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Posts Tagged ‘Stew’

Lentils have always been a staple for us. During Greg’s first year of graduate school, before we were married, his work week sustenance consisted almost entirely of brown rice and lentils. High in fiber and magnesium, and easy on the wallet, this was a quintessential “poor man’s food”, and delicious to top it all off.

Since then, our lentil repertoire has evolved quite a bit. We add red lentils to soups or stews for extra depth, creaminess, and nutrition without interfering with flavor. (Fun fact, red lentils somehow complement the flavor of roasted tomato soup!) Brown lentils, the cheapest option, are slightly meatier and, unlike their red cousins, hold their shape much better when cooked.  We often cook them up in soups and stews with a melange of vegetables — carrots, eggplant, kale.

Recently we saw French lentils on sale for roughly the price of standard brown lentils.  They are earthier and have a beautiful, delicate black and green color.  Technically, these lentils are called “green lentils” because true French lentils, or puy lentils, come from the region of Le Puy.  This below cooking method seemed most appropriate, whether the lentils were actually from France or not.

Red Wine Braised Lentils
4-6 large carrots
4-6 stalks celery
1 large onion
2-4 garlic cloves
1 quart chicken stock
~1 cup red wine
2 cups dry lentils (brown or green)
salt to taste

Soak lentils in advance.  They will plump to about 4 cups.  Dice vegetables.  In large pot or dutch oven, saute onion with salt over medium heat.  When translucent and beginning to brown, add garlic, celery, and carrot, salt again, and continue to cook (covered is fine) until soft.  Add wine and let alcohol burn away.  Add stock and lentils and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

You could add other sturdy vegetables as well, like fennel or potatoes.  Tomatoes would be another good addition.  We served ours topped with greek yogurt and paprika.  The yogurt was for creaminess and to cool it down.  The paprika was just for vanity.

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Lamb is a really fine meat.  I mean, it’s got a lot of things going in its favor.  It’s a young animal, which means it’s tender and flavorful, and it’s not industrially produced, which means that every lamb is free-range grass-fed blah blah delicious.  And with the exception of rack of lamb, it’s a very affordable quality meat (it is still meat though, so it’s not as cheap as carrots).  Lamb has a lot going for it, and so it would be my go-to meal for special occasions, except that my mom doesn’t like it. 😦

As for this stew–decadent, and probably of French origin.  It’s for sure the tastiest way to make lentils.  Lamb braised in red wine, add tomatoes, carrots, lentils, simmer forever.  The lamb is exceedingly tender, and the delicious lamby flavor infuses the lentils.  Good dinner, and great lunch the next day!  Like braised short ribs, this is a very sensual dish.

Braised lamb and lentil stew

3-4 lamb shanks, each approx 1 pound
12-16 oz dried lentils
aromatic vegetables, such as carrots, onion, garlic, tomatoes
herbs: thyme or rosemary to taste, 2 bay leaves
1 bottle red wine
salt and pepper

Optional first step (worth it): brown lamb on all sides in dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add lamb, vegetables, herbs, and wine, bring to a boil, cover.  Continue simmering either over low heat on the stove top or in the oven at 350F.  After an hour add lentils, salt, and pepper, and cook for about another hour.  Don’t worry about overcooking the lentils, but be sure the pot doesn’t dry out (don’t be afraid to add more liquid–water is fine).

*The ideal cut for this dish is lamb shank, which with more connective tissue is perfect for braising.  Ferraro’s was out of lamb shank when we went, so we got half a leg instead.

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