Every dish has a story: They usually have a reason, a method, an inspiration. But sometimes they just happen.
Kyle Harrison, a student chef at Johnson County Community College, was working at a local eatery when he had to come up with a special for the night.
“I was so tired of risottos, saffron rice and other staples I had seen others make,” he says. “I had never cooked lentils before but decided to get some in a pot with some stock and veggies and let them simmer until soft while I set up my line for service.
Harrison got preoccupied and forgot about them; they simmered until they broke down into a thick and hearty broth. His first reaction was to throw them out and start again, but then he tasted his accidental concoction and was “blown away.”
After adding some seasonings — hot sauce, Worcestershire and cumin — he tasted the dish again and knew he was about to make a delectable discovery. There was only one thing missing: a meaty kick. He added a very flavorful chorizo he had on hand.
He can still recall the panic and madness when time was running out and he didn’t know how he could possibly salvage or serve overcooked lentils.
“I pushed through, finished my dish and served the two guys I was working with who tasted it, and I quote them both saying, ‘How did you come up with that? It’s genius!’”
Give this easy and forgiving recipe a try and “get your genius on!”
Kyle Harrison, 30, is completing his fourth of six semesters in Johnson County Community College’s hospitality management program. He is an apprentice at InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza.
About the column
Cooking 101 is a bimonthly column exclusive to The Star designed to introduce home cooks to basic cooking techniques. The recipe, food styling and photography are a joint project between culinary students and instructors at Johnson County Community College’s Hospitality Management Program.
Pan-Seared Halibut With Spicy Lentil Broth and Chorizo
Makes 4 servings
1/2 small yellow onion, small-diced
1 carrot, peeled and small-diced
1 celery stalk, small-diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cups lentils (red or green)
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed and crumbled
1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup peppadews, drained, sliced
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado goat cheese:
1 very ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Microgreens, for garnish (optional)
For the lentils: Put onions, carrots, celery and olive oil in a pot over medium heat and season with salt and pepper. Saute vegetables until tender, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes; sauté, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add red wine vinegar and cook, stirring 1 more minute. Then add stock and lentils, cover pot and simmer briskly for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Take off heat and whisk in Tabasco, Worcestershire, cayenne and butter. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
For the chorizo: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook chorizo, stirring occasionally to break up clumps until almost cooked through. Add corn and peppadews; continue cooking until warmed through. Remove chorizo mixture with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Reserve pan with grease.
For the fish: Return pan with chorizo grease to burner over high heat until grease is very hot. Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper, and carefully place all four fillets skin side up in the pan for a few seconds. Shake pan to release fish from the bottom of the pan and sear for several minutes, until cooked side is golden brown. Flip fillets over and place in preheated 350-degree oven for 5 minutes or so until the fish is cooked through.
Avocado goat cheese: Mash avocado and goat cheese together. Whisk in cream to loosen, and season with salt and pepper; the mixture should be drizzling consistency.
To serve: In a large bowl or convex plate, ladle broth. Place fish in the center of the plate. Spoon chorizo, corn and peppadew mix on top of fish and falling to one side. Drizzle everything with avocado mix and garnish with chopped parsley and, if desired, microgreens.
Per serving, entire recipe: 1,083 calories (50 percent from fat), 63 grams total fat (22 grams saturated), 165 milligrams cholesterol, 51 grams carbohydrates, 90 grams protein, 1,314 milligrams sodium, 21 grams dietary fiber.