Very loosely inspired by a Middle Eastern dish called haleem that comes in many forms but sometimes features meat stewed with spiced lentils and topped with fried onions, this recipe features stewed lentils with a fragrant mix of spices, including coriander seed, cumin, and turmeric. Garlic and ginger provide an aromatic base of flavor.
We start by poaching a whole chicken: the skin is (optionally) minced very finely and added to the lentils as they stew, melding into the mix while adding richness to the dish; the poaching broth is used to cook the lentils themselves, and the meat is shredded and folded into the lentils before serving.
While our preferred method for poaching chicken normally calls for an even lower 155°F water temperature for the juiciest and most tender meat, we speed things up here a bit more by cooking it at a sub-simmer (closer to 180°F). The higher heat poaching is fine in this case since the chicken is folded into the stewy lentils which keeps the meat from drying out.
You can also make this recipe vegetarian by cooking the lentils with water and omitting the chicken.
As the lentils finish cooking, we fry sliced onions in plenty of olive oil over high heat—the goal is to get a fried-onion flavor combined with a melting texture—and then cook them down with plum tomatoes for a bright topping that is finished with a handful of fresh herbs—dill or cilantro both work well.