Chicken and Warm Lentils

How do you get your inspiration? I open the fridge. I swear. What is there to use up? (if you’ve seen the last few posts, you’ll see this is pretty much my philosophy). There will always be an ingredient or two lurking around, screaming quietly “Me! Me! Me! Use me! I don’t want to go to the bin!” I always think around the things I need to use up. What can you do? What do you feel like having that this can go in? And then since I might end up buying something and have another leftover, that will lead to something else and so on and so on… Since it is a leftover, it will be in a smaller amount, so it won’t be the main ingredient in the dish. It can be, or you can buy more of it and it will be, but I’m thinking most often than not it isn’t. But it’s in there, it inspired you!

This time it was bacon. At least in my kitchen, bacon is not the main ingredient. hahahah it is sometimes an important one, but (gasp!) I can live without it. But not completely without it! Oh no! So what did I think of? The lentil de Puy salad from David Lebovitz has bacon…. but it’s kind of warm-ish food….I mean, don’t get me wrong, that salad is amazing, it made me eat and love lentils when I haven’t tried them for 20+ years (or only under coercion from my mother), but I felt I wanted a hot meal. Also, I had chicken breasts in the freezer. And half a pepper in the fridge….

The warm lentil and chicken recipe from the LCBO’s “Food & Drink” was the answer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am in love with that magazine. I miss going to the story and picking up my shiny new FREE copy of the mag. It is a special moment since it comes out 4-5 times a year and if you don’t get your hands on it on the day of issue, you won’t be for much longer. It goes like hot cakes! For a few years, it is what sustained me. I cooked pretty much only out of it. That is when I got the idea for a blog, but I never really started it. I really should have. Also, I thought of making all the recipes in there one by one and blog. But then Julie Powell came along and stole my idea! hahaha Julie, I will have you know, there are more recipes in the “Food & Drink” collection, than in Julia’s books. hahahahah

Just kidding 🙂 OK back to lentils! I made this with the awesomest of awesome lentil de Puy which are little treasures. They don’t fall apart and they… don’t taste like lentils… they taste like something nutty…. Oh my God, should I add maple syrup one day?! There is a salad that is made with these with goat cheese, walnuts and walnut oil and all that nuttiness makes them spring out, but I haven’t had the guts to splurge on walnut oil, but if I do, I am so adding a drop or two of maple syrup! (see how my brain works? I can’t fall asleep sometimes due to this!) [note that the reason I don’t want to splurge for the oil is not that it is expensive, but I won’t use it up… and I can’t have things going to waste now can I?]

I really liked how the dish turned out now. If I want my lentils in a hot meal, this is how I want them. Please and thank you. Also, maybe because of David’s salad, maybe because that is all I wanted tonight after all, or maybe due to the fact that they were in a hot meal now, it seemed as if the chicken breast was too much. It felt too heavy and playing… (gasp again!) second fiddle to the humble legume! I thought for a second (passed very quickly) to add some other green lentils in the mix, but I thought better and treated myself to lentil de Puy. I will eat them until I can. After that, I will go in withdrawal, suffer, and try not to think of their unique taste when they will be hard to come by… 😦

So, I leave it up to you to make the chicken or not, but you have to swear to make the lentils. If you can’t find the lentil de Puy, just use any green lentils that are not falling apart when cooked, hold their shape and have an al dente bite to them.

Lastly, this makes a lot of lentils, because the original recipe is for 6 chicken breasts, but I don’t mind the leftover lentils AT ALL. I will probably have more lentils than the normal person their portioned this for. hahahaha

Ingredients:

1½ cups lentils Le Puy, rinsed and strained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large leek, split, washed and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and diced (I used half of green pepper)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2½ (625 mL) chicken broth (I used water + 2 bouillon cubes)
½ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
6 thickly sliced bacon rashers
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, rinsed and pat dry

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

2. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan, and when hot add the leeks, celery, carrots, and garlic, stir, lower the heat a bit and let them cook for about 5 minutes; you’ll see them start to release their juices and cook off.

3. Throw in the strained lentils and stir.

4. Add the broth or water and bouillon cubes, the dried thyme and bay leaf and cover the saucepan. Let it come to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. The lentils would take some 20-25 minutes.

5. If you think you have too much liquid, take the lid off, increase the heat a bit, and let it steam off.

6. When you’re content with the liquid (I wanted to have some leftover, so it doesn’t dry out when reheated the following days), add the parsley and lemon zest. Stir. Keep warm.

7. In an oven-safe frying pan, fry up the bacon till it releases some fat and starts browning. Remove on a plate lined with a paper kitchen towel.

8. If there is too much fat, pour some of it off. (I was lazy and didn’t, it didn’t feel like a lot in the end) Fry the chicken a few minutes per side so it browns nicely, don’t let it stick and burn.

9. When you have a nice colour, either put a lid (if you have) on the frying pan or cover it with aluminium foil and place in the oven. (I swear, I did not look how long it was in the oven. It was a bit of a hectic mess in my kitchen… I apologize. Maybe tops 15 minutes…. Oh, and when you take it out of the oven, be careful of the instinct to touch the handle with your bare hand. It’s very hot. I checked….)

***The original recipe cooks the chicken on the stove and in the end, says to deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of chicken  broth. Because I put them in the oven and covered them, they released nice juices in the oven. So, there was no need to do that for me. But if you choose to cook them on the stove top, then have some extra chicken broth for deglazing.

10. Before serving, stir the bacon in the lentils. (The recipe says to sprinkle atop in your plate. Oh no, that bacon belongs in my lentils!) Serve.

This recipe has some baby spinach along with it, but to me it seemed more like a  plate decoration than anything else. So I made myself a regular lettuce salad with a balsamic vinegar vinaigrete only because due to David’s salad I know from experience that these lentils can take balsamic vinegar and they can take a lot! I absolutely love the balsamic with them! Oh, and a glass of red wine and I was ready to forget the delicious chicken alongside it! haha

(I am very much displeased how there is so little light in my kitchen when dark out. The natural daylight is great, but night time…. Not happy)

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