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I'm Beth, a vertically-challenged photographer, stylist, recipe developer and explorer. Welcome to my blog!

Blood Orange Chicken & Canal House Lentils

Blood Orange Chicken & Canal House Lentils


The bright sweet 'n spicy citrus flavours of this chicken dish  are nicely complimented by a serving of earthy  lentils.  This simple lentil recipe from Canal House fits the bill. Add a green salad, and dinner is ready in under an hour.

This is my quickie version of Duck L'Orange ideal for a busy weeknight.  I am under no delusions that chicken could ever be mistaken for duck, but this recipe still manages to capture the bright citrus flavours of the original version using boneless chicken breasts. The rich crimson colour of the blood oranges is enhanced with a shot of raspberry vinegar.  I also added a touch of heat and a little spice with ginger syrup for a nicely balanced sauce.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1-3 teaspoons of Thai sweet red chili sauce-to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger syrup, for recipe click here
  • 1 blood orange cut into supremes

Heat butter and oil, over medium high heat until butter is melted, in a skillet large enough to accommodate the breasts.  Add chicken breasts and sautée until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side.  Remove chicken from pan to a heated platter, set aside.  Deglaze the pan with raspberry vinegar, scraping up all of the little browned bits.  Increase the heat to high.  Add the wine, blood orange juice, marmalade, ginger syrup and chili sauce to the pan.  Bring the mixture to the boil and let reduce for a minute or two.  It should thicken and have a syrupy consistency.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and return the chicken to the pan and let simmer for a couple minutes on each side, depending on the size of the breasts.  Garnish with blood orange supremes.  How do I cut supremes, you ask? Just click here for instructions.

Canal House Lentils- this is a slight variation on the original recipe.  I substituted black for green lentils, and used an onion instead of a leek.  I also used homemade chicken stock in place of half of the water called for in the original recipe, mostly because I happened to have some on hand.  Browning the tomato paste is the key to this preparation, it really creates a deep slow roasted tomato flavour in minutes.  I use this technique a lot when making sauces, it's a very handy little trick.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely  chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup black puy lentils
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 chopped green onion, for garnish

Thoroughly rinse your lentils.  Over a medium flame, heat the oil in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan.  Add onion, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste begins to darken. It will take about 4 minutes. Add lentils and stir to coat.  Add water and stock, bring to a boil.  Then reduce the  heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 45–55 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add soy sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper, give the mixture a good stir.  Let the lentils sit, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.  Garnish with a finely chopped green onion.

I am a huge fan of the Canal House series of cookbooks.  Each volume is full of exceptionally good seasonal recipes that are completely approachable for any home cook.  I don't know about you, but I tend to have two types of cookbooks on my shelf; aspirational volumes that I read often but rarely actually attempt the recipes, and then there are the cookbooks that I use all the time.  Canal House produces short volumes of select primo recipes, illustrated with stunning photography and drawings.  The books are organized by season, the recipes are simple and use ingredients that are widely available at most grocery stores. These cookbooks somehow manage to bridge the gap between aspirational and approachable.
Christopher Hirsheimer and  Melissa Hamilton are the two ridiculously talented women behind this enterprise.  Hirsheimer, a founding editor at Saveur magazine, is a veteran food  and lifestyle photographer whose client list includes culinary legends like Jaques Pepin.  Hamilton, food stylist extraordinaire, also a Saveur alum, was the magazine's food editor.  Hamilton came to Saveur after working with Martha Stewart and Cooks Illustrated.  The two women combined forces to open the Canal House studio in a converted warehouse near both of their homes in Lambertville, New Jersey.

It was shortly after the launch of their first cookbook,  in 2009, that I had the opportunity to hear these women speak at a Food Photography seminar in Boston.  They described a kind of utopia, days of cooking and shooting beautiful local food using  natural light in a studio warmed with a wood fire.  As the women shared their process and philosophy, I was excited by what they had to say, and inspired to think about food styling in a different way. 

Instead of striving to achieve an artificial ideal, embrace the imperfections, observe the organic beauty of food.  Look to the everyday ordinary things associated with the kitchen to illustrate photos.  When Hirsheimer spoke about the beauty of paper towel and plastic wrap as props, my jaw dropped.  She was right, cookbook  photography should be less aspirational and more approachable, the images should inspire but not intimidate the reader.



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