real life test kitchen: slow cooker chicken and fennel soup

I love fennel. I often eat it as a snack like celery, and love cooking with it — whether it’s sprinkling fennel seeds in my meatballs (a trick my mom taught me long ago) or using throwing it into the pot whenever I make a homemade broth. This recipe at Real Simple caught my attention because it took my favorite stalk and tossed it into the slow cooker with some chicken and white beans. Honestly, I thought the results were a little ho-hum. Aside from the joyful plop-it-in-and-forget-it-ness of the slow cooking, I bet it would have tasted better if made on a stove top over an hour or two, starting with roasted chicken instead of raw. My take on the Real Simple dish is below.

Do you have a favorite chicken soup recipe? I’d love to hear about your go-to!

What You Need:

1 3/4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 carrots, chopped in rounds
1 large fennel bulb, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup dried navy white beans
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
salt & pepper

How to Make:
1. Toss chicken, broth, carrots, fennel, onion, beans, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beans and veggies are tender and the chicken is thoroughly cooked — on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.
2. About a half an hour before serving, transfer the chicken to a medium bowl. It will probably fall apart as you pull it out. That’s good!
3. If the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high. Add the pasta, cover and cook until tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
4. Using a fork or your fingers, shred the chicken into small bites. Once the pasta is cooked, stir the chicken into the soup, and shut off the slow cooker.
5. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the fennel fronds on top. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!