For this “stew” if you will, meaty bone-in chicken thighs are seasoned with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper and then browned to build a base of flavor with a subtle, smoky depth of braised chicken with hearty stewed lentils. Next, the onions, tomatoes, and carrot are sautéed and layered in garlic, tomato paste, and earthy fresh thyme to keep the flavor rich and complex.
Tomato paste plays double-duty, adding savoriness while helping to thicken the lentils. The browned chicken thighs are nestled into the lentils, fortifying them with chicken stock and some extra smoked paprika, and braises the mixture uncovered in the oven.
Keeping the Dutch oven uncovered thickens the stewed lentils as the chicken braises. Whisking a splash of sherry vinegar in at the end brightens the dish and helps break down some of the lentils, adding body and creaminess.
Preferably use a large, 6-quart Dutch oven; if your Dutch oven is smaller, you will need to sear the chicken in batches and allow the chicken to overlap slightly in the lentil mixture in step 4. Whisking the lentils vigorously in step 5 helps create a rich, creamy sauce.
2 large plum tomatoes, cored and chopped1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle all over with salt mixture.
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until skin is well browned, 12 to 16 minutes; transfer chicken to plate.
Add tomatoes, onion, carrot, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper to fat remaining in pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes begin to break down, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in garlic, tomato paste, thyme, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fond begins to form on bottom of pot, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in broth, scraping up browned bits. Stir in lentils and remaining 1 teaspoon paprika. Nestle chicken into lentil mixture, skin side up, and bring to simmer over high heat.
Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken registers at least 185 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes.
Transfer chicken to clean plate. Return pot (handles will be very hot) to stovetop and continue to cook lentil mixture over medium heat, stirring often, until liquid is thickened and lentils are fully tender, 5 to 7 minutes longer.
Add vinegar and whisk vigorously until liquid is creamy, about 30 seconds (lentil mixture will thicken as it cools). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer lentils to shallow serving bowls and top each portion with 2 chicken thighs. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
This classic Middle Eastern za’atar recipe is a one pot meal. But what exactly is za’atar seasoning? And what goes in it? Well, the word za’atar (pronounced “zah-tahr”) literally translates to mean “wild thyme” in Arabic. But it’s better known as a seasoning blend, whose ingredients vary slightly from country to country across the Middle East.
Most home chefs won’t necessarily have za’atar seasoning on hand, nor did we, so The Hubs found a version on “Gimme Some Oven” website—now isn’t that a clever name! The three main ingredients are thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It’s very versatile and can be used on anything from meat, fish, veggies, dips, salads, soups or even popcorn!
What’s nice about this dish if you have diners in your household who have different preferences regarding both white and dark meat, like us, it’s interchangeable. Even though the original recipe calls for only dark meat, we used a combination of 4 thighs, and 2 breast halves that were chopped into two pieces each (producing 8 pieces total, 2 more than the recipe calls for).
We only used 2 tablespoons of the za’atar seasoning to sprinkle on the chicken, which was more than plenty. The remaining one tablespoon was added to the pot after the onion and carrots were cooked down.
A little trick we learned when braising both white and dark meat, is to set the white meat on top of the thighs for a majority of the cooking time. This helps ensure the breast pieces will not overdone and rubbery. Then nestle them into the liquid for the last 15 minutes or so.
1 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano, whole or halved
Fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat oven to 325°F. Season chicken with za’atar. In a deep oven-going skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until brown. Transfer to a plate. Don’t crowd the pot, you may have to do this in two batches.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrots to pot. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute.
Stir in broth, lentils, and tomato paste. Return chicken and juices to pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover; braise in oven 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender (at least 175°F).
Transfer chicken to a platter; keep warm. Strain remaining mixture, reserving liquid.
Add lentils and vegetables to chicken on platter; cover.
Return liquid to pot. Boil over medium-high 10 to15 minutes or until reduced by half. Pour liquid over chicken and lentils.