Chicken, White Bean, and Tuscan Kale Stew

Tuscan-Style Stew

There's something so simple yet spectacular about Tuscan cuisine. Besides their famous steak, Tuscany is also know for their bean stews, which is why Tuscans are often called mangiafagioli (bean-eaters)! I love a good bean stew. Now combine that and a few other ingredients, like kale, and maybe some protein, like chicken, and you have a meal that's effortless, filling, and oh-so comforting, especially on a cold winter's day.

My Tuscan-style stew features white beans and kale. I also add big chunks of chicken thighs to make it a protein-packed meal. Tomatoes, onion, and garlic are all very requisite in this recipe, because they help round out the flavors of this no-fuss recipe. And don't forget the most important herb in Tuscan cuisine, fresh rosemary, which adds a deep earthy, verdant flavor that's simply unmatched.

This stew wouldn't be completely Tuscan without Tuscan kale, or what's known as cavolo nero (black kale) in Italian. You'll find this alligator skin-like textured dark, leafy green sold as Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, or black kale. It's much easier to wash and clean than curly kale and it's more flavorful and sweeter. You won't get that notorious bitter flavor with this variety of kale. I highly recommend it!

For this kind of stew, I like cooking dry beans for the best results. I find canned beans too soft and mushy, and I don't recommend using them in this recipe. To cook dry beans: Soak them overnight until they're plump. Drain them of their soaking liquid. Add them to a pot, and cover with about two inches of water. Bring to a boil, and lower it to a simmer. Add a sprig of rosemary for flavor, but no salt, because salt toughens the beans' skin. Cook the beans for between 30 to 45 minutes, until they're tender, but not entirely soft. They will continue to cook in the stew where they will become completely soft and creamy.

Chicken, White Bean, and Tuscan Kale Stew

olive oil
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (from about 6 thighs), cut into large chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
14.5-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 large bunch kale, thinly sliced
3 cups partially cooked white beans, such as Cannelini, Navy, or Great Northern

Set a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Drizzle in enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pot. Sear the chicken thigh pieces in batches, salting and peppering them as you go. Remove the chicken to a plate.

If needed, refresh the pot with a bit of additional oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rosemary and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook until they have thickend, about 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Add the kale, stir, and cook until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans. Pour over with enough water (about 3 to 4 cups) to cover the ingredients. Cover the pot with a lid, and simmer the stew for between 45 minutes to 1 hour. In that time the beans should become creamy, the kale soft, and the chicken tender.

Check the seasoning before serving. Serve with crusty country bread. Yield: 6 servings.


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