Chicken and Rice Stew with Mint

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I realize that most of us are loyal to our chicken soup recipes and when you find a good one that you like, you don’t want to stray from it. Because chicken soup is, above all else, comfort food. Or at least it is for me. It’s what I want when I am feeling physically under the weather or mentally overwhelmed. Big pots of it have seen me through finals and deadlines and bouts of the flu. While at times there have been people – moms and boyfriends and abuelitas in Mexico – who have made it for me, I usually have to make it myself (it’s the super pesky thing about being an adult, sometimes you have to live without your mom, although Guatemalans, and most of Central and South Americans seem to have not caught onto this fact yet…) and become a vehicle of my own comfort and nourishment.

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This is how this particular soup came to be. I wasn’t sick, but with the crazy schedule of writing and interviewing and cooking and working I have definitely been feeling undernourished. Most days I leave the house with nothing more than a granola bar under my belt and don’t actually sit down to consume a meal for another five or six or seven hours. Food has never been the first thing to go for me. I would rather sacrifice workouts or reading or showers (sorry), but something about working in a kitchen makes me want to put yellow police tape over my home kitchen. But as I adapt to the schedule I am slowly and surely getting better at figuring out how to squeeze in a little time in my own kitchen that doesn’t feel like work, that feels more homey and organic.

This stew was an accident. It was yet again another instance of looking in my refrigerator / pantry and thinking Well hell, this could work.  I would love to say that I snipped it from the delectable pages of a glossy magazine, but truth by told, I didn’t. Also, I also know I actually posted about chicken soup rather recently… but this chicken soup is different. The consistency is stew-like, making it a hearty dish that can stand up to those seemingly endless months of winter yet it is laced with enough vegetables that you feel like you could be in the middle of summer. The kicker here, however, is the mint. I never knew that mint and chicken were soul mates , but they are!   BFF’s, really. I usually associate mint with salads or sweet things or the food of my Lebanese heritage, but this combo is worth a try, and elevates this stew from soul-feeding sustenance to entertaining-worthy fare.  I reckon it would freeze very well, although I wouldn’t know because I ate it three times a day for three days in a row…

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Enjoy!!

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Chicken and Rice Stew with Mint

I suspect this would be an amazing dish in the crock pot. Just throw everything together in the morning and turn on low for 8 hours. When you arrive home from your taxing day in your industrial-size kitchen smelling of sweat and butter and stove (is that just me??) remove chicken bones, pull the chicken apart and add back to the soup with mint. Serve. If anyone tries this, let me know. Because I cannot eat a meal without tortillas, that is what I served this with. However, crusty bread works as well. Enjoy! Active time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 55 minutes; Serves 8. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bone-in chicken breasts
2 liters low-sodium chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup diced carrots 
1 15oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup long grain brown rice 
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin (about 6 oz)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 cup mint leaves, rinsed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste 

Tortillas or crusty bread for serving

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and fry until fragrant and slightly brown, about five minutes. Add chicken breasts, stock and carrots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer chicken breasts for 15 minutes. Remove to a plate and cool. Add beans, rice, cabbage and peas to pot and boil for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, shred chicken into bite-size chunks. Add back to the soup along with mint and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another five minutes, remove heat and serve immediately. 

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