Savory Chicken Stew

It’s no secret that homemade chicken soup is regarded as the food of choice when it comes to recovering from a cold or flu. 

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    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
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    Step 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.
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    Step 2: Mix in the sofrito and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
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    Step 3: Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme.
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    Step 4: Add the chicken breasts and simmer uncovered at medium-low heat until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 25 minutes.
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    Step 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.
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    Step 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.
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    Step 7: Ladle and serve.
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    Alternate version: For a heartier stew, add a cup of brown rice and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.
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    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.
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    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.
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