I have always found it interesting how often the weather influences our choice of food. After almost 3 months of hot, dry weather we had a couple of days of rain...the cooler weather made me think of warmer weather food, even though the temperature was still pretty summery!
Remembering the can of navy beans I had bought a few weeks ago, and not yet used, I decided to make a Tuscan style bean ragout, and serve it with crispy roasted chicken thighs. The chicken stock in the freezer would also get used, as well as some of the fresh sage and rosemary in the herb garden.
Start off by making a garlic and sage butter.
1/4 cup softened butter
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
6 leaves finely chopped fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste
Divide the herb butter between the chicken thighs (I had 9).
Gently lift the skin and place the butter underneath, covering it when you are done, pressing the butter into an even layer under the skin.
Lightly season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 375F.
Use a pan that can be transferred to the oven, and heat a drizzle of olive oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the chicken thighs, skin side down.
Allow the skin to brown before turning the chicken over. Turn off the heat.
Carefully drain the fat from the pan. This will be a combination of chicken fat and herb butter. Save the fat for the beans. It is full of flavour and will add a lot to your ragout.
Place the pan of chicken thighs into the oven to finish cooking. This should take about 45 - 60 minutes, enough time to make the bean ragout.
Season 2 cups of grape tomatoes with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven to roast.
When they start to burst,remove them from the oven. This should take about 10- 15 minutes.
In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the fat you reserved from browning the chicken.
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 carrot, finely diced
Cook on a low heat until the vegetables are soft.
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, peeled
salt and pepper
Cook for a couple of minutes.
1 can of navy beans that has been drained and rinsed with cold water.
Add enough chicken stock to cover the beans and vegetables, and leave it to simmer. When both the beans and carrots are tender, your ragout is ready.
Add more chicken stock if necessary; it will be absorbed by the beans as they cook.
Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Stir in the roasted grape tomatoes.
Remove the rosemary sprigs.
When the chicken thighs are cooked, remove them from the oven and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve a portion of the bean ragout in a bowl, placing the crispy roasted chicken thighs on top.
- The consistency of the bean ragout is a bit looser than that of baked beans, but feel free to adjust it to the consistency you prefer by adding more, or less, liquid.
- Other liquids can be used...vegetable stock, water, part wine, or beef stock if you are using meat such as beef or lamb.
- Do not add too much salt at the beginning of the cooking process, rather adjust it at the end. Often the salt that is in the chicken stock will be enough, especially as it reduces down during cooking and concentrates.
- Some people advise not to use salt while cooking beans, as it can make them tough. There are others who say that the addition of salt will help to give a more tender bean. Try both and decide for yourself.
- If you want to use dried beans instead of canned, remember to soak them overnight before cooking them. The cooking time will increase, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of bean you are using, as well as how long they soaked for.
- Other beans that can be used for this recipe are cannellini, Great Northern or white kidney beans.
- I kept the ragout simple, only using shallot and carrots as the vegetables, but you may add as many vegetables as you like. Red peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach are some to try.
- The roasted grape tomatoes added sweetness and a burst of juice...peeled and diced tomatoes or canned tomatoes can be substituted if you like.
- Diced bacon or pancetta can be cooked along with the vegetables, before adding the beans and liquid.
- The beans can be cooked, covered, in a low oven for a few hours. Check on them regularly to make sure that there is still enough liquid.
- The ragout can be turned into a soup simply by adding more liquid; add some cooked spicy Italian sausage if you have some, pair it with some crusty bread and you have dinner or lunch ready to go. This is a great way to use up any leftovers.
- Even though a lot of the herb butter melts when browning the chicken, it still adds flavour, richness and moisture to the thighs, as some of it does penetrate the meat. The garlic and chopped sage remain under the skin, giving a burst of flavour when you are eating the chicken. The butter also helps crisp the skin.
- Using the chicken fat and melted herb butter to start the beans adds a lot of flavour to the ragout.
- The chicken can be browned and then braised with the beans, adding more chicken flavour to the beans.
- Instead of chicken consider using Italian sausage, ham hocks, beef shortribs or lamb shanks...braising them all along with the beans. Dried beans will work best for this as both the beans and the meat will take longer to cook than canned beans do.
- This made enough for 3 people.