Stewed Chicken & Beans

by Travis Harvey

It may seem odd to offer up a recipe for a common dish that can be easily bought at the local comedor, but if you’re anything like most gringos around Xela, you’re living on a pretty strict budget, not real hot in the kitchen, possibly eating out more than said budget allows or otherwise finding sustenance in tinned beans. Though cooking beans is not the most difficult task, making them taste good is a little harder, and the use of a few local methods and ingredients can render them decidedly delicious. This simple recipe requires only a minimal amount of effort, a liquadora and two pots. Chicken has been included for flavor and textural variation, but can easily be omitted for a cheap and hearty vegetarian meal. Half a pound of dried red beans (white or black beans are also fine)

Half a chicken, cut into pieces
2 large white onions, diced
6 cloves of garlic, diced
1 bunch of thyme, whole
1 pound of tomato
3 bay leaves
2 chile pasa aka chile ancho (the large dark wrinkled one in the market)

1. Wash and soak the beans overnight to reduce cooking time.

2. Remove the stems from the chile and place them in a small pot with tomato and garlic and water. Cover and boil for twenty minutes. Drain off the water and blend with a liquadora and reserve.

3. Boil the beans with onion, thyme (leave bunch whole for easy removal later) and bay leaves until soft. This will take from an hour to two, depending on the beans. When ready, strain off most of the water and add the tomato mix, chicken, and a fair amount of salt. I tend to overseason, as beans take salt well, but remember that it will become saltier as it reduces down.

4. Simmer the stew for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the chicken pieces are tender and the stew has thickened considerably. Taste for seasoning and serve with, well, tortillas and rice. Meat lovers may choose to add a chopped and fried chorizo or two to the stew with the chicken and chile devotees can add a fresh chile to the tomato mix when boiling. Two points to note though: adding salt before the beans are tender will inhibit then from softening further and certain inconsistencies in ingredients mean that you may need to modify the amount of liquid used in stage three. ¡Buen Provecho!

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