Who knew that being frugal could taste this good?

chicken with lentils

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 Lentilsadapted 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


  1. 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.)
  2. Add the lemon juice to the finished lentils.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. 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.
  5. Place the browned pieces into a casserole or Dutch Oven.
  6. Pour the lentil mixture over the top. Cover and bake in the 350 degree oven for 1.25 hours.
  7. 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.

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