I love making stews like this in the winter time. Hearty, filling, surprisingly healthful, and one pot stretches out over several meals. What could be better? Lentils especially are one of my favorite ingredients in soups and stews. If you’ve never tried them, don’t let their former healthy food, hippie rep fool you — they’re super flavorful, ridiculously high in fiber and protein, and keep you feeling full for a long time.
For this stew, I used a few simple vegetables we had laying around, but to take the flavor up a notch, added a secret ingredient: balsamic vinegar. Along with a splash of red wine, the two reduce to create a deeply savory, complex flavor that makes the entire stew taste rich and satisfying. This one is really easy to make on a Sunday afternoon, then take the leftovers with you to work over a few days. Here’s how to make it:
HEARTY CHICKEN AND LENTIL STEW
2 whole chicken legs, bone in and skin on
— kosher or sea salt
— freshly ground black pepper
— garlic powder
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 whole carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
3 stalks celery, washed and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 lb French green lentils (lentils du puy), rinsed
1.5 qt chicken stock
large bouquet garni: 3 sprigs oregano, 2 rosemary, 4-5 sprigs of parsley, tied together with butcher’s twine
1 small head of garlic, root end thoroughly rinsed, then cut in half width wise (you only need the bottom half with the bulk of the cloves)
2 whole vine tomatoes, quartered
Season the chicken legs well with salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a large heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot (but not smoking), add in the chicken legs skin side down. Brown for 3-4 minutes, then flip and brown the other side for an addition 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pot, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onions are very soft, fragrant, and turning slightly brown. Pour in the red wine and the vinegar, and stir the bottom of the pot vigorously to release any browned bits. Cook for 1 minute, then add the lentils, chicken stoc, bouquet garni, the head of garlic, and the tomatoes. Stir the mixture gently to combine. Add the chicken legs back into the liquid, as well as any juice that has accumulated on the plate.
Season the stew well with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for at least an hour, or until the chicken is very tender (it’ll practically fall off the bone) and the lentils are cooked through. Remove the bouquet garni and garlic bulb from the stew and discard. Remove the chicken legs as well and strip the meat off of them in large shreds. Add the shredded meat back to the stew and stir.
Serve in big bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some chopped parsley over the top!
Images by Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese