30-Minute Pressure Cooker Chicken, Lentil, and Bacon Stew With Carrots

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My wife has taught me many things, but few as mind-blowing and useful as this five-ingredient, one-pot, 30-minute Colombian chicken stew with potatoes and tomatoes. It works like this: Add chicken, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, sliced onion, and bay leaves to a pressure cooker. Seal the lid and heat it. As the tomatoes and chicken heat, they give off liquid which in turn cooks the potatoes while the onions add flavor to the whole thing. Because the high heat of a pressure cooker cooks so efficiently, you end up with spoon-tender chicken and potatoes in an intensely flavored broth all in 30 minutes or less. How do you like that!

The concept of using minimal, but carefully selected ingredients and relying on the pressure cooker to extract flavor was an intriguing one, so I decided to try my hand at coming up with a few more one-pot meals in a similar style, this time using a combination of chicken and various legumes. The goal? Dinner for four with inexpensive ingredients, a few minutes of actual labor, one pot on the stove, and all in between 30 to 45 minutes start to finish.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

When I'm in the mood for a fast meal, that also means using the absolute minimum number of ingredients to make shopping and prepping faster as well. In this case, we've got a total of eight.

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Chicken and lentils form the backbone of the stew. I'm using a whole chicken broken down into 8 serving pieces here, mainly because I'm thrifty and like using the backbones for chicken stock (a task which is also best done in the pressure cooker). The breast meat does have a tendency to come out a little drier than the leg meat, so if you prefer, you can use all thighs and drumsticks. Either way, bone-in and skin-on is the way to go for best flavor and texture. The lentils are French Le Puy lentils, but again, any lentil will do. This is pretty simple stuff here.

The diced pancetta I'm using does more than just add flavor (though it does that quite well). While thin sliced pancetta would melt into the background, by cutting it into big fat lardons (that's French for "unreasonably-sized hunks of bacon"), it adds another meaty textural element to the stew. For the record, if you prefer the smoky flavor of slab bacon, it'd work just as well.

Onions, carrots, and bay leaves are the main flavoring. The onions I like to soften up a bit in the pancetta fat before adding in the liquid, chickens, and lentils; sautéing the pancetta and the onions is just about the only real work involved in this recipe. Even the carrots I like to leave in big chunky pieces so that they add flavor and also texture to the final dish. Bay leaves, the stems from a few sprigs of parsley (I save the leaves to chop and stir in at the end), some chicken stock, the lentils, and the actual chicken are all that's left before sealing the lid and bringing it all to pressure.

The lardons also help to thicken up the liquid in the pot by rendering some fat that emulsifies with the chicken stock and the starch coming out of the lentils. To really maximize this richness, I like to boil the stew down for about five minutes after taking off the pressure to allow the liquid to reduce.

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I mean, just look at how rich and creamy it becomes!

That final few minutes of stovetop reduction is a great opportunity for you to pull the skin off of the chicken pieces (the skin helps add flavor and keep the chicken more moist, but it isn't particularly tasty once it's been boiled). You can serve the chicken in whole pieces with the lentils, carrots, and pancetta forming a bed, or you can do what I did here: shred the meat off the bones (it should come off very easily) and stir it back into the pot.

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For a final hit of bright, fresh flavor, I stir in a bit of vinegar (I used sherry, though red wine, white wine, or even lemon juice would work), the chopped parsley leaves, and a big glug of extra-virgin olive oil.