I'm heading off to friends for dinner tonight, and I'm not panicking about what to wear! BUT I was pretty freaked about what I was going to bring – you see, it's a potluck, and I didn't include it in my shopping this week.
This recipe didn’t just come to me; it evolved around what I found in the pantry. To be honest, my pantry is a little bare because I’m getting ready to move, and have not been keeping it stocked. I did find some green French lentils to provide my inspiration.
Lentils are considered a “happy food” and happy foods are especially important to me during the winter. One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrates (16 of which are fiber). They also contain a good amount of iron.
Ok so lentils it is. Lentils take about 20 min to cook on the stovetop, but can be pretty bland on their own. I usually bump of the flavor by cooking lentils with a sautéed mirepoix (onion, carrot & celery) and some meat. Out of celery, and the only meat I’ve got in the fridge is some applewood-smoked bacon. There are some button mushrooms and a green pepper in there too. I’m ready to start.
First the mushrooms. Mushrooms are little sponges, and they don’t easily give that beautiful deep hearty flavor if you just dump them into a pot. They require some flirting. I find that sweating the sliced mushrooms in a hot fry pan with a little bit of salt, black pepper and about a tablespoon of olive oil does the trick. To do this right you need to place the mushroom slices in the hot oil one slice at a time, and leave them alone until they change color and you see the juices pooling up on the topside. Then turn them over and let the other side brown. The mushrooms will have reduced in size by more than 50%, because they’ve lost water and the flavor has been concentrated. (For an awesome hors d'œuvre add some garlic to this and put them on slices of toasted baguette.) Once the ‘shrooms are a nice nutty brown, remove from the hot pan.
Now bacon. (who doesn’t love bacon?) Chop the bacon into ¼ inch ribbons and place in pan to render. Let is sit for awhile until it starts to brown before stirring. When the bacon is done, add 1 cup diced onion, ½ cup diced carrot, and ½ cup diced green pepper. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup dry lentils and the reserved mushrooms, and stir into mixture until coated. Add 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup red wine, and bring to a simmer. When the liquids are simmering, cover and transfer to a 400º oven for 40 min to 1 hour.
Ok, this looks good . . . and it tastes good too . . . but it doesn’t really look like something for a potluck . . . brain ticking away . . . CORNBREAD! I love beans and cornbread, and lentils are beans, soooooooo . . . . Lentil PIE! I’m going to make cornbread and bake it on top of the lentil mixture.
Because of the moisture in the lentils, the cornbread took 30-35 min to bake instead of the 20-25 it usually takes, but it looks good. We’ll see what the people at the dinner party think. Wish me luck.