Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions on Baguette Taste Wonder Bread Budget

Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions

When you grow up with cousins who live hundreds of miles away, you sort of know them. You know their names and the sports they play. You know that they like to catch fireflies and eat watermelon off the rind. 

And then, as you get a little older and life gets busier, you know them less and less. It’s not because that’s how things are supposed to be. It’s not because that’s how you want them to be. The business of day-to-day living gets in the way of seeing your family.

This is why we can all thank the good Lord for weddings and funerals – for those huge life events that get your butt across the country. Because those big life events get you sharing a glass of scotch with loved ones you don’t really know. These are the life events where you do the important bonding things – the break the seal things – like running through hotel hallways in the wee hours. These are the times when you eat ribs, dance barefoot, and talk a little sh*t about rival football teams. 

These are the times you make a vow to see one another more. (And then wonder if y’all will really keep the promise?) 

We did. It’s early September and I’m sitting at a kitchen table in Oregon while a good portion of my family sleeps. Sure, we’re missing a few of the motley crew, but 10 of the 12 adults isn’t a bad success rate.

And as I sit here, listening to the occasional snore come drifting down the hallway, I can’t help but smile. It’s so good to be with family. It’s amazing to be surrounded by my aunt and uncle, my cousins, and by the new additions they’ve brought.

You don’t get to pick your family. Not your blood. And certainly not their partners. How I got so lucky to have such amazing people, I don’t know. But I did. They’re a kind bunch who are quick to laugh and easy to talk with. They’re inquisitive and interesting. They have a passion for life that’s beautiful without being overbearing.

Like I said – I’m darn lucky.

This recipe has nothing to do with their visit. In fact, I made my poblano hollandaise for breakfast, but I’ve already shared it. And, I’m in love with this rice and lentil dish I made last month. So, that’s what you get.

This, it makes a great side dish for these Lamb Meatballs. Which, of course, are amazing and completely deserve to be with starchy goodness that soaks up every bit of their sauce.


Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions (Mujaddara)

From Cook’s Illustrated
I’ve added a few extra notes in here to make your life easier, but for the most part this recipe follows Cook’s Illustrated. I do think you could substitute brown basmati rice for the regular version the recipe recommends, but you’ll have to adjust the water ratio. I’ll be trying that on my next go around. If you beat me to it, please let me know how it turns out. 

Crispy Onions
2 pounds onions, halved and sliced into ¼-inch-thick pieces
2 tsp salt
1½ cups vegetable oil

Toss onions and salt together in a large bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Drain and then transfer to a salad spinner. Spin as much water as possible from the onions. Using paper towels and your hands, continue to squeeze as much water from the onions as possible.

Heat vegetable oil on high in a Dutch oven until the oil begins to shimmer. Add onions and stir frequently until onions turn golden brown (25 – 30 minutes).

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Remove onions from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon, transferring them to the baking sheet in one even layer. 

Drain remaining oil through a fine mesh strainer, reserving it for latter.

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (or Greek yogurt)
2 TBS lemon juice
½ tsp minced garlic
½ tsp salt

Place yogurt in a fine-mesh strainer and set strainer over a large bowl. Strain for 1 hour.

Transferring yogurt to a medium bowl, whisk in the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate while preparing the rest of the dish.

Rice and Lentils
1¼ cups green or brown lentils, picked through for stones and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1¼ cups basmati rice
1 recipe Crispy Onions, plus 3 TBS reserved oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
4 TBS fresh cilantro, minced

Bring lentils, 4 cups water, and 1 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cook until lentils are tender (15 – 17 minutes). Drain and set aside. While the lentils are cooking, place rice in a medium bowl and cover by 2 inches with hot tap water (allow to stand for 15 minutes).

Using your hands, gently wish the rice to release excess starch. Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl. Add cold tap water, swish, pour, and repeat until the water runs nearly clear. Drain rice through a fine-mesh strainer.

Heat reserved oil, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, ¼ tsp pepper, and cayenne in Dutch oven over medium heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally until the rice begins to turn translucent (about 3 minutes).

Add 2¼ cups water, sugar, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Stir in lentils, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed (about 12 minutes). 

Remove Dutch oven from heat, fold a dish towel in half, place over pot, replace lid and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff rice and lentils with fork. Stir in cilantro and half the onions. Serve with the remaining onions and yogurt sauce as a garnish.


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3 Replies to “Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions”

  1. I was curious about starting with heated vegetable as they made kind of a point to start with cold oil, or the onions would brown too quickly without cooking through yet.

  2. Sorry for the late reply. But, great question! I found the onions were so thin starting with hot oil was best. This created more of a “flash fry” which crisped them without forcing them to absorb too much oil – which is what happened when I used cold oil.

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