Savory Chicken Stew

• 2 tablespoons annatto oil
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 carrot, peeled, chopped
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 tablespoon sofrito
• Salt and black pepper to taste
• 1-14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes
• 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
• ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1 bay leaf
• ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
• 2 chicken breasts
• 1-15 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed. (Rinsing them reduces the sodium.)

1. Heat the oil in a heavy 5 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Mix in the sofrito and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme.
4. Add the chicken breasts and simmer uncovered at medium-low heat until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 25 minutes.
5. Transfer the chicken breasts to a work surface and cool for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes or to desired consistency.
6. Using two forks, shred the chicken and return to the pot. Bring the stew to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Ladle and serve.

Makes 8-10 servings

Serving Suggestion: For a heartier stew, add a cup of brown rice and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.
Annatto Oil: To make the oil, heat ½ cup of olive oil over medium heat and add ¼ cup of annatto seeds (found in the international aisle of your supermarket). Heat until the seeds begin to sizzle and the oil turns a bright orange. About 5 minutes. Strain the oil and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Sofrito: To make sofrito, using a food processor or blender, combine 2 chopped green peppers, 1 chopped sweet red pepper (seeds removed on both), 2 large tomatoes , 2 chopped medium onions, 1 head of garlic, 1 bunch cilantro leaves, ½ bunch parsley leaves. Refrigerate and use as needed or freeze in portions.

Elizabeth Carrion, a Dominican, co-founded Mi Cocina, a New Jersey-based catering service that also offers cooking classes, with her sister, Ana Martinez.

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