Friday, February 28, 2014

Warm French Green Lentils With Poached Eggs

Have you had enough of winter yet? I know I’m daydreaming about shedding my bulky coat. However, this weekend’s impending snowstorm is another opportunity to make a dish that has fortified me during this snowier-than-usual winter.  These delightful Warm French Green Lentils topped with a poached egg are an ideal snow-day meal. Given the weekend snowfall prediction, I’m sharing them with you just in time.

This recipe is by way of Megan from the lovely blog, A Sweet Spoonful.  She writes beautifully about how her boyfriend (now fiancée) made his "famous lentils" one of the first times he cooked for her, and how she joked that she'd marry him for his lentils alone. I first made the dish simply because I had everything on hand and it was snowing too hard to run outside to the store for other groceries.  However once I tasted these lentils for myself, I understood how they could be commitment-worthy!

I love little French green lentils, which are more flavorful than their often-mushy brown counterparts.  Also known as lentilles du Puy, these French green gems hold their shape well in salads and soups.  They are often an accompaniment to traditional French bistro dishes such as salmon or a farmhouse stew with garlic sausage.

You probably already have most of the ingredients for this dish in your fridge.  A quartet of finely chopped onions, diced carrots, paper-thin slices of garlic and celery melt into an aromatic base for this dish.  A bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme add another layer of flavor as the lentils simmer.  But the real magic comes from generous dollops of Dijon mustard and a splash of red vinegar towards the end of the cooking time, transforming this quietly simmering dish into something that will make your taste buds sit up and take notice.

I recently invited Cenovia, Alissa and Kristina for dinner, reasoning that if we ate a salad followed by these lentils, we could guiltlessly indulge in Clementine Cake for dessert. I’d hoped my friends wouldn’t turn up their noses at my humble main course offering and think, “What kind of lame dinner party has a bowlful of lentils as the centerpiece??”  But since certain friends of mine love anything with an egg on top, I hoped I wouldn’t get too many complaints.


After one bite of our main course, all three of them were swooning.  The comments ranged from, “This is exactly what I needed on a frigid day like this!” to “Best bowl of comfort food ever. And it even has an EGG on it!” For weeks they’ve begged me to post the recipe on Kitchen Fiddler—so here it is!

Barely adapted from a recipe by Megan Gordon on A Sweet Spoonful

Megan’s original recipe calls for a fried egg on top, which I’m sure would be delicious too, but I’m such a sucker for a poached egg that I go that route instead.  True confession: before heating up my leftover lentils today, I diced a bit of thick-cut bacon, cooking it in a skillet till it began to crisp.  After pouring off the rendered fat, I added the lentils to the skillet and heated it all together.  Oh sweet Lord… I may never be able to make the non-bacon version again! 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 large stalks celery, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup French green lentils
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme 
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt (a little less if using regular sea salt)
¾ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
Poached eggs, for topping (optional)
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a kettle while you start the dish.

Heat the oil over medium-heat in a heavy medium-sized saucepan.  When it starts to shimmer, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the carrots and celery and cook for another minute.

Add the lentils, stirring well to coat them with the diced vegetables.  Pour in just enough boiling water to cover the mixture by a ½-inch.  Add the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and bring liquid back to a boil.  When the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir in the Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes with the pan partially covered, until the lentils are cooked but still have a bit of chewy texture to them.  Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

Taste lentils for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or vinegar as needed.  Divide between warm bowls, topping each mound of lentils with a poached egg (if desired) and a scattering of chopped flat-leaf parsley.  Serves 4 as a main course.

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