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- About two cups of dried lentils (preferably black or French green ones)
- One medium-ish carrot, diced
- One small onion, diced
- One medium-ish potato, peeled and diced
- Two or so cloves of garlic
- At least a tablespoon Herbes de Provence seasoning (or about 2 tsps dried thyme, 1 tsp dried rosemary, and 1 tsp dried oregano)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Two to four portions of salmon filet cooked how you prefer, about six to eight ounces per person (This amount of lentils would work well for four servings and with enough leftover lentils to repurpose for a side dish, soup, etc.)
- Lemon wedges, plus parsley to garnish
I’m not likely to ever open a restaurant, but if I did, it’d probably be some kind of riff on a French bistro, and if I did open Cafe La Steve, I’d probably have this dish on the menu. I can’t say I remember ever seeing this on a menu in a restaurant– French or otherwise– but it does feel like a good French bistro recipe to me.
This is based on the recipe in Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which is a good book for finding basic recipes for, well, everything. You could definitely jazz up the lentils with some bacon or maybe chicken stock or some more fresh herbs or what have you. I keep it simple both because it then is a weeknight (when you have a little extra time) kind of meal, and also because it’s easier to repurpose the leftover lentils into different forms.
- Put the lentils into a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook them for around 15 minutes, not until they’re finished but just until they are starting to soften. If you’re pretty quick about dicing up the vegetables, you can do that while the lentils cook. If you are slower (like me) about dicing vegetables and/or you’re trying to do more than one thing at a time in the kitchen (also like me), it’s probably a little less stressful and easier to dice the vegetables before you cook the lentils. Use your judgement on that. I like to use black lentils for this because they keep that cool black color after they cook, but French green lentils are easier to find.
- If you want, rinse your lentils. Now, this is probably a completely unnecessary step and I’ve never seen it described in any other lentil recipe, but I do it this way because it makes the final version seem less “muddy” to me. So give it a try if you want and see if it makes a difference, or just skip it. To rinse the lentils: after they’ve cooked have cooked about 15 minutes, set up a fine mesh strainer in the sink and carefully drain your hot lentils into this strainer. Rinse off the lentils and rinse out the pot.
- If you don’t drain the lentils, then just add the vegetables into the pot, and make sure there is enough water to cover. If you do drain the lentils, add a little olive oil to the bottom of the now drained and rinsed out pot and sauté the vegetables with a little salt and pepper for a few minutes, just to get them beginning to soften, stirring pretty much the whole time. If they are sticking a bit to the bottom, add a little water and stir to unstick them from the pot. Put the drained lentils back into the pot and add enough water to cover.
- Stir in a heaping tablespoon of Herbes de Provence. I just use a mix I always have on hand– it’s a very handy seasoning– but if you don’t have that, you can just try a combination of about 2 tsp thyme, 1 tsp dried rosemary, and 1 tsp dried oregano. There’s a lot of lentils there, so you can be aggressive with the amount of herbs you put in.
- Cook the lentils and vegetables on medium heat, allowing them to just barely simmer and reduce to a thick consistency but without letting them dry out completely. Check on them and stir the pot about every five minutes or so. This takes around 20 to 30 minutes, though you can turn the heat down to warm and keep it on the stove after it’s done for an hour or more while you get everything else ready.
- While that’s going on, this is a good time to slice a lemon into wedges (and get rid of the seeds) and chop up a bit of parsley.
- When the lentils are almost done, taste them and add more salt and pepper as you see fit. I usually turn the pot down very low and then prepare the salmon. You could also easily do this ahead of time (up to several days ahead if you put the lentils in the fridge) and simply reheat the lentils and vegetables when ready to eat.
- As far as the salmon goes: how you want to cook it is up to you. If you like the skin crispy and don’t mind a bit of smoke and clean-up hassle: put a bit of salt and pepper on top, and heat up a non-stick pan with just a bit of oil in it. Put the salmon in skin-down, allowing the skin to crisp up and render some of the fat. This will make a fair amount of smoke and sputtering, so open a window and if you’ve got a splatter screen for your pan, have it handy. After they’re crispy, flip over the filets to brown a bit. Turn down the heat to let it finish to your liking– or if you like your salmon on the rare-side, take the pan off the heat and let it finish in the cooling pan.I don’t do this often because Annette doesn’t like the crispy fish skin and also because (like I said) it’s kind of a mess. So instead, I usually turn on the broiler and set up the oven rack so it’s not too close to the heat. Then I put the seasoned salmon on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil (it just makes it a lot easier to clean), and then put it under the broiler for just a few minutes, until the skin is crispy. Then I take them out, peel off the skin and discard it, flip over the salmon, maybe add a little olive oil to the top of the filet, and put it back in until the top of the salmon is just beginning to brown. This whole process takes maybe 10 minutes.
- Plate by ladling a nice pile of lentils and vegetables in a nice shallow bowl, place a piece of salmon on top of those lentils, garnish with lemon wedges and parsley, and eat.
Bonus leftover lentils!
Inevitably, this recipe provides me with leftover lentils, which is actually a good thing. I’m not much of a leftovers kind of person, but I think these leftover lentils are quite good. I’ll sometimes just heat them up in the microwave as a kind of “side dish” to a sandwich or something like that. Usually though, I’ll make them into soup simply by adding however many lentils I want with broth, either vegetable or chicken, and if I want to get really “fancy,” I’ll cook up a slice of bacon, cut that up, and add the crispy pieces to the soup.