This roasted chicken with lentils recipe came out of a craving for the one-of-a-kind flavor of smoked paprika. It’s a strange place to start, trying to come up with a recipe from a single spice. But Googling paprika led me to a recipe by Chef Jose Andres that combine chicken thighs and lentils with the seductive combination of bacon, paprika and sherry vinegar.
My chicken and lentils makeover
The original Spanish chicken recipe was a little heavy for my taste. So I lightened it up. Here’s how I approached my makeover of this alluring peasant dish:
- I eliminated some of the fat. The original recipe called for roasting chicken thighs and I did keep that ingredient the same, even though dark meat contains about twice the saturated fat as white meat. I prefer chicken thighs for this dish because they don’t dry out as easily as chicken breast meat. You can use breast meat but I really wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re on a severely restricted diet.
- I added extra vegetables including zucchini and spinach to create my Spanish-inspired Roasted Chicken Thighs with Golden Lentils.
A healthy lentil dish with Spanish-inspired flavors
The result is certainly not authentically Spanish but it echos many of the Spanish notes in Andres original with the tang of sherry vinegar and that seductive bottom note of smoke I was craving from the paprika.
What is smoked paprika?
If you’ve never worked with smoked paprika, I think you’re going to enjoy your introduction to this Spanish spice. Also called pimenton or smoked Spanish paprika, it is made from chiles that are smoked and dried over an oak fire. (True pimenton is made using traditional techniques and can only be labeled as pimenton if it meets strictly controlled criteria.)Buy smoked paprika
A fine powder, smoked paprika offers both sweet and smoky notes. And it is, at least as far as I’m concerned, one of the most craving-worthy spices. You probably wouldn’t normally find it adding flavor to a pile of baby spinach but I love how it helps mellow the tannic notes of the greens.
So, my dish may not be distinctly Spanish. But what my roasted chicken thighs recipe is, is an easy, slow-cooked meal with a depth of sexy flavors just right for a healthy version of a romantic dinner for two.
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Golden Lentils
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 slices of thick-cut bacon diced
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 quart chicken stock or broth
- 3 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lg carrot halved lengthwise
- 1 lg zucchini halved lengthwise
- 1 small leek white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise
- 1 large red bell pepper quartered
- 1 1/4 cup golden lentils substitute red lentils
- 1 thyme sprig
- 1 1/2 lbs organic chicken thighs with skin
- smoked paprika
- 2 cup fresh spinach leaves
- 2 tsp sherry vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 450°.
- Heat a large, non-stick saute pan over medium heat (I use a non-teflon Scan Pan).
- Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
- Add the stock, whole garlic cloves, carrot, leek, bell pepper, zucchini, lentils and thyme plus 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
- Coat a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and arrange the chicken. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast on the top rack for about 40 minutes, until cooked through.
- Discard the thyme sprig from the lentils.
- Transfer the garlic, carrot, leek and bell pepper to a blender. Add 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and puree.
- Drain the lentils and return them to the pot. Stir in the pureed vegetables.
- In a small skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and cook over low heat for 1 minute.
- Add 1 teaspoon of pimentón. Scrape the mixture into the lentils and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the spinach and vinegar, stirring until the spinach is just wilted and season with salt to taste. Serve the lentils in bowls topped with the chicken.
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