april 25, 2018
Some recipes come to life when all the right ingredients are at hand. Okay, quite often they are born when there is an excess of items in the fridge and pantry. Such was the case recently; too many boneless skinless chicken thighs, an eggplant unused for a cookdate and a full jar of French green lentils. Oh, and those four bottles of pomegranate molasses I purchased, thinking I would eventually put this wonderfully tart-sweet syrup to good use . Each ingredient was giving me the eye and daring me to ignore their union in this savory stew.
In summer this recipe for Turkish Lentil and Eggplant Stew with Pomegranate Molasses finds its way to my personal chef menus. It serves as the inspiration for today’s recipe. I prefer the heft and chewiness of French green lentils and surmised that the addition of chicken thighs would make a nice one pot meal. And so a new recipe is born. These days, my plate is shifting toward maximum vegetable power, so these six chicken thighs will yield six small dinners. A large salad or bowl of roasted vegetables on the side will more than satisfy my belly, but if you’re big on protein, you may want to fill up four big bowls of this stew. Pomegranate molasses is now easily found at your local grocers, so a special trip to the Mediterranean market is not a given. It’s sweet but also very pleasantly tart—a perfect tonic for the earthy flavors of lentils and chicken.
As you pile layers in your heavy pot or dutch oven, the entire mix may seem dry. Never fear, since all those veggies will release enough liquid as this dish cooks slowly. Want variation? Omit the chicken and add lightly seared or roasted spicy sausages. Omit animal protein altogether for a filing vegan dinner. I call for Aleppo pepper in this recipe (available at Penzey’s Spices and some Mediterranean markets), but crushed red pepper makes a fine substitute.
Not much goes to waste in my kitchen. This recipe was a happy accident of excess and creative license. Hope you try it and put your personal stamp on the ingredient list. Your kitchen will smell heavenly and your guests will gush.
Chicken Lentil Eggplant Stew
makes 4-6 servings
1 ½ cup French green lentils
extra virgin olive oil
one large green bell pepper, chopped
one large sweet onion, chopped
one 14.5 ounce can petite dice tomatoes ,undrained
5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (crushed red pepper if unable to find
2 teaspoons kosher salt
one medium eggplant, unpeeled and cut in half inch slices
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
- Cover lentils with water in two quart saucepan and bring to boil; simmer uncovered until just tender, adding more water to cover if needed, about 30 minutes; drain and set aside while you prep the remainder of the ingredients.
- Combine bell pepper, onion, tomato, garlic, hot pepper and salt in small bowl.
- To bottom of large dutch oven with lid, add about 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat.
- Add half the vegetable mix, then half the cooked lentils, then the eggplant slices, then the chicken thighs, then the remainder of the lentils.
- Top with the rest of the vegetable mix.
- Pour ½ cup olive oil around the sides of the pan.
- Drizzle pomegranate molasses over all, then bring the pot to boil; mixture will appear dry, but the vegetables will release liquid as this dish cooks and make a nice sauce.
- Cover and simmer until all is tender, about one hour.
- Flavor will develop as the dish sets; may be served immediately or after a day or two rest in the fridge, with oven heat at 350 for 30-35 minutes.
- Garnish if desired with dollops of Greek yogurt and cilantro stems.