One of the very early TV chefs on WTTW Public Television was someone called Jeff Smith aka The Frugal Gourmet. I used to watch him with my mother and I even bought two of his cookbooks. The recipes are generally quite good and he was kind of a kook – fun to watch and read and seemingly unpretentious.
Unfortunately, his name and show went down in flames when it came out that he was also a sexual predator. I seriously considered tossing his cookbooks when I found out, but I came to my senses and realized that the recipes were innocent of any wrong-doing and I had already spent the money years earlier.
I was looking for a particular recipe when I came across the one I am making for tonight’s dinner – Chicken and Lentils. I will serve it with pita and a green saladwith heirloom tomatoes. A crusty bread is also fine. This is real comfort food – meant for family and close friends. It is not highly spiced, but it is deliciously seasoned. One perfect bite and you will just smile.
Chicken with Lentils – adapted from the Frugal Gourmet
Yields: 6-8 servings
2 cups lentils, rinsed (I’m using red lentils but almost any kind will do)
1 generous teaspoon crushed or finely minced garlic (You can buy the jars in the produce section. It saves time and I go through it so quickly it stays fresh.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons oregano, crushed between your fingers
1 teaspoon dried dill weed, crushed between your fingers
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (You can use all water if you prefer.)
up to 2 cups water
3-4 pounds chicken pieces bone-in, skin on
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (Juice of about 2 lemons)
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 -4 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
Sumac (optional) for garnish
- Rinse the lentils and place them in a 6 quart pot with the garlic, bay leaves, oregano, dill, salt and chicken stock. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for about 35-45 minutes until the lentils are very tender but still are holding their shape. (This may vary a little depending on the lentils you use.)
- Add the lemon juice to the finished lentils. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a heavy-duty pan (I love, love, love Lodge cast iron) brown your chicken pieces in Canola oil (or some other oil that can take the heat and won’t add a lot of flavor) after lightly seasoning them with the Kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
- Place the browned pieces into a casserole or Dutch Oven.
- Pour the lentil mixture over the top. Cover and bake in the 350 degree oven for 1.25 hours.
- Serve with a good dollop of Greek Yogurt and some chopped parsley for garnish. Sprinkle with a little Sumac, that wonderful fruity, lemony Middle Eastern spice which can be purchased in Middle Eastern grocery stores or online at Nuts.com. I love lemon so I squeezed on a bit more just before taking that first perfect bite.