Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 Pasilla or New Mexico chilies, cored, seeded and cut in very thin strips
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons cumin, to taste
1 1/2 pounds (4 large) mixed bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans black beans
Chicken stock, optional
Juice of one fresh lime, or to taste
Avocado, diced

Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the chicken
Heat the canola or vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken thighs, in batches, on each side for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or plate. Pour off the fat from the pan and discard.

Make the stew
Turn the heat down to medium. Add the olive oil and the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze until the onions begin to soften. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the hot and sweet peppers, cumin, a pinch of salt and the garlic, and cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir together until the tomatoes begin to bubble and smell fragrant (about 5 minutes). Add black beans.

Add the chicken
Cut the chicken thighs into bite-size chunks and return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat (about 25 to 30 minutes). Stir at regular intervals and turn so that the ingredients don’t scorch and the chicken cooks evenly. If the stew seems too thick, add some chicken stock. The peppers should be very soft and the chicken quite tender.

Add the lime juice. Taste the stew and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over white rice and garnish with diced avocado.

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