March and April are apparently “the hunger season,” when most of the cold storage crops are gone and nothing fresh has come out of the ground yet. It’s also the period in my life when I generally start feeling gloomy and sad, wanting it to either snow and be pretty again like December, or warm up and get sunny like spring and summer are supposed to be.
Really the only thing for this uncomfortable time is to make soup. Soup can make you forget how gross and gloomy it is outside, help you feel better about curling up inside with a book, and make you so happy to be using up the beans stored in your pantry that you almost forget how angry you are to not be wearing your favorite new spring flats. Continue reading
This is one of those recipes that came out of nowhere for me. There I was, picking the leftover meat off of the easiest roasted chicken ever, wondering what I was going to do with the buttload of chard I had harvested from my garden, when it it me — soup. It’s finally soup season. And I could make some with chicken and chard, and I don’t know, white beans? Yes, white beans. Very Tuscan. Awesome.
This soup is so good that it made me wonder why I hadn’t tried chard in soup before. The reason is simple: it’s a texture thing. I sort of expected it to cook down into a huge mass that wouldn’t blend well with the other ingredients, but it didn’t. It held its texture beautifully, softly wilting but not turning mushy as I had feared.
White beans, chicken and the chard combine with garlic and even bacon to make a soup that is incredibly hearty and filling without being too heavy. I brought it for lunch three times last week, and it heated up perfectly each time. Plus, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free — what’s not to love?
If you don’t have leftover roasted chicken as I did, you can use the meat from a rotisserie chicken or from about three cooked chicken breasts. And if you don’t have as much time as I did to cook beans, feel free to use two cans of cannellini beans or whatever white beans you can find.
Chicken, Chard and White Bean Soup
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 30 mins
Total time: 1 hour 40 mins
Serves: 2 quarts
- 1 cup dried white beans, soaked
- 5 cups water
- 5 sliced bacon, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 bunch chard, de-stemmed and chopped (both leaves and stems)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 6 cups chicken broth (or bone broth, which is what I used)
- cooked meat from half of a 5-pound bird, or about 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- First, cook your beans. Bring soaked beans and 5 cups water to a boil, and boil for about an hour and a half, or until the beans no longer have a white dot on the inside when cut open. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in the bottom of a large stock pot, fry your chopped bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but about 2 Tbsp of the grease, then return pot to medium heat.
- Add red onion and the stems from the chard. Sautee in the bacon grease until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add white wine, broth, chicken meat and salt and pepper to taste, along with the beans, chard and the reserved bacon (minus however much you want to use for a garnish). Reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour. Serve, topped with crunchy bacon pieces.
Though all of the food on my honeymoon was pretty universally spectacular (bison tenderloin and boutique gin, for starters), there’s one simple meal that stands out in my mind.
Ben and I spent one night on our way back in Missoula, MT, a college town that for him meant fly-fishing and A River Runs Through It. For me, it meant a lot of great bookstores—and amazing food.
We’d spent most of our trip in some pretty remote locations, places where we could blissfully ignore the world, as there was no wifi, no cell phone service, and almost no reminders of the outside world. Waking up in the middle of a pillow-filled and down-enswaddled king bed in a Holiday Inn in Missoula was a bit of a weird feeling after a week of old and rustic lodges, it also felt like the height of luxury to us to be able to walk a block to a coffee shop, have lattes and split a scone, read the Wall Street Journal, and take a few hours to explore the city before driving back into Idaho.