Chicken Baked with Lentils

I always kid that I was born with protective chromosomes.  They work hard to prevent me from becoming an alcoholic.  I have Irish ancestry, and while I hate the “drunk Irish” stereotyping, there were a few alcoholics in my extended family growing up.  Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, I avoided alcohol all throughout my high school years.  I drank my first official beer on a class trip to Munich, Germany my senior year of high school.  I can still remember the feeling that coursed through my body as the liquid entered my bloodstream.  How did I hold out for so long?!  All your inhibitions go away and you’re left with unfettered joy??  As enjoyable as that first experience was, I still abstained from alcohol for the most part throughout my college years.  This changed a little bit when I studied abroad in England my junior year.  Still, relatively speaking, I was the uptight girl who never really partied.

One of the defining moments of my life was when I was 11 years old.  I was getting ready for school that morning, and my mom came in and sat me down on my bed.  She said she wanted to tell me something before I went to school.  I was probably going to hear about it from other kids and she wanted me to be prepared.  My uncle had been in a fatal car accident over the weekend.  He left a wedding reception intoxicated and got into his car.  He ended up hitting the bride and groom, who were driving in the opposite direction, and the bride died instantly.  One of the details I remember many people always adding whenever this story was told was that the bride was still in her wedding dress.  It just made the whole situation that much more tragic.

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After hearing this horrendous story, I immediately felt scared and anxious.  Did this mean my uncle was a bad person?  Will the kids at school blame me for being related to him?  Indeed, there were kids at school who for the next several weeks let me know that my uncle “killed someone” and tried to make me feel worse than I already did about it.  A couple of days after the accident, my dad’s family gathered at my grandparent’s house.   My sister and I stayed at my grandparent’s house while the adult’s went to the hospital to visit my uncle.  I found the plastic bag that contained my uncle’s clothes from the accident.  They were torn and bloody, and I felt the weight of what had happened.  I’ve always wondered how that accident shaped the trajectory of my uncle’s life.  I know it hasn’t been an easy one.

More than anything, this experience framed my decision to not drink alcohol growing up.  When I did start to drink socially in my 20’s, I discovered that I was a lightweight.  What’s more, I always felt awful the next day.   And this was after consuming one or two glasses of wine!  It’s taken me over 10 years to seriously consider abstaining from alcohol completely.  Mainly because even with the physical repercussions that are inevitable the next day, having a glass of wine really does help to tame my anxiety.  Over the last several months, I have gotten better at being in social situations and not having a drink.  I know I will from time to time, but as I get older, I feel so much more grateful for those physical ailments that have restrained my ability to drink too much.

Chicken Baked with Lentils

I was in the mood to make a stew over the weekend and this recipe, adapted from The New York Times, sounded perfect.  Now that I know how easy it is, I can’t believe I’ve never baked chicken thighs before!  I almost always cook with chicken breasts, and I usually end up sautéing them.  But the dark meat just adds so much more flavor and juiciness that you can never get from white meat.  I hereby vow to start cooking with more dark meat chicken for the remainder of the year.  Although this isn’t technically a stew, it’s stew-like in its consistency after you pull it out of the oven.  It has a great rich, umami flavor that is helped along by the dark meat.  Radicchio, which is a bitter leaf, mellows and caramelizes after braising in the oven.  My husband declared this to be one of the best dishes I’ve ever made.  And that’s high praise coming from him. Let me know if you end up making this recipe, and have a great week!

Chicken Baked with Lentils

Juicy chicken thighs are baked with smoky bacon, bitter radicchio, and nutty lentils to create the perfect hearty and healthy meal!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, French
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound bacon diced
  • 3 lbs. chicken thighs 6 to 8 pieces
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery about 1 rib
  • 4 gloves garlic sliced
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cups finely chopped radicchio about 1/2 head, cored
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 3 cups chicken stock more if needed

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil in a 4-quart ovenproof casserole.  Add bacon and cook on medium until golden.  Remove with slotted spoon.
  • Pat chicken dry, season with salt and pepper and add, skin side down.  Sear until golden on medium-high heat, working in two shifts if necessary.  Remove from pan.
  • Heat oven to 300 degrees F.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan.
  • Add onions, celery and garlic, cook on medium until soft and translucent.  Stir in cumin.  Add radicchio, vinegar and sage; saute briefly.
  • Add lentils, stock, and cooked bacon.
  • Return chicken to pan, bring to a simmer, cover and place in oven.  Cook about an hour, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, but not all.
  • Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed, then serve.
Keyword bacon, chicken thighs, lentils, onions, radicchio

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