POULET AUX LENTILLES
Chicken with Lentils
Lentils appear over and over again on bistro menus with petit salé—salt pork—or with duck. Chicken thighs, quick-brined with seasonings, make a wonderful substitute. Serve this with a quick stir-fry of Savoy cabbage.
1/3 cup coarse sea salt plus ¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
15 juniper berries, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
8 chicken thighs
2 cups lentils
1 pound package baby carrots
1 cup frozen baby onions, thawed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ cup white wine
Stir together the salt, sugar, juniper berries, 1 ½ teaspoons of the thyme, ½ teaspoon of the pepper, and the cloves. Place the chicken thighs in a single layer in a non-reactive container; sprinkle on both sides with the salt mixture. Rub into the thighs. Refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 6 hours to brine. Rinse under cold water; pat dry.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 325°F. Cook the lentils with 5 cups of water in a large saucepan until just beginning to be tender, about 20 minutes; drain. Place in the bottom of a 13×9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Top with the carrots and onions. Combine the garlic, the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons thyme, the remaining ½ teaspoon pepper, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a small dish; sprinkle over all. Top with the chicken thighs. Add 2 cups of water and the wine to the baking dish. Bake for 2 hours or until the chicken is fork tender, the lentils have softened, and almost all the cooking liquid is gone.
Truc: Instead of making a salt water solution to brine the thighs, using an herbed-salt rub provides a similar effect.
If available, use French lentils from Puy to add authenticity; otherwise, regular brown lentils are perfectly satisfactory.
From Bistro Chicken (Broadway Books, 2004) by Mary Ellen Evans