Medium Well

Chicken and Lentils
Last time I checked, chicken was still supposed to be fully cooked when it was served. Juicy, but well done.


Last night, mine came out medium-well. I had to boost the finished product with a little zap time in the microwave. Not the best solution, but if you have to give your medium-well chicken a little extra heat after it has been cooked and sliced, make sure to cook it in short spurts in the microwave so that it doesn’t get rubbery. Check every 15 seconds or so!

And, for a lentil loving family, make sure to prepare more than you think you will need – especially if you are serving undercooked chicken. I made the mistake of having too little vegetables last night. That was a first for us.

We are lentil lovers (“aliteration” – one of L’s vocabulary words this week). In soup, in salads, hot, warm, french green, brown and red. Haven’t tried the beluga lentils yet, but I may soon.

My friend, P (actually, she goes by “P” – her husband is “D”), once served me a recipe from a Lee Bailey cookbook, Cooking for Friends. The recipe is called “Papa Gouras’s Lemon Chicken” and it is a delicious, rich chicken served with warm “Lentils and Cucumber”. I think I had only had lentil soup up until that time (in the early ’90s). What a revelation. I have made lentils as a side dish ever since. The lentils in Lee Bailey’s cookbook were very simple and used a little olive oil and vinegar at the end of the recipe to give flavor and body. Then, I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for lentils in Barefoot in Paris. This recipe has lots of other vegetables and a different cooking twist – she soaks the lentils in boiling water for 15 minutes before cooking them. Brilliant!

My recipe sort of combines these two. More vegetables than Lee Bailey, but less than Ina Garten. Less liquid than Lee, more than Ina. I like a little tomato flavor with these lentils. But, since you only use 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste, it is good to buy the kind in a tube (still in the aisle of the supermarket with the cans, but in a box with a tube in it). This keeps virtually forever in the refrigerator and you don’t need to open a whole can for just a little bit.

Tomato Paste

You can serve the lentils hot, cold or warm. I upped the amounts to reflect the fact that we fought over each and every last lentil. Feel free to add fresh herbs while the lentils are cooking – a little thyme would be great, but is not necessary. Lentils are a great complement to any meat, I think. Especially if the meat is well cooked….

Lovely Lentils

Lovely Lentils

serves 4, with leftovers if you are lucky

1 1/2 cups green French lentils (or small brown Italian lentils)
3/4 cup chopped celery (1/4 inch dice)
3/4 cup chopped onion (1/4 inch dice)
3/4 cup chopped carrot (1/4 inch dice)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
kosher salt to taste

Rinse the lentils and put them in medium sized bowl. Pour boiling water over the lentils to cover by about 2 inches. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain them.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan set over medium-high heat, saute the celery, onions and carrots in 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add the lentils, tomato paste and the stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Continue to simmer, covered, stirring every once in a while, until most, but not all, of the stock has been absorbed – about 20 minutes depending on how rapid your simmer is! The lentils should be firm-tender and should not be falling apart.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and the pepper. Add additional pepper and salt to your taste. Serve immediately, or whenever you feel like it!


4 thoughts on “Medium Well

  1. Suzanne,
    Feeling a little lentil love and inspiration, going to try this one although I bet Sam and Steve will not be fighting over the lentils but politely pushing them around the plate. Still, I will not be deterred.


  2. Well, my family looked sideways at the ingredients for the lentil dish and even acted a little snooty about the concept. It was definitely a hit! “It tastes like potatoes!”, said Robin. Thanks for a great idea.

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