Weekly Winner:  Bridging the Seasons with a Comforting Stew

It has been unseasonably cool here the last few days and almost immediately I began thinking of “fall food”.  Those dishes that bridge the gap from end of summer to beginning of autumn without heating up the house too much and while still taking advantage of all the great summer produce.  And, to be honest, I’m just starting to tire of salads, grain bowls and the like.  I wanted comfort. And while I’m certain there are a few scorching days left for us here in Chicago this summer, I thoroughly enjoyed cozying up to a bowl of something warm with the windows open and a cool, autumnal breeze blowing through the house.

Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew is the perfect “gap” meal.  The fresh tomato and zucchini still taste like summer and the curry, lentils and yogurt make it a substantial meal.   I will be making this dish long after summer and well into football season! The recipe comes Cooking Light and its one of those dishes that while it tastes extravagant, you know it’s incredibly healthy.

Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups chopped zucchini

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped, seeded tomato

2 Tbsp curry powder

2 Tbsp ketchup

2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 (17.6-oz) pkg. steamed cooked lentils (about 2-1/2 cups)

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp plain whole-milk yogurt (I used more)

Procedure:

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic; cook 3 minutes. Add tomato, curry powder, and ketchup; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Combine stock and flour in a small bowl. Add stock mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in salt and lentils; cook 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in lime juice. Divide lentil mixture among 4 bowls; top evenly with yogurt.

Weekly Winner:  A Perfectly Pressed Chicken Dinner

 There is really nothing better than a scrumptious roasted chicken with crispy skin.  To me, that’s the ultimate comfort food and a dish that screams “Sunday Supper”.  I’m also a huge fan of lentils – not just any lentils, but aromatic, creamy Puye lentils. Finding a recipe that combines all of these things set expectations mighty high.  This recipe, however, did not disappoint.  My photography, however did disappoint.  Big time.  The dish was delicious and definitely looked much better in person.

The chicken wasn’t overly messed with but it was weighted down with a cast iron skillet which helped flatten it and create a wonderfully crispy skin.

The lentils definitely were messed with and cooked with a whole bunch of balsamic vinegar.  At first I worried that it was too much and would result in an overly acidic dish.  But it actually mellowed a bunch during cooking.  And the addition of the walnuts added a wonderful crunch and richness.

All around this was a banner dish.  The recipe comes from Food and Wine magazine and while the total amount of time required may seem like a lot, the majority of it is “hands-off” cooking.  And as an added bonus, your house will smell fabulous!

Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Lentils and Walnut Vinaigrette 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Lentils

1/2 cup walnuts

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup Puye or Beluga lentils

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and pepper

Chicken

2 tbsp olive oil

One 4-lb chicken, backbone removed, chicken halved

Kosher salt and pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Walnut Vinaigrette

1/4 cup toasted walnut oil

2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Kosher Salt and pepper

Procedure:

  1. Make the lentils – in a medium saucepan, toast the walnuts over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Chop the nuts and transfer to a small bowl.  In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes.  Add the lentils, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar and 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender, 15 minutes longer. Stir in the butter and mustard and season with salt and pepper.  Keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, make the chicken – preheat the oven to 400. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set breast side down in the skillet.  Cover with foil and another cast iron skillet.  Cook the chicken over moderate heat until golden, 8-to-10 minutes.  Flip the chicken halves and roast in the oven, uncovered until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Whisk the butter into the pan juices and season with salt and pepper.  Strain the jus and keep warm.
  3. Make the vinaigrette – in a small bowl, whisk the walnut oil with the sherry vinegar and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Carve the chicken. Stir the toasted walnuts into the lentils and spoon onto plates. Top with chicken. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve the chicken jus on the side.