Baked Balsamic Lentil Stew w/Mushrooms & Rosemary PotatoesDo you love mushrooms? The recipe for the “Baked Balsamic Lentil Stew with Mushrooms & Rosemary Potatoes,” from The First Mess, is an umami powerhouse of mushrooms and balsamic vinegar and tamari. You need to be serious -- about mushrooms.

This brothy mix must be salted generously. The mushrooms exude a lot of moisture when they cook -- so much, in fact, that you can skip that last cup of vegetable stock in the recipe, thanks to all that mushroom juice.

Slicing potatoes with a mandolin may seem fussy, but my model is user-friendly enough. I really can’t complain about taking it out to slice potatoes. They look so nice! And the inclusion of rosemary seals the deal.

Lentils are empowering, I say. They’re cheap, nutritious, easy to cook, a true triumph. Enjoy this vegan wonderland.

Cremini Mushrooms (1 1/3 lbs.) = $4.69
Onion = .44¢
Carrot = .34¢
Leeks (2) = $1.68
Lentils (1 cup) = .74¢
Yukon Gold Potatoes (2 large) = .76¢

PREP TIME: 60-90 minutes for prep and baking
TASTE: rich mushrooms, lentils, balsamic vinegar, tamari

To continue at our stew pace, next time I want to make the “Chicken and Sausage Gumbo,” from the January/February 2017 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below). Come back to my site next week, to witness the effect of toasted flour.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2017
Serves 6
Serve over white rice.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. paprika
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken broth, room temperature
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
8 oz. andouille sausage, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
6 scallions, sliced thin
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
Hot sauce

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Place flour in 12-inch skillet and bake, stirring occasionally, until color of ground cinnamon, 40 to 55 minutes. (As flour approaches desired color, it will take on a very nutty aroma that will smell faintly of burnt popcorn, and it will need to be stirred more frequently.) Transfer flour to medium bowl and let cool. (Toasted flour can be stored in an airtight container in cool, dark place for up to 6 months.)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in thyme, garlic, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups broth. Add chicken in single layer (chicken will not be completely submerged in liquid) and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate.

Slowly whisk remaining 2 cups broth in small increments into toasted flour until thick, smooth, batter-like paste forms. Increase heat to medium and slowly whisk paste into gumbo, making sure each addition is incorporated before adding next. Stir in andouille. Simmer, uncovered, until gumbo thickens slightly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Once cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir chicken and scallions into gumbo. Remove pot from heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt to taste. Discard bay laves. Serve, passing hot sauce separately. (Gumbo can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.)