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.

 

4 servings

 

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