February 13, 2010
Oh, lentils. We adore them around here. And while they usually end up in soups, I love them in dishes like this one where they really have a presence. They aren’t pushed aside by chunks of carrots or stewed to a creamy, less defined consistency. No, here you know you’re eating lentils. And using green lentils ensures they maintain their shape and bite. They’ve cozied with the likes of some major flavor players, including pancetta, radicchio, cumin and fresh sage. Yet the end result is mild, and I don’t mean bland or nondescript. Just a perfect marriage of good things. I didn’t know what to expect from this combination of ingredients, though I thought one or the other might shine a little brighter, yell a little louder. But no, nobody tried to shout the loudest or outshine the others. All of the flavors played as one. A true team effort.
The chicken thighs were tender and delicious and great supporting cast, but they didn’t steal the show. It was the lentils that made this recipe worth filing. I’m looking forward to making this again before winter’s end. And with the way things are looking around here, that may mean multiple times.
If you were hoping for a little something covered in chocolate or buttercream or sprinkles in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’m sorry. I hate to disappoint. But truth be told, I am a Valentine’s Day Scrooge. I’ve never been a fan. Maybe this stems from many panicky elementary school Valentine’s Day party eves. Never the one to send flirtatious mixed messages, I’d sweat over those gosh darn conversation heart sayings. I could not give Jimmy or Johnny or Joey hearts that read call me or be mine or u r sweet. I’d have to painstakingly dig and dig for u r cool or waz up or u r a star. I seriously did this. Don’t even get me started on how long it took me to decide on boxed cards.
Chicken Baked with Lentils(Adapted from Florence Fabricant via the New York Times)
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil
- 4 oz pancetta, diced
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 cups finely chopped radicchio (about one small head, cored)
- 1 T aged red wine vinegar
- 2 T minced fresh sage leaves
- 2 cups green lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 2 cups chicken stock, more if needed*
Heat oil over medium heat in a 4-quart oven safe dutch oven. Add pancetta and cook until golden. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, add to pan and sear until lightly golden. Repeat on other side and remove from pan. Do not cook through. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Pour off all but 2 T fat from pan.
Add onions, celery and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir in cumin. Add radicchio, vinegar and sage and saute briefly. Add lentils, stock and cooked pancetta. Season with salt and pepper.
Return chicken to pan, bring to a simmer, cover and place in oven. Cook for an hour, or until lentils are tender and have absorbed stock. Check seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.
*I misread the recipe and added 2 cups of stock instead of the 3 cups called for. I didn’t realize it until I reread the recipe to write this post. I thought the lentils were perfect with two cups of stock. A bit al dente which is the way I like them (unless they’re in soup). If you prefer your lentils saucier/softer, add 3 cups of stock.