This recipe appears in Cooking With Jon, the engaging cookbook written by award-winning chef Jon Koobation, the owner and head chef at the acclaimed Jon’s Bear Club in Reedley, Calif. for several decades before he retired. Born in Dinuba, a small farming town in the central San Joaquin Valley, Jon’s history with the restaurant started many years earlier. He worked at the famed Vallis’ Restaurant in Kingsburg, the Redwood Inn of Sultana, Dinuba Ranch, and the Swedish Mill, and became The Bear Club’s executive chef in 1973. Through the 1970s and mid-1980s, Jon’s Bear Club established itself as a fine steakhouse. “Using the freshest local ingredients available each season was always valued by our guests,” says Jon, “and one of the reasons they chose to return again and again.”
Jon learned how to make this recipe from Mike Raphael, his boss and the former owner of Jon’s Bear Club Restaurant. “Mike and his partner owned The Bear Club up until 1985 when I bought it and changed the name to Jon’s Bear Club. Mike would go racing with me and make this recipe at the racetrack. We parked our large motorhome and trailer next to many of our competitors, and after a long day of practice and qualifying, we would all set up to cook and have a huge potluck dinner. As memorable as the racing was during those trips, the friendships and the incredible array of foods, desserts, and grilled barbecue dishes are truly unforgettable. This recipe, made with lentils and rice followed by caramelized onions, was a crowd favorite,” says Jon.
“Serve this dish with labne or yogurt, flatbread, and an Armenian or Fattoush Salad, and if you want to get fancy, add crispy fried onions strings on top. The main flavor is the onions, fried to the point of dark golden brown. This is what gives the rice its beautiful depth, both in color and taste.
Cooking With Jon is in keeping with Jon’s commitment to making fine dining accessible for today’s home cook. His signature recipes include: Baja Cobb Salad, Sweet Chili Prawns, Cabbage Dolma with Beef and Lamb, Herb Seared Lamb Tenderloin with Eggplant Caviar and Basil Oil, Grandma Bazarian’s Shish Kabob, and the ever-popular Chicken George — plus poignant family memories and stories about Jon’s remarkable culinary history and car racing experiences that are sure to delight readers.
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed