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Basil Chicken with White Cannellini Beans

After a weekend of eating lots of bad-for-me-food to celebrate my birthday I am back and on the straight and narrow path of eating what’s good for me. The only issue is steamed broccoli and dry baked chicken will not really entice the rest of the family to the table. Enter the high fiber low calorie wonder that is the bean! They taste good and are good for you so they became the center of last night’s meal. Add some chicken breasts and fresh basil and this was such a great meal that no one knew it was good for them. If you are not a fan of the white meat chicken you could use thighs instead.

The bean and veggie mixture that accompanies the chicken is somewhere between a soup and a side dish, you can adjust how thick or thin the broth of the beans will be to make what your family enjoys.  There are a few different consistencies that you can make the beans, if you want this like a soup you can double the chicken broth in the recipe below (you could even add additional broth after baking and pasta to make a pasta e fagioli like soup). Or if you want it like a stew once you pull the pot out of the oven let the bean mixture cook down on top of the stove until you get the perfect thickness for stew.  Last if you like a thick and rich you can follow the directions below using corn starch to thicken the broth into a sauce. So do what you like best. Or if you are lazy just eat what you get when it comes out of the oven, it’s going to taste great any way you select.  The consistency of the beans will vary each time you make this dish because every time the amount of liquid that veggies and meat release will change slightly.

4 large chicken breasts (or 6-8 thighs) with skin on

1-2 large bunches of basil

Salt and pepper

2 15oz cans of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

My chicken breasts were so large that I opted to slice each one in half before serving.

1 cup diced celery, feel free to use the leaves

3 small onions diced

1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes halved or quarter depending on size

6-10 cloves of garlic diced

2 tbsp of your favorite Italian spice blend

1/2 cup of chicken broth

1-2 tbsp of corn starch

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Start by rinsing your chicken and patting dry with paper towels. Next loosen the skin from the breast and slide 6 or so of the basil leaves under the skin.  Keep remaining basil for garnish. Next salt and pepper the outside of the breast.

Be careful not to rip the skin when you are putting the basil leaves under it.

Heat a large pan (like a dutch oven) with a small bit of olive oil on medium to high heat. Add the chicken to the hot pan and sear it on both sides.  You will know its time to flip the breasts when the meat lifts from the pan with just a gentle tug, if you have to pull on it its not done and let it cook longer. It will take about 4-6 minutes a side.

When the chicken is seared remove it from the pan and add the onions and celery, using the liquid from the veggies deglaze the pan, scraping off all the browned bits on the bottom.  Let the veggies cook until the onion is starting to turn transparent. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and beans, stir and let cook for about 2 minutes before adding 1/3 cup of the chicken broth, Italian spice, and salt & pepper.  

Leave pan on the heat until the mixture is bubbling. Place the chicken skin side up on top of the beans and put in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. Until the chicken is cooked and juices run clear.

Remove the pan from the oven and set the chicken aside to rest. Put the pan back on the burner on medium high heat, and bring to a boil. In a cup mix the remaining ¼ cup of chicken broth with the corn starch, stir well getting all the lumps out. Then pour the corn starch slurry into the beans. Stirring slowly for about 3 minutes let the beans thicken. Remove from heat and put in serving dish, chiffonade the remaining basil and sprinkle over top, and add the chicken. Enjoy this meal with a dry Italian white, crusty bread and a big green salad.

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