Recipe: Lemon Braised Chicken & Beans with Mint Pesto

What is summer cooking, to you? For me, it means keeping things as simple as possible. In the summertime, I want meals that come together in one big pot, easy to cook and easy to reheat later. I want meals that taste like the garden, fragrant with herbs and bright flavors. I want hands-off meals, so I can retire to the back porch with a cucumber gimlet while my supper cooks.

Well, this braised chicken dish fits all those requirements beautifully.

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It's a simple dish — it needs just a few ingredients and one big pot. White beans and chicken cook together in the oven with shavings of lemon, which infuses them both with a summery lemon scent. At the end I stir in handfuls of chopped dill and add a swirl of mint pesto — garlicky and minty.

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Yes, you'll have to turn on your oven. But I promise it will be worth it. It will yield you herbed, creamy beans and tender chicken, with that garden-fresh taste of mint and garlic at the end.

The best part? This one-pot dish makes plenty of leftovers; you won't have to turn on your oven, your stove, or your grill for at least two more nights. And that, my friends, is summer cooking at its finest.

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Lemon Braised Chicken & Beans with Mint Pesto
serves 6 to 8

1 pound dried small white beans, such as flageolet
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced
2 lemons
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2/3 cup finely chopped dill fronds

Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with water. Soak for 24 hours, or at least overnight — topping up the water as the beans soak it up. Drain the beans and set aside.

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 drained 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 — you do not want 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. Add water until it covers the beans and comes up to just below the chicken. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a simmer. Cover the pot and put it in the oven.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are very tender and creamy.

Slow Cooker Variation: Cook the garlic and onion as directed above, and stir in the soaked and drained beans. Transfer to a slow cooker insert. Pat the chicken dry, and lightly salt and pepper it. Lay it on top of the beans in the slow cooker. Add boiling water until it covers the beans and comes up to just below the chicken. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Cook on LOW for 8 hours or until beans are tender, then proceed with the remaining steps in recipe.

Remove the lid from the pot, and take out the chicken and put it to the side on a plate. Remove the thyme stalks. Zest and juice the second lemon, and stir the zest and juice, along with the chopped dill fronds, into the beans. Shred or chop the chicken and place it back on top of the beans. Top with the mint pesto (recipe follows) and serve.

To serve, scoop up a spoon of beans, and top with chicken. Make sure each serving has a dollop of pesto as well. Serve with a green salad, and good bread to soak up the sauce.

Mint Pesto

makes 2/3 cup

4 packed cups mint leaves
1/3 cup blanched almonds
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if necessary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the ingredients in a small food processor or chopper 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.

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Related: Recipe: Chicken Stewed with Tomatoes, Cinnamon, and Preserved Lemon

(Images: Faith Durand)

Per serving, based on 5 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
730
Fat
27.9 g (42.9%)
Saturated
4.6 g (23%)
Trans
0 g
Carbs
63.3 g (21.1%)
Fiber
17.1 g (68.6%)
Sugars
3.2 g
Protein
59 g (118.1%)
Cholesterol
172.4 mg (57.5%)
Sodium
188.3 mg (7.8%)

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