Eight-Spice Squash and Chicken Thighs Stew with Lentil Rice
The aroma of fragrant spices arises from this chicken and squash stew, served with rice and lentils combined with pomegranate, scallions, cilantro and mint.
Cool and store the chicken and squash mix for a make-ahead meal, preparing the rice as the chicken reheats over medium heat.
- 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium or 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 fresh red chili pepper, such as finger pepper or Fresno chili pepper, chopped
- 2 round tablespoons ras el hanout
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 cups chicken stock, divided
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 can diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
- 1 bunch spinach leaves (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 cup red lentils or brown lentils
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds, for serving
- 1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Cook’s Note: If you don’t have ras el hanout, you can make your own spice blend with 1 1/2 teaspoons each chili powder (ancho or mild to moderate blend, such as Gephardt’s chili powder), cumin, coriander and turmeric.
Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the EVOO in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken until crisp, then remove it from the pan. Add the ginger, garlic, onion and chili peppers and sprinkle with some salt. Stir in the ras el hanout, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and cook until the vegetables are tender, 10-12 minutes.
Pour in 2 cups of the stock along with the squash and tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer to cook through, 10 minutes longer, and then wilt in the spinach. Cool and store for a make-ahead meal, preparing the rice as the chicken reheats over medium heat.
Cook the lentils in boiling, salted water until tender, 7-10 minutes for red lentils, 15 minutes for brown. Drain and reserve. Meanwhile, bring the remaining 1 cup stock, 3/4 cup water and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to a boil in another small saucepot. Add the rice and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 16-18 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then combine with the lentils, pomegranate, scallions, cilantro and mint and serve with the chicken.