Sometimes, the best dishes come out of one big pot.
Lentils are a weakness of mine. Lentil Soup was always the perfect medicine for me growing up, and I still reach for them whenever I need a comforting and hearty meal. They are also great for making one-pot meals when you just need to get rid of some things in the refrigerator.
I absolutely had to cook the remaining chicken thighs from the package I used a few days earlier. I am not a fan of “refreezing” meat, and since I only buy what is on sale (and also looks good) in the store, the meat tends to come in big packages. So they have been hanging out in Tupperware for two days already. It’s about time I used them.
I did not want to bake them or fry them. I needed comfort. I reached for my big pot and started to take out vegetables that I had laying around. Carrots, Lentils, Onions, and Plum Tomatoes. (I had forgotten that I had potatoes; they could have gone in there as well.) Basically, anything hanging around that you need to finish off is great for one pot dishes.
The first thing I did was season the chicken. Salt, Pepper…and Paprika! Why not? I was in the mood for a little kick. Paprika has an earthy and spicy taste, and not used on chicken enough. I drizzled some extra virgin olive oil in a pot and laid the chicken thighs skin-down first to braise. After a few minutes, I turned them over. All you need is a gentle browning. This gives the skin on the chicken a chance to render its fats into the oil and to seal in the moisture of the chicken. Like so..
After they were done, I took them out and put them on another plate. Then, I started to lay all the veggies in there. Sliced onions, baby carrots (no need to chop!), and a bit of lentils. I eyeballed everything. Measuring takes up too much of my time. And again, if I had remembered the potatoes, they would have gone in there too.
Once I mushed them around a bit and the onions and lentils were getting browned, I poured in the tomatoes with their juice. It needed some more water, and I did not want to dilute it with plain water. I had a leftover can of chicken stock, so I poured that in. Almost by instinct, I poured in a cup of orange juice. Why, you ask? It is citrus-y and it is a secret many restaurant chefs don’t tell anyone. Whenever you are making a spicy dish, add some lemon or orange peel and you will see a major difference. If you are making a brothy one, add some orange juice. Fresh squeezed, ideally, but any would do.
After all that is swirled together, snuggle in the chicken. Add some red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of salt. Pop on the top, simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, and you are done! The liquid should be a bit reduced, and keep simmering it until you want it to its desireable consistency. And as always, taste test it for seasoning.
Now, there are many things you can do to complete this dish. I made some rice and decided to pour the veggies and broth on top of it. You can make a long pasta with the broth and pile the veggies on it that way. You can serve it with flatbread or, if you used potatoes, you can leave it as is and have a nice stew. You can substitute lamb for the chicken and make it more Middle Eastern if you wish. You can almost do nothing wrong when eating this dish!
BRAISED CHICKEN THIGHS with SPICY LENTILS
3 chicken thighs
2 tsp of paprika
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup baby carrots
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup of lentils
1/2 can of plum tomatoes with their juice
1 can of chicken stock
1 cup of orange juice
1 – 2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika on both sides of the chicken thighs.
2. Heat the oil in a large pot. Lay the chicken thighs, skin side down, in the oil. Brown on both sides (7 – 8 minutes)
3. Remove chicken and rest on plate.
4. In the same pot, add the onions, baby carrots, and lentils. Combine all the vegetables until the onions are almost transluscent and the lentils are browned.
5. Add the plum tomatoes and their juice, chicken stock, and orange juice. Combine.
6. Rest the chicken in the stew and add red pepper flakes (optional).
7. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 – 40 minutes.