French Green Lentils with Bacon, Red Wine, and Mushrooms

Speaking of being shattered, did I tell you that I shattered my favorite Italian pasta bowl a few weeks ago? Well, someone suggested I go on Replacements.com to find its doppelgänger. I looked at the name of the designer, Richard Ginori, and didn’t find my beloved bowl, but I found so many cool ones, including the one you see above. So I ordered that, and a Pinocchio bowl (you can see it on my Instagram) and last night I decided to cook something to go into it.

One day I’m going to tell you about all of the plates that I buy on Etsy and Ebay. It started a few years ago, after I finished my first TV job, and I was feeling a little flush with cash and instead of buying a new car or a gold watch, I bought a vintage pasta bowl from Italy. That led to the French bread plates with the orange rims, the dessert plates with hot air balloons on them, and then a set of Italian clown plates that arrived shattered. I was shattered too.

Lentils don’t really get anyone that excited unless you add the “b” word, that word being “bacon.” Bacon is a good thing to keep in your fridge for moments like these, when you don’t really have a protein to make for dinner, but you do have some dried goods and some mushrooms laying around. This dinner started by rendering the bacon and then adding some onion and sliced garlic.

Red wine goes in to deglaze the bottom of the pan and to lend some acidity. You let that cook away (did I mention that you have to cook the lentils first in boiling water for 25 minutes? I’m sorry, I owe you a huge apology) until it evaporates and then you can deal with your mushrooms.

My friend Jonathan, a vegetarian, thinks he hates mushrooms but I told him he probably hates slimy, mushy mushrooms; that I could change his mind if he let me sear mushrooms for him in a hot pan. Searing mushrooms is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen: just get olive oil or butter very hot in a non-stick skillet, add the mushrooms (button mushrooms here, halved), a little salt, and fire away. I just keep cooking and cooking until they look irresistible, then cook a little more.

To plate, spoon the lentils into your Etsy bowl, top with the mushrooms, and sprinkle everything with a little parsley and Parmesan.

Welcome to the family, new bowl.

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French Green Lentils with Bacon, Red Wine, and Mushrooms

A quick, weeknight dinner that's a little bit healthy, a little bit naughty, and very filling.
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry French green lentils, rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion, halved; keep one half whole, chop the other half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 4 strips good bacon (I like Neuske's Applewood smoked), cut into lardons
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup red wine (whatever you're drinking)
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, halved
  • Finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling)

Instructions

  • Start by cooking your lentils. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add your lentils, the not-chopped half of the onion, the bay leaves and a big pinch of salt. Cook for 25 minutes, then check for doneness. (The lentils should be totally cooked through and a little bit creamy.) Strain, conserving the lentil cooking liquid. Remove the cooked onion and the bay leaves.
  • In that same pot, add a splash of olive oil and the bacon. Turn the heat to medium/high and begin rendering the bacon fat; don't go too fast, or it'll get dark before all of the fat renders. When the bacon looks deep golden brown and there's lots of fat in the pan, add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion softens, then add the garlic and the red chili flakes (to taste), cooking until the garlic starts to brown.
  • Add the red wine and use it to pick up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. When the wine evaporates, add the lentils back in, a big splash of the cooking water (about a cup), and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the liquid is almost entirely evaporated, then set aside.
  • In a non-stick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil on high heat and, when very hot, add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown on all sides. Off the heat, add some of the chopped parsley.
  • To plate: spoon the lentils into a bowl and top with the mushrooms, more parsley, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

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Stewed Lentils with Bacon and Herbs (Anne Burrell, Food Network)

Lentils with Pancetta and Cream (Florence Fabricant, NYT)