Black Bean, Chicken & Red Pepper Stew to Lament the Stolen Spring

L and I are up in the mountains for a few days of peace and quiet before my summer class starts, and we took a walk to the community office today. The woman at the desk was talking to us about the weather which has been gloomy and rainy for the past - well, too long, if you ask me. I've been asking myself if someone secretly uprooted me and my entire life and transported us all to Seattle while I was asleep one night last week. I have told my parents on several occasions that they better get ready because I'm moving south. 

No, in all honesty, I haven't much minded the recent weather. There's something peaceful about it, and although I am more than ready to break out my ice cream machine and be able to study for my summer course pool-side, perhaps with a cool drink in my hand (if such things are allowed at the new apartment), it's also comforting to be snuggled up warm in a house while the rain patters on the roof. It also gives me an excuse to share with you all of these great recipes I have saved up from cooler times, like this stew.

This Black Bean, Chicken & Red Pepper Stew is spicy and warm, satisfying and easy to put together. It's the perfect recipe for estimating and adjusting on a whim based on ingredients and emotions you may have on hand at any given time. Feel free to make it vegetarian by removing the chicken, for example. I would say that it was slightly too liquidy, which could be remedied by some extra time simmering, and I wouldn't mind the addition of some fresh vegetables, as most of the ingredients called for are canned. It does make a hefty amount (even when I halved it), providing me with many delicious and quick freezer meals for the semester. 

So, if you find yourself inside listening to the rain and torn between dreaming of sunnier days and wanting to make the most of the weather at hand, consider whipping up a batch of this stew. After the first bite, you won't even remember that you're supposed to be feeling bitter that Spring has, apparently, been kidnapped. You'll actually be happy for the clouds.

Black Bean, Chicken & Red Pepper Stew, courtesy of Annie's Eats
Yield: 6-8 servings
(printable recipe)

The Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

28 ounces diced tomatoes
12 ounces roasted red peppers, chopped
4 ounces can diced green chiles
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

optional garnishes: cheddar cheese, sour cream

The Method
Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large pot and place over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pot and cook, stirring, until browned and cooked through. Once done, transfer the chicken to a bowl or platter and set aside, and add the remaining oil to the pot along with the onions. Saute until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and saute for 1 more minute, then stir in the black beans, tomatoes, peppers, chili, chicken broth, cumin, cayenne, and reserved chicken. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to a gentle simmer. Allow it to simmer, uncovered, for at least 45 minutes* before removing from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and cilantro.

*This is where I'd encourage you to be patient and let it go longer than 45 minutes. I don't actually know how this will turn out (and will let you know if I make it again and experiment), but I think this is the best spot to produce a thicker stew. Alternatively (or additionally), you can slightly drain the diced tomatoes or reduce the chicken broth slightly.

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