Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A poll and dinner

So I'm planning to do a demo/tutorial on my dye technique and I'd like to tape it on Saturday. I'm not sure what colorway to show, so I've put a poll in the sidebar to the right ---->. If you have an opinion, please fill it out!

Meanwhile, here I am blogging my dinner again. I tried this thing where I baked chicken pieces on a bed of lentils and liked it so much that tonight I tried it again with a slightly different configuration. It's good enough to record for posterity, although there was no measuring involved. So this is more of a notion of a technique than an actual recipe.

Boneless chicken baked on a bed of lentils, served with rice and kabocha pumpkin.

The kabocha was just chopped up into pieces, sauteed in some oil with sliced ginger and a bit of salt, and then cooked with a bit of water until tender, shortly before I took the chicken out of the oven. The rice was cooked in the rice cooker.

Earlier in the day I mixed together in the baking dish -

Chicken, dark meat and the giblets in this case, deboned, with the skin removed and trimmed and then returned.
mint, a generous handful of leaves chopped.
cilantro, another generous handful (although less generous because I didn't have as much) chopped.
garlic, crushed, it was about 4 cloves.
orange juice, 1/4 to 1/2 a cup.
olive oil, a couple tablespoons.
salt, pepper, ground cumin in whatever quantities seem good (ie to taste).

Here it is before I mixed it together (with invisible cumin as I remembered it after I'd mixed everything). I covered this up and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours.

The rest of the ingredients:
1-1.5c lentils
onion, 1 chopped
carrot, 2 small ones diced
raisins, a handful
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

At some point in the day, I cooked the lentils in a small saucepan. I added enough water to cover them by about half an inch, a bit of salt and pepper, and I brought it to a boil and then simmered for about 10min. They were soft without yet being as tender as I like and there was liquid still in the pot but the top layer of lentils wasn't submerged. I turned off the heat and went back to these later. The idea is just to par cook them enough to make sure they'll be cooked all the way through once the whole thing comes out of the oven.

When I was ready to actually bake the chicken, I preheated the oven to 350°F. I took the chicken out of the baking dish and poured in the par cooked lentils and mixed them with the residual marinade. Meanwhile, I sauteed the onion and carrot in some olive oil in the lentil pot and then mixed these and the raisins with the lentils. I then arranged the chicken on top, cut side down, and covered each piece with a piece of skin to prevent them from drying out during the baking. I had saved for the giblets a piece of skin from a chicken breast when I was deboning the bird.

I baked it at 350°F for about 30-35min and then I broiled it on a medium broiler setting until the skin had crisped up, not quite 10min. The sugar in the orange juice caused the skin to darken significantly. Since the lentils were quite wet with cooking liquid, the lentils cooked tender and there remained enough broth for spooning over the rice. Despite the presence of the chicken skin and the generous use of olive oil, it's not a very greasy dish. The lentils more than make up for the oil present.

Last time I tried this, I used a dry marinade of pepper, paprika, cayenne, thyme, etc. and it was also very tasty. I like to make sure that the lentils are not seasoned exactly the same way as the chicken, or at least not as heavily, so the flavors compliment without being overwhelmingly the same.

I think beans or chick peas could take the place of lentils easily as well. We just happened to have lentils and they cook quickly without any pre-soaking. Baking the pulses with the chicken helps keep the chicken moist through cooking, sort of as a cousin to a casserole. I take the trouble to debone the chicken because it cooks faster that way, but a butterflied whole chicken would likewise work very well and lead to a much richer bed of beans.

One thing I like about this is that it helps reduce the amount of meat we eat. It's not that I'm against eating meat but I know very well that we eat more of it than we really need. Beans and lentils are extremely filling and chock full of good things, and cooked this way they easily satisfy the craving for something rich and savory.

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