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Basic Flavor enhancers for rice, lentils, and chicken?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I'm a very amateur cook who's trying to do a little better with my meals. I generally prefer hands off cooking and have made my first foray past the microwave, into a true meal from a slow cooker:

 

Brown rice

Lentils

Chicken

Frozen mixed vegetables

 

The only thing I do right now is add water to cover 2/3 of the uncooked ingredients.

 

Are there other quick ingredients I could add to make it taste good without getting too unhealthy? My knowledge of herbs & spices is rather poor.

 

Thanks

post #2 of 22

Get famliar with Thyme- very versatile herb that makes just about everything taste better. Just don't get too carried away with it- you don't want it taking over the flavor profile of the entire dish. But seriously, starting adding a little here and there... just a very nice complimentary flavor. 

post #3 of 22

I'll suggest getting some "Italian Seasoning"  to try out.  It is a mix of various herbs that most spice companies make, the herbs used are listed on the label.  And as your skills start to grow purchase those individual herbs to see what they are like on their own.  There are more spices, seasonings, herbs, flavorings and such than any one person can master in a lifetime.  Cooking is an adventure, relax and enjoy the ride.

 

mjb.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #4 of 22

Thyme is good, so are bay leaves.  Personally I love rosemary and oregano (dried and ground) for a dish like that.  If you have some, a little chicken stock would be good (or use a stock cube dissolved in water)  oh and don't forget the paprika  smile.gif

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #5 of 22

Lentils beg for bay leaves.  Use one or two at most.  Don't forget the salt and pepper.  You could throw a few spinach leaves in there too for color and flavor.  Make sure your frozen veggies have onion in them too.  If it doesn't you'll be saying "something is missing from this dish but I don't know what."  It's the onion.  Personally I would add garlic too.

 

Your dish will not come together very well unless you add a little bit of oil.  Olive oil is delicious and has incredibly healthy properties as well as being an unsaturated fat.  I would add 1/4 of a cup, but you can get away with as little as 2tbsp.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #6 of 22

Delta, you have to realize you're cooking very different products together with a very different cooking time.

Also, I wouldn't combine lentils and brown rice at all. Both are very nutricious. Above all, lentiles need an exact cooking time or they will go mushy. You also can't put salt in the dish as lentiles go tough when adding salt before they are cooked; ditto for cooking all "dried" beans!

 

The main "flavor enhancers" in your whole dish should be the veggie-mix you're going to use, possibly some herbs added. Lentils and dried beans in general have a close relation with sarriette or savory in english. We call it bonekruid; which litteraly means beanherb! Of course, your very own preference counts.

Also, do not cook your veggies with the lentils; they will turn a little dirty colored from the lentils. Slow cooking frozen veggies = no way!

 

Try this; lentils with veggiemix and fried chicken. (I'm counting 2 coffeecups of lentils to be used and two handfuls of frozen veggiemix);

Rince the lentils (put in a sieve and run water over them). One small coffeecup per person is very enough, they expand while cooking! Put rinced lentils in a cooking pot and cover with 2 fingers high water above the lentils. Add a peeled whole carrot and a whole shallot for taste and just one bayleave. NO salt!! Cover the pot.

Gently boil for maximum 40 minutes, but..  keep fishing a few out from 25 minutes cooking time on, and bite for doneness. Your teeth have to go all the way through, but there need to be some bite left (al dente). Cooking too long will make the lentils to go mushy all the sudden. When ready, most of the water will now have dissapeared (also a very good reason why not to be cooked together with rice). If there's some water left, pour it off. Get rid of the carrot and shallot. Now season with pepper and salt.

 

Before cooking the lentils; put a big pan of slightly salted water to a boil on high fire. Get your frozen veggies straight from the freezer and add them to the cooking water. Bring to a boil again for just a minute (most frozen veggies are already blanched, you might say pre-cooked). Pour through a sieve and let cool.

 

Assembly; put a little butter or olive oil in a pan or pot on gentle heat. Sweat a chopped fresh shallot. Add the veggies, stir for a while, add the lentils, mix gently, add herbs of your choice. Also, use some frech chopped herb like parcely. Taste for p&s. Also, drizzle somewhat like a teaspoon of lemonjuice over it or half of that amount white vinegar.  Enjoy. 

BTW, fry your chicken in the oven or in a pan. It's all about different textures.

 

Edit; I forgot the most important flavor enhancer with lentils; bacon! When assembling the dish start with sweating a chopped shallot and finely chopped bacon. Let the fat melt before adding veggies and lentils.


Edited by ChrisBelgium - 10/29/10 at 9:53am
post #7 of 22

Salt and black pepper for sure! They are the basic seasonings, and you cannot cook good food without them. One skill you'll want to develop, incidentally, is seasoning in layers.

 

I think you're missing the most obvious, though: instead of water, use stock. When you buy it, check the nutritional info carefully, because the salt content (it will list it as "sodium") is all over the lot. For someone like you, stock in a box can be a godsend. Just experiment until you find the ones you feel are most flavorsome (don't be afraid to heat some up and taste it---at base it's just soup In fact, stock is the base of most soups, and many sauces, and.....).

 

Personally, I wouldn't mix rice and lentils in a slow cooker. You're almost guaranteed overcooking the lentils that way. What you could do, if you want both (beans and rice is always nutritious) is to cook the lentils separately. Then stir them into the stew just before serving.

 

I am not a big fan of slow cookers, btw, because they take all the control out of your hands. Look at your ingredients, for instance. Each of them has a distictively different cooking time. But you're tossing them together to all cook X hours.

 

Let me recommend you pick up a book about braising, along with a heavy (cast iron preferred) Dutch oven. Follow some of the recipes and approaches in that book, and you'll see the difference control makes---even though slow cookers are merely braising machines.

 

Using something similar to your recipe, for instance, you'll learn the value of pre-browning the chicken, and when to add the various other ingredients. And get the warm fuzzies over having actually prepared a meal yourself.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 22

After everyone else said all that, I will say, a splash or two of Worcestershire always helps a crock pot dish and sometimes just a touch of hot sauce like Tapatio or Crystal can give it a little something in the flavor.

"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #9 of 22

Why not just read a basics cookbook?

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #10 of 22

For a lentil dish, forget the herbs, which tend to overpower.  Learn to sautee garlic in oil before you begin.  Lentils and garlic are great, but not just thrown in with the liquid.  Crush the garlic, and cook it VERY slowly in oil so the flavor goes into the oil.  Then add the lentils and water. (you don;t need broth) (a package of chopped spinach, if you want to be easy and use frozen stuff, goes much better than the mixed veggie things)..

 

I don;t see the point of putting chicken in there.  Sausages are good with lentils, but chicken is kind of wasted. If you have lentils and rice, you'll have complete protein and will not need chicken.  Add the spinach and you have a complete meal. 

 

If you want to be a little fancier, you can chop carrots and celery and onion and fry at the beginning.  Always fry these over very low heat until transparent and not browned.  That will add the flavor you're looking for. 

Many people get carried away with herbs.  If you add herbs, excpt something mild like parsley, bay, maybe a tiny bit of thyme or marjoram, you'll overpower the lentils. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #11 of 22

I do like herbs with my lentils! I like thyme and bay leaves. Here's how I usually cook lentils:

 

1) Render the fat from some pancetta or bacon.

2) Sweat a minced onion in the bacon fat, along with the bacon - salt a bit

3) Add minced carrots and celery, fresh thyme sprig and bay leave, sweat some more - salt a bit

4) Add lentils and chicken stock or water, cook for 30mn.

5) Adjust seasoning, finish cooking for another 20-30mn.

post #12 of 22

I also love herbs. I will try this recipe of your. smile.gif

post #13 of 22

The only thing I have to add is: When using frozen veggies, add them at the very end, and only cook long enough to get them nice and warm. Much longer, and they will get all mushy. 

post #14 of 22

Chicken stock = a lovely liquid to cook rice and lentils, even potatoes in.  You may not be making your own, so I suggest you buy a carton/can of low salt stock so you can adjust the amount as you go.

 

And taste, always taste as you go.  Even if it's just the liquid you are tasting because the other ingredients are not yet cooked, make sure that you add as you go, to your own taste.

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #15 of 22

Cumin, fresh thyme sprigs, bay leaf, chicken stock, coconut milk, S & P......mirepoix ( fresh onions,celery,carrot). You may run into a bit of mush with attempting frozen veggies in a slow cooker

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post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post

I do like herbs with my lentils! I like thyme and bay leaves. Here's how I usually cook lentils:

 

1) Render the fat from some pancetta or bacon.

2) Sweat a minced onion in the bacon fat, along with the bacon - salt a bit

3) Add minced carrots and celery, fresh thyme sprig and bay leave, sweat some more - salt a bit

4) Add lentils and chicken stock or water, cook for 30mn.

5) Adjust seasoning, finish cooking for another 20-30mn.

I suggested to lay off the herbs because most people who are new to cooking flood their dishes with herbs and you taste little else.  One bay leaf won't overpower and can enhance, and a pinch of thyme can be very delicate, but when you get a teaspoon of origano, you start to get the overwhelmed flavor that tastes fake.  I agree that a little of each can be good.  But when soemone is learning to cook, i think they should lay off the herbs till they discover other ways to get flavor. 

I never used chicken stock for lentils, since they;re tasty as they are (we get the tiny, dark, castelluccio ones) and anyway there is no canned stock here anywhere and i'll be darned if i make a nice chicken stock and don;t just enjoy it as soup!  Not hidden under the taste of lentils.  But i imagine it will add some flavor.  I never found lentils done with some garlic soffritto to be lacking flavor though. 

 

Rayther than bacon, i will sometimes use a sausage or two. 
 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #17 of 22

To me lentils are the tastiest legume and care for them to be simple as well.  A little onion, carrot, celery, and garlic along with good evoo, a bay leaf and plenty of lemon is my favorite kind of soup as well as being the easiest soup on earth.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #18 of 22

I like to keep lentils simple. A mirepoix, yes, and then, at the end, a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of black pepper. By all means, throw in a couple of aromatic herbs.

 

I'm not a fan of the idea of throwing a whole pile of frozen vegetables into a slow cooker. You're going to end up with, at the end of the day, watery baby food. A lot of vegetables will just turn to flavourless mush. Even if you were just boiling vegetables regularly (or steaming or stir frying or whatever), you run into the issue of different cooking times and, on a more technical note, the problem (if you want your vegetables to taste really nice) that some vegetables taste better cooked in fat and some better taste better cooked in water.

 

You can do an awful lot with lentils but they are simply beautiful cooked simply.

post #19 of 22

I saute celery, onion, carrot,garlic, add 1/2 chick 1/2 vege stock and a little tomato juice, bay leaf and thyme.

(Shallots and chive and white of leek also work well.)

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #20 of 22

Ed Buchanan, I almost did the same you just mentioned, after cooking the lentils.

Sauter shallot, a leftover chunk of chorizo cut in cubes, a softened carrot, a leftover chunk of cucumber in brunoise. Added cooked lentils, savory, a 1/2 cup of water and 1/5th piece broken from a chickenstock cube and some elderflower flavored vinegar and fresh parcely. Then, to make the sauce stick to the lentils; add a tablespoon of cream and 2 cm tomatopaste from a tube. The herb on the salmon is citronella.

 

It strikes me that noone uses the brown rice that the OP used... any notes on that?

 

linzenZalmChorizo.jpg

post #21 of 22

Beautiful plate Chris!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #22 of 22

Beautiful on several levels, KK. But it suffers from one flaw.

 

As an exercise for the sudent, can you name it?

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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