Add the beans and stir to coat the beans with the garlic, onion, and oil. Turn off the heat.

Take a sharp vegetable peeler and carefully peel one of the lemons. Peel it in wide strips, taking care that you remove only the top yellow layer of peel and not any of the bitter white pith. Add all of this shaved lemon peel to the beans and stir. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the beans. (Reserve the second lemon for later.)

Pat the chicken dry, and lightly salt and pepper it. Lay it on top of the beans in the Dutch oven. Lay the thyme sprigs on top (I used just the leaves and not the sprigs, but do as you wish). Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until the beans are very tender and creamy.

Remove the lid from the pot, and take out the chicken and put it to the side on a plate. Remove the thyme stalks (or just leave the thyme leaves right in there, it’s fine). Zest and juice the second lemon, and stir the zest and juice into the beans. Shred or chop the chicken and place it back on top of the beans. Top with the mint pesto and serve, ideally with good bread to soak up the sauce.

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