Chicken Thighs with White Beans and Wilted Greens ~ greens and beans are a superfood duo that’s been around for generations ~ this recipe is easy enough for a weeknight dinner, and perfect for when you want your company to feel like family.
This chicken thighs with greens and beans is inexpensive and nutritious, with roots in peasant food from the Italian countryside. The ‘beans and greens’ (scarola e fagioli) combination’s been a favorite of Italian immigrants here in the US, and it’s been made into soups, stews, and warming meals for generations. It’s quite quick to prepare, too, especially when you use canned beans, and prewashed greens will make it even faster. The Italians traditionally use escarole, but there are so many other varieties ~ spinach, kale, watercress, endive, radicchio, chard, arugula, beet greens, collard greens ~ and that doesn’t even include all the Asian greens ~ pick one, or mix and match.
TIP: Beans are beloved across the Mediterranean, and they’re a big part of why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy. My EASY CASSOULET is an example of how the French love their beans, while HUMMUS and FALAFEL show them off Middle Eastern style.
I compromised and used prewashed baby spinach, but took the extra time to rinse a fresh bunch of kale and watercress in cold water. Watercress is my favorite green, and you won’t find it pre-packaged because it’s so delicate. I de-stemmed and chopped the kale, but left the tender watercress alone.
Tips for cooking with greens ~
- Almost any leafy green can be cooked, even greens you might normally toss, like the tops of beets.
- The darker the color the more nutritious your greens will be.
- Most greens require minimal cooking, and that preserves their nutrients best. I add them at the last minute and I like to heat them just until they begin to wilt. They will continue to break down from the residual hit in the food even after you turn off the heat.
- You need a LOT of greens to make a portion size serving. More than you think. While prewashed greens are super convenient, they won’t be your most cost effective choice. A giant tub of baby spinach will cook down to a single serving!
- You can add extra nutrition and color to all kinds of soups and pastas by adding a handful of greens just before serving.
- Greens benefit from a touch of something acidic like lemon, vinegar, or wine to bring out their flavor.
- Do all greens look alike to you? I love this visual guide to greens from Epicurious.
I brown the chicken thighs in olive oil on the stove top first, then finish cooking in the oven while I prepare the beans and greens. I’ll nestle the chicken back into the pot right before serving so the skin stays crisp.
TIP: If you want to make this meal ahead, keep the chicken separate and reheat in the oven before adding it to the casserole. I run the thighs under the broiler at the last minute for extra crispy skin.
The classic minimalist flavor profile of this dish reflects its peasant roots…fresh greens and creamy white beans are delicious and best without a lot of strong flavors to compete with. Here it’s mostly garlic, along with the heat of the red pepper flakes, and a final shower of really good shaved Parmesan cheese. It’s simple, and it’s perfect.
Beans are the darlings of the health news lately, and it makes sense to try to get as many of them into your diet as you can. You can use beans in so many different formats, from a great appetizer like my COWBOY CAVIAR (great for game days!) to a classic MEDITERRANEAN BEAN SALAD, to an uber comforting CREAMY HAM AND BEAN BROTH.
Add wine, cheese, and a warm crusty baguette…life doesn’t get any better!
- 8 bone-in, skin-on, chicken thighs
- salt, fresh cracked black pepper
- red chili flakes
- olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
- 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 2 cups chicken stock (or 1 cup stock and 1 cup white wine)
- 2 15-ounce cans white beans (or cannellini beans) drained and well rinsed
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
- 1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed
- 1 large tub (1 lb) pre-washed baby spinach
- shavings of Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- Set oven to 375F
- Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a large braising casserole or Dutch oven with olive oil and heat over medium high heat until the oil is quite hot, but not smoking. Brown the chicken, skin side down and in batches, for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another minute. Remove to a baking sheet and finish baking in the oven, about 12-15 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 155F (it will rise to 165F while it rests. When done, cover loosely with foil.
- Meanwhile, saute the garlic, onion, and rosemary in the same pan the chicken was browned in. Add more oil if necessary and saute for about 5-7 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the stock, or stock and wine, to the pan and bring up to a bubble. Add the beans, and let simmer for a few minutes.
- Add the greens to the pan, a few handfuls at a time, stirring to wilt them.
- Smash some of the beans to thicken the sauce, and taste to adjust the salt, pepper, or red chili flakes. Add more fresh rosemary if you like.
- Nestle the chicken thighs back into the pan, and heat through.
- Serve topped with shavings of Parmesan.
Make it your own~
- Add extra flavor by sauteing bacon or pancetta until crisp, then remove the meat from the pan and continue with the garlic and onions according to the recipe. Add the crispy bacon or pancetta back into the pan in along with the chicken.
- Sausage would be wonderful in place of the chicken thighs.
- Leave out the meat and make this vegan or vegetarian using wine or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. This makes a great side dish, too.
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