Smoky bacon transforms mild-tasting chicken breasts into a hearty fall supper. Wrapped around each chicken breast, rich, fatty bacon adds flavor and keeps the flesh deliciously moist. The bacon also complements the warm salad of tiny green Le Puy lentils that have an earthy aroma and mild peppery taste.
1 cup lentils, preferably Le Puy
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups KOL Foods chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
4 KOL Foods boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each about 7 oz.
4 KOL Foods Beef bacon slices
Pick over the lentils, discarding any grit, and rinse well under running water.
In a saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the carrot, celery, shallot and garlic, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lentils, broth, 1/2 tsp. of the salt, 1/4 tsp. of the pepper and the bay leaf. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. If the liquid threatens to cook away before the lentils are done, add 1/4 cup water. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, the vinegar and thyme. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Partially cover the pan and keep warm over very low heat.
Preheat an oven to 375°F.
Using a flat meat pounder, pound each chicken breast half until flattened to an even thickness of about 3/4 inch. Season the breasts with the remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. With the smooth side of the breast facing up, and beginning at a point under the breast to hold the bacon in place, wrap a bacon slice around each breast in a spiral. If necessary, secure the bacon to the breast with a toothpick.
In a large, nonstick ovenproof fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the chicken breasts, smooth sides up, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook until the other sides are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the breasts smooth side up and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast meat registers 170°F and the bacon is browned, about 20 minutes.
Spoon the lentil salad into warmed shallow bowls. Top each portion with a chicken breast and serve immediately.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).