We had some family in town this weekend, which made for good food times. There were no projects, dinner parties or complicated recipes anywhere in sight. Instead, we stocked up at the Morningside Farmers Market and Whole Foods and then just hung out in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and drinking wine.
One dinner started with a bright salad of radicchio, Honeycrisp apples, toasted pecans and goat cheese in a rice wine vinaigrette, then we had some pan-roasted salmon with lentils. Not just any lentils but the mighty green le Puy lentils of France, which keep their beady integrity long past the time brown lentils turn to mush.
As the lentils cooked in chicken stock, I sauteed diced onion and sweet farmers market carrots with a sprig of thyme. I added a squeeze of double-concentrated Italian tomato paste (which comes in a tube and is available at Whole Foods) and let that sizzle and nearly brown before deglazing the pot with a hearty glug of red wine.
All this business went into the lentils, which were starting to taste complex and interesting. But they were missing something. D’oh. Bacon. I fried three strips of bacon until the just crisped and then tore them up into the lentils. Putting the bacon in at the end really did the trick. Its flavor served as a sweet-salty top note; the red wine played bass.
Then I noticed I had a pan full of bacon grease in which to roast the salmon and a most of a bottle of good, cheap petite sirah to serve with it.
Make these lentils:
RED WINE LENTILS WITH BACON
Bring the lentils to a gentle boil in 4 cups of the chicken stock in an uncovered saucepan. Taste them as they soften, adding more stock if necessary. When done to your liking, cover and turn off heat.
Meanwhile, saute the onion and carrot in olive oil in another saucepan until onion is translucent. Add thyme and tomato paste and saute briefly until fragrant and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir in wine and loosen any bits adhering to pan. Pour this mixture into the lentils. Cook lentils over medium heat for 3-5 minutes to cook off any alcohol.
Fry bacon in large, ovenproof saute pan. When crisp, chop or tear and add to lentils. Add parsley and season to taste.
Use bacon pan to saute or roast salmon, pork chops, chicken thighs or tofu steaks.