Then I bumped into my friend L at the market and we chatted about recipes, and Facebook and, well, recipes that we post on Facebook. I told her about another first experience I had with purchasing a brown bag of black beans at Alan's Orchard, which required soaking & cooking. I usually just open a can but I decided to step out a bit and try something new. It was so easy, and I made a delicious chili. I cooked the beans in chicken broth, and added to it browned ground beef, cilantro, chili powder and paprika. Garnished with sour cream & shredded cheddar, the dish turned out to be better than the outcome of the Eagles playoff game.
L asked if I saw the latin chicken recipe she posted, which also included black beans. I hadn't, I must have missed her post that day. I was glad for the real face to face chance encounter, where recipes can be exchanged and discussed in person, the good old fashioned way. The recipe's mix of beans, sweet potatoes, salsa, cilantro and chicken sounded compelling, and colorful, but when I heard that it was a slow cooker recipe, I hesitated.
Next day I'm at Trader Joes where pre-sliced sweet potatoes caught my eye. The next aisle had the salsa. I had the beans and cilantro already, along with a jar of crushed garlic that would make this recipe even more efficient. When I came across a bag of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, it clinched it - I had to make this recipe.
Two mornings later, I was getting ready to leave for work, and I had an extra fifteen minutes. I thought "this is it!" and dusted off my brick red crock pot with the original booklet of instructions still inside. I browned the chicken, layered the ingredients, turned the thing on, and still had time to apply my makeup before leaving the house. I had to substitute smoked paprika and ground ginger for the cumin and allspice, and don't like red peppers so I omitted them. Overall, it was incredibly fast and easy to prepare. Too good to be true? I wondered.
Off to work I went, and with my busy day I completely forgot about my experiment. In fact, I did not have high expectations. But when I walked in my front door 5 hours later, I was greeted with the savory scent of home cooking. In my home, that I prepared, as if it were a long forgotten dream. And most importantly, L was right, this dish is freaking delicious!
I made some basmati rice and fed my family a wholesome meal that I will definitely make again. Black beans are one of the healthiest foods around, not to mention inexpensive. They are packed with protein, fiber, and flavonoid anti-oxidants. They even contain Omega 3 fatty acids! And the sweet potato is an unsurpassed source of beta-carotene and Vitamin A. The chicken was so succulent that it took on a shredded consistency that made me want to wrap it all up in a burrito. The cilantro remained bright green and flavorful, the orange sweet potato played off the black beans, and the paprika gave the whole dish an overall smoky complexion.
If you want to add some heat, add some red pepper flakes and some chopped jalapeno. I forgot to garnish with lime, which I think would have just totally kicked this dish out of the stadium.
I have renamed this dish Chicken La Flaca in honor of my Cuban friends who bestowed the nickname "La Flaca" on me to differentiate me from a different Lauren. La Flaca means the thin one. The other Lauren was pregnant, but I will take a complement where I can find one. At any rate, it sounds a little more exciting than Latin Chicken.
Here's the recipe as posted by L: