Sometimes your timing is just off. Like right now. The beginning of this week was all rainy and gloomy-like, causing me to dream of a thick, hearty stew. But by the time I bought the ingredients and got around to making one, I think it was about 68 degrees and sunny. Where is all this infamous Bay Area weather I kept hearing about? I think it’s Mother Nature’s timing that’s off.
Oh well. Every once in a while, Father Time smiles upon you. Like a night last year when I poked my head in the fridge and pulled out a few things at random to start dinner. I had no idea what the finished product would be, but the stars aligned, and this stew was born.
Pure happenstance, I tell you. Red potatoes, fresh baby spinach – these are things I don’t often have on hand unless I’m planning a dish ahead of time that requires their presence in my kitchen. But there they were, along with chicken thighs, leeks, carrots, shallot, and thyme. Usual suspects. Oh – I was also going through simultaneous Marsala wine and red lentil phases at the time, so they came to the party, too.
And what a party it was! The center of attention, of course, was the chicken. She had way too much to drink – that Marsala is strong stuff! Thankfully her friends shallot and leek were there to mellow her out a bit.
This stew will delight any chicken fan. The meat to veggie scale is heavily weighted on the chicken side. And! It’s all swimming in a warm, super thick chickeny bath. Use homemade chicken stock if you have it (if you don’t, it’s time to make some!) – it really intensifies the chickenyness of this stew. Yes, I just said chickenyness.
Chicken & Lentil Stew
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 small bone-inchicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground celery seed
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup marsala wine (or white wine)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 leek, rinsed well and sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 2 medium red potatoes, diced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 handfuls fresh baby spinach (about 3 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- parmesan cheese, for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and the celery seed on both sides. Add to the pot, skin side down, and scatter the thyme sprigs around the pot. Cook the chicken about 5 minutes per side, then add the marsala wine, allowing most of it to evaporate while the chicken finishes cooking.
- Take the chicken out of the pot and tent with foil. Remove the thyme stems. Add the butter, shallots, leeks, and a pinch of salt, stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes until the leeks are softened. Add the carrots, potatoes, and another pinch of salt, cook 5 more minutes.
- Add the chicken stock, lentils, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile remove the skin form the chicken and shred into bite size pieces.
- When the lentils have fallen apart and thickened the stew, remove the bay leaf and add the shredded chicken and spinach; stir. Cook for a couple more minutes to warm the chicken and wilt the spinach. Off the heat, add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle into bowls and top with parmesan cheese.