Saturday, September 17, 2011

(Not Really) Moroccan Chicken & Lentils Recipe

Not Moroccan Chicken
Hunger ChallengeThis might be my favorite Hunger Challenge recipe. My apologies for it being brown on brown on brown, but trust me, it is delicious. On a bed of earthy and mildly spiced lemony lentils rests sweet roasted onions--some soft and some chewy--and tender roast chicken with crisp skin. It's is a combination of two different Bon Appetit recipes, but modified pretty significantly because I didn't have all the ingredients necessary. The technique for pan roasting the chicken thighs is a good one though I had to adjust it to keep the chicken from overcooking.

Beans and legumes like lentils are a very economical way to stretch a budget and more expensive ingredients such as fresh vegetables and meat or cheese. My chicken thighs were over 6 ounces each, so one per person was plenty, but if you need more for bigger appetites by all means double the number of chicken thighs. I baked this dish in the toaster oven, you may need to cook it a little longer if you use a conventional oven. I'm not sure how Moroccan the original recipe is. My version is undoubtedly even less Moroccan which accounts for he admittedly goofy name.

A few other tips for saving money when it comes to cooking and shopping:

* Canned beans are more than dried beans. Cook things like chicken broth, beans and rice ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator all week and use them as you need them.

* Look for vegetables that are in season and on sale. Compare the price to frozen vegetables especially for things like spinach and peas.

* Soups and stews like chili are easy ways to save, but you may get tired of eating soft food. Make some crunchy raw salads with carrots or beets to add variety.

* Scour the "ethnic" food aisles for bargains. Sometimes spices and even staples like rice can be cheaper there.

* Cook double portions and you'll have something to eat on days when you don't have the time to cook.

* Buy in bulk. Instead of buying a jar of spices and bags of dried fruit and nuts, buy just a few teaspoons or tablespoons.

* Price out "value packs." The chicken I bought was only 99 cents a pound, but most packages were at least four pounds.

* Utilize ingredients that add flavor, texture and visual appeal to your meals, but don't cost a lot such as fresh cilantro, green onions and toasted bread crumbs.

Not Really Moroccan Chicken & Lentils

$2.09 for 2 servings (double the chicken for bigger appetites)

Ingredients

1/4 lb brown lentils .32
3 cups water
salt

2 chicken thighs, bone in 1.60
1/2 onion, sliced .20

2 Tablespoons olive oil .40
Juice of 1/2 lemon .17
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon .05
1 garlic clove, minced .05
Chopped cilantro to garnish .10 (optional)

Instructions

Preheat toaster oven to 450 degrees. Combine water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over high heat. Add lentils; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well; rinse with cool water and drain again. In a mixing bowl combine the olive oil, lemon juice, chile powder, cinnamon and garlic. Add the lentils and toss. Season with salt to taste. Make a bed of lentils on each plate that you will serve the chicken on.

Season chicken with salt, pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until hot. Place thighs in dry skillet, skin side down, and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking until fat renders and skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Flip again so skin side is down and tuck sliced onions into the skillet, between the pieces of chicken. Transfer to the oven and cook 12 minutes. Check the skillet occasionally to make sure the onions are not burning and stir as necessary. Flip chicken so skin side is up; continue cooking until skin is crisp and meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Chicken is done when it reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from the oven. Place onions on the lentil salad and chicken on top of that. Garnish with chopped cilantro.