I love a recipe that teaches me a new technique. Even one that, in retrospect, I probably could (should?) have thought of on my own. In the case of this hearty stew–filled with chicken, pumpkin, black beans, corn, quinoa, and smoky spice–it was cooking whole chicken breasts right in the broth that makes up the foundation of the stew, turning it into almost a one pot meal. Once the chicken is cooked you take it out, shred, and then toss it back in. Genius, right? Nothing like combining steps to impress me on a weeknight. How quickly and easily this dish comes together plus the great flavor made it an instant keeper during this seemingly endless winter. It was a perfect simple dinner for nights when I wanted something satisfying that wouldn’t take too much effort, and I have a feeling it’s going to see me into the spring.
This is another recipe I first discovered on Joie’s “Keeper” pinterest board. It jumped right out to me, since pumpkin and black beans are two of my sweethearts’s very favorite and most requested foods, (truly: almost any time I say I’m baking something Hal asks, “with pumpkin?” before I can tell him what it is) and a recipe that combines both seemed like a guaranteed win…for his taste-buds, at least. I think I might have balked a bit at the pumpkin and black bean combo, which isn’t an obviously tasty one to me, but I knew that my mother frequently makes a soup with both that’s a big hit, so I felt pretty safe going into this. As is so often the case, mother knew best. I can’t explain why pumpkin and black beans work so well together–something in my brain can’t stop thinking about pumpkin pie and tacos, and just pushes against the idea–but dang it, they do. Especially when connected with the smokey heat of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and cumin. Yum.
The original recipe post talks about bulking up a simple pumpkin soup by adding all of these ingredients to get to a heartier almost-stew. Because I had some already cooked quinoa hanging around (as you do) the first time I made this, I decided to take the bulking up even further, tossing in the quinoa, adding another can of beans, and upping the amount of frozen corn. I loved the way the addition of a grain made for a thicker stew, and how the quinoa soaked up flavor. I might try it without quinoa for spring and summer if I’m in the mood for something lighter, but this was a great reminder of how easy it is to sneak a little superfood into soups and stews.
I think this stew also caught my eye just because I was looking for things to make in the Dansk pot I got for my birthday back in December. My mother had (and still has!) a red version when I was growing up, and I always loved it. When I was little, some of her pots and pans were so tied to my idea of what it meant to make delicious food, and her Dansk was right up there (along with a light blue baker that still feels necessary for making proper peach cobbler, in my mind). Silly or not, having one of my own immediately makes me feel like a more accomplished cook. My version is also six quarts–I asked Laura for her size opinion, and she wisely advised me to go big–making it the perfect vessel for recipes too big for my other favorite Dutch oven. I have a lot of tools that bring my kitchen joy, in other words. And this stew is a perfect excuse to break one out.
chicken, pumpkin, and black bean stew
(adapted from budget bytes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken broth
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin pureé
1 to 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, depending on your household’s bean fanaticism, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (reserve some of the sauce!)
1 tablespoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked quinoa
Add olive oil, onion, and garlic to a large dutch oven or stock pot and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add chicken breasts, and pour in chicken broth. Cover, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once the broth is boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Check periodically to make sure that everything is still simmering away, and add water as needed to keep the chicken at least mostly covered.
After 30 minutes (or once the chicken is cooked–I’ve at least once had to let it go a little longer), remove chicken and shred with two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and add in pumpkin purée. Stir until well mixed.
Mince two chipotle peppers and add to stew, along with a spoonful of the remaining chili sauce. Add black beans, cooked quinoa, corn, and cumin, and simmer for about ten more minutes.
Taste for flavor, and add salt if desired. Stir in cilantro just before serving (or just top each bowl with a few leaves, if your running low on useable cilantro…).