Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kitchen Mania

I'm on sort of a cooking frenzy lately.  I guess I'm trying to fatten us up for winter. (No problem!  Bring it on!)  Notable recipes include: Lentils with sausages, Pork Ragu, Salted Caramel Almond Macaroons, and  Smoky Tomato Soup.  I'll start with the Lentil thing.

This is from Saveur Magazine a year or two ago.  Whatever issue that was featured some obscure corner of France where they have really good regional specialities.  Are there any corners of France that do not feature really good regional specialties?  I did see a KFC at the Clingancourt Metro Station on my way to the flea market.  I guess that answers my question.  Avoid that corner next time you're in Paris and you're home free:  all good food, all the time.

Back to the Lentil thing:  if you have kids who don't eat mixed up soupy things, you can still pull this off, just give them bread and maybe some of the sausage.  If you are a vegetarian it would probably be pretty good without the bacon and sausage, but I would add some smoked paprika to get that smokey flavor.  Here is how it goes:

4 slices smoked bacon
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 sprigs thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
12 oz. green Puy lentils, 
   rinsed and drained
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly 
   ground black pepper, to taste
8 fresh pork sausages, such as 
   sweet Italian sausages
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Fry up the bacon and set it aside. Hide it from your kids or they will eat it.  I have to hide it from myself, too. Or I just cook extra.  I told you, I'm preparing to hibernate.  Add the butter, onions, carrot, and celery, cook until softened. Add the vinegar,wine, green lentils, parsley, thyme and bay.  Simmer the lentils until they're soft.  This can vary from 30 minutes to an hour.  It seems to depend on the lentils.  You may need to add water.  Just don't let the lentils burn--that's a horrible mess and smells awful.  Take it from one who knows. The specific little green lentils are particularly good, they sort of pop in your mouth into mealy savoriness when you bite into them, but I have used other kinds (red, black, regular brown-ish) and they're perfectly fine.  Anyway, you can brown the sausages separately and then add them whole to simmer until it's all done, or you could just chuck them in and not worry about the browning.  You could probably do the whole thing (except for frying the bacon) in a crock pot, actually.  Add the mustard, salt and pepper to taste near the end.  The mustard is key.  That's what cuts the rich/savory/salty stew features.  Without the mustard, it's nothing.  I crumble up the bacon and stir it in just before serving, so it still has some crunch. 

Serve this with green salad with a zippy lemony garlicky dressing and a red wine, or a white like a gevurtztraminer--something with some backbone.  If I were so organized that I planned and made dessert, I'd have lemon sorbet and gingerbread But I never do that and we usually just scrounge for chocolate chips that I have hidden in the freezer. 

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