While it may be something of the past now, it always seemed to me that every family had that one dish that drew the family together. Something warm, hearty and comforting, a dish that young and old enjoyed and that really didn’t take much effort to prepare.
For my family, that dish has to be a meal we call Lentil Chicken. This one-pot wonder came to be a few years ago, one night when the fridge was nearly empty but we needed dinner. I had a few carrots, one red onion, a few garlic cloves and some kale. A rummage in the pantry turned up lentils and white rice, and I had a few chicken thighs left from a pack opened the night before. The wheels got turning, and after some quick prep, a few wild guesses and a half hour of cooking, Lentil Chicken made its way on to our plates… never to leave our menu again!
This dish is as simple as it sounds, a warm and rustic dish that is both filling and deeply nutritious. Thanks to the lentils, this meal can easily be a vegetarian/vegan dish if you leave the chicken out, and still be packed with protein and healthy calories. Lentil chicken freezes well, is great as leftovers for lunch, and because it doesn’t contain expensive ingredients, is a perfect, affordable options for entertaining. Paired with a nice glass of wine (both whites and reds go well, depending on season and preference), it tastes amazing and fancy while taking up very little time.
This is a meal friends and family have loved, and one that my two year old can’t seem to get enough of – she eats multiple bowlfuls every time I serve it! I’ve even made it with pheasant and it was amazing.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
4 large carrots, diced
1 red onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 chicken thighs, cubed
1 cup green lentils
1 cup white rice
3 cups water
3-4 cups of kale, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tbl cumin
1/2 tbl garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp celery salt
1 tbl curry powder
1) Prepare veggies, set aside. Cube chicken, mix with spices in a bowl. Add 2-3 tbl olive oil to a large, deep pan (one that has a lid) or Dutch oven, over high heat.
2) Cook chicken until browning and beginning to crisp up. Add vegetables, and cook another 4-5 minutes. The carrots should be starting to soften, and the onions becoming translucent.
3) Add lentils, rice, and water; mix well. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to low heat. Allow to cook 20-25 minutes or until liquid is gone and rice and lentils are fully cooked.
4) Remove from heat, add kale, mix well and cover for another 2-3 minutes, allowing the kale to steam and soften. It should be soft and a bright green color when ready. Taste, and add salt & pepper as needed. Serve immediately!
This meal goes well with a fresh salad, and warm bread with oil, or even lightly toasted naan. Often we eat it just on its own, however, since it truly is a complete meal in itself.
For freezing, cook the dish completely, then portion into freezer bags or foil trays, and freeze immediately. When reheating, bake at 350 until warmed all the way through.
For a fancier presentation, leave the chicken thighs whole, season, and simply sear them on both sides. Remove from the pan, and place on a paper towel (don’t worry about them being fully cooked, you’ll be adding them back in). Cook your vegetables, add lentils, rice, kale and water and mix well. Nestle the thighs on top, cover and cook as above. Serve the thighs on top of a scoop of two of the lentils, and it makes for a slightly elevated looking plate. (This is also the way I initially made this dish. I switched to cubing the chicken just this year, as it makes it a better dish do freezing, as well as gets my toddler to eat all of it. Either way, it’s still delicious!)