Lentilles du Puy

These are not your mother’s lentils…they are not the mushy legumes you may have had. Lentilles du Puy are French and have an AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protegee) status, which means they are from a specific region that makes them special (and they are!). They are grown in the volcanic soil of Puy near Auvergne. Not only do they hold their shape, but the texture is much firmer than regular lentils. The flavor is also earthier, I think, reflecting their terroir. These qualities make them good for a salad, as well as a hot side dish, and both have the same preparation! I love versatility…

To make, render some fat from lardons (sliced bacon); saute a finely chopped shallot and carrot until softened; and then add a cup of lentils and two cups of chicken stock or water (you can make any quantity with this ratio–just use more vegetables). Bring to a boil, turn down heat to a simmer, and cover. You may need to add more liquid, depending on cooking time, which can take up to 40 minutes. Taste the lentils and take off heat when they are not crunchy but firm (remember, you do not want them to fall apart and become soft). As a side dish with pan-seared salmon, for example, serve right away. For a salad, cool and drain any extra liquid (this can be done with the leftovers), and dress with a simple vinaigrette (see my post “A Simple Vinaigrette”) just before plating.

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