I love a good cooking competition reality show as much as the next guy. My husband and I make it a habit, in fact, to pause the DVR the moment the Chopped mystery basket is opened: “Quick, what would you make with toasted corn cereal, silken tofu and a bottle of pomegranate kombucha?!”
I have to excuse myself from viewing, though, when they reach for the mandolin. Every time, without fail, it makes me recoil. The “only 10 seconds left!” tenacity with which they wield those things usually leads to a bit of their fingertip being added to whatever salad or fancy garnish they’re prepping.
I’m cringing just writing about it.
That’s why I implore you to make the investment to buy a mandolin ASAP. That’s right, you heard me. Drop everything and run, don’t walk. Those professional chefs on the TV reach for these things for reasons beyond self-mutilation (unintentional as it may be). They’re incredibly handy for precision accuracy and lightning speed when thinly slicing anything for a recipe (much like the celery and fennel you see below). The true key to success with a mandolin is to (A) take your time, (B) use the guard, (C) always use the guard, and (D) stop rushing and keep using the guard (even when you don’t think you need it).
Lucky for you there’s no countdown clock hanging above a judge’s table. Take a little time to get to know a mandolin now and it’ll save you a bunch of time in a Dinner Rush! pinch down the line.
Mustardy Chicken Thighs with French Lentils
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
For the dressing:
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Salt and ground black pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup French lentils
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large mixing bowl whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Pour half of the dressing into another bowl or zipper-lock plastic bag and set aside. Reserve the remaining dressing in the bowl.
Add the chicken thighs to the portioned dressing, tossing them to evenly coat. Marinate the chicken thighs for 10 minutes.
While the chicken is marinating, place a medium pot of salted water over high heat to boil. Add the lentils to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer the lentils until tender, 16 to 18 minutes. Drain the cooked lentils and, while they’re still warm, toss them in the bowl with the reserved dressing, celery and fennel. Set aside.
Place a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Saute the marinated chicken thighs in the pan until deep golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Serve the lentils warm with the chicken thighs.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen , he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Instagram at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.