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Red Lentil Chicken Stew

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are smack dab in the midst of THE SNOWPOCALYPSE!

No…  We're not dealing with rivers of blood, plagues of locusts, the dead rising from the grave, or even cats and dogs sleeping together...

But a wave of mass hysteria certainly seems to have descended upon the region.

And –– OH SWEET HOLY HELL! –– people are driving like crap.

Unless you're me (of course) and drive a forty-year old four-wheel drive International Harvester Scout II.*

1974 International Harvester Scout II in the Snow

By the way, my car's name is "Stella," and she is an absolutely wonderful ride.

But I digress…

Anyways, when a snow day (or snow weekend) strikes your city, the best thing you can do –– the smartest thing you can do –– is to hang out at home with friends and family and cook up some healthy and delicious food.

Myself, I'm a huge, HUGE fan of soups and stews, and view snow days as the perfect opportunity for setting up a crock pot, prepping some meat and veggies, and letting the magic of low heat and a loooooooong slow cooking time create intensely flavorful dishes.  And though I have a wide range of recipes in my crock pot repertoire, my old standbys –– the recipes I keep coming back to again and again –– almost always involve lentils.

Damn...  I LOVE lentils!

Lentils are filling, flavorful, packed full of protein, relatively low on the glycemic index scale, and a fantastic source of fiber.  They're also incredibly inexpensive, easy to prepare, quick to cook, and the basis for hundreds of great tasting meals .

And my absolute favorite lentil dish of them all?

Red Lentil Chicken Stew. 

This is SUCH a tasty dish!   And oh-so-easy to prepare…

Here's what you're gonna' do:


STEP #1:

Get your old slow cooker or medium-sized crock pot out of storage (you know, the one given to you when you first headed off to college nearly 30 years ago), rinse it out well, and set it up somewhere in your kitchen.  You'll also need a small lidded saucepan for some of the cooking prep work.


 STEP # 2:

Gather and prep all the ingredients listed below.  This  will all go together super quickly, especially if you start and complete all the dicing and grating needed for the shallot, onion, garlic, ginger, and turmeric.


2 Cups of dried red lentils, washed and drained.

Two whole skinless chicken breasts.


5 Cups of chicken broth (or a light vegetable broth).

4 Cups of water, divided in half (i.e.: 2 cups + 2 cups)


2  Tablespoons of butter.

2 Tablespoons of coconut oil.


1 Small shallot, diced.

1 Small onion, diced.

2 Cloves of garlic, crushed.


1 Teaspoon of whole cumin seeds.

2 Teaspoons of black mustard seeds.

2 Teaspoons of red pepper flake.


1 Tablespoon of fresh, grated ginger.

1 Tablespoon of fresh, grated turmeric.

2 Teaspoons of ground cumin powder.


1 Large cinnamon stick.

1/2 Cup of fresh cilantro, chopped.

 1  14 (Fourteen) ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes, diced.

The juice from half a small lime.

One teaspoon of salt.


OPTIONAL: Additional salt to taste.

OPTIONAL: Lime wedges as garnish.

OPTIONAL: Extra chopped cilantro as garnish.


 STEP # 3: 

Follow these super easy instructions...

Put the butter and coconut oil into a small lidded saucepan; place on medium heat.

When the butter and oil start to bubble up, toss in the whole cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and red pepper flake.  Stir lightly, till all the seeds are coated with oil.  Place the lid on top.

Within a minute or two, the mustard seeds will start popping, much like popcorn.  When this happens, add in the shallots, give a good stir, put the lid back on, and let cook for about another minute or so –– just long enough to soften and slightly brown the shallots.

Now add in the onion, garlic, grated ginger, and grated turmeric.  It's okay to leave the lid off at this point.  With the heat still on medium, stir every fifteen to twenty seconds, and continue to do so for about two or three minutes, till everything softens up and the flavors have all blended.  Turn the heat off.  Slowly –– SLOWLY –– add in two cups of water to the saucepan, then stir.

Into the medium-sized crock pot or slow cooker, add the washed and drained red lentils, the five cups of chicken broth (or light veggie broth), two cups of water, the cinnamon stick, the ground cumin powder, lime juice, cilantro, and the fire roasted tomatoes.

Add the contents of the saucepan (i.e.: all the cooked and softened seeds and herbs, along with the water) into the crock pot.

Stir everything up.

Now, place the two chicken breasts into the crock pot, submerging them underneath the lentil/broth mix.

Turn the crock pot up to "High," then put the lid on top.

Walk away for at least four hours.  Maybe go off and play a round of golf.

When you come back –– after those four or more hours –– the lentils and chicken should be fully cooked.  The aroma will be absolutely amazing, too.  

Use a pair of forks to lightly separate the meat within the crock pot.  If for any reason the chicken meat seems underdone (though it shouldn't), let it continue to simmer in the pot for another half hour or so.

Now give a taste test.  The dish should be intensely flavorful.  At the same time –– and this all depends on your personal preferences –– you might want to add a bit more salt.

Once properly seasoned, ladle the stew into individual bowls, served piping hot.

If you want to get all fancy (and add some extra flavor elements to the dish), garnish each bowl with a lime wedge and some fresh chopped cilantro.


STEP # 4:

Prepare yourself for an onslaught of compliments and accolades.  This recipe is sooooooooo incredibly tasty.



*Just in case you'd like to know, "Stella" is a 1974 International Harvester Scout II with 69,000 original miles.  Her interior is in fantastic condition, as is her exterior.  Aside from a small ding on her left rear fender, she looks as though she'd just been driven off the lot.