Since the Zuni cookbook has been such a hot topic on the board lately, I pulled it out this weekend looking for inspiration for some sides for a leg of lamb we were planning on grilling for mother's day. As it has been cold and rainy in Boston, I decided on the wine-braised lentils as a side.
The technique is the trick, yet again. Here, the technique is to cook lentils like risotto, sauteing the battuto first, adding the lentils, stirring in oil to coat, then adding first the red wine and then the chicken stock in batches, stirring occasionally as the liquid develops. I added Penzey's powdered rosemary (wonderful stuff!) and thyme along with salt and pepper.
Although the recipe prefers lentilles du puy, you can use other kinds. I used plain Goya brown lentils from the supermarket, total cooking time about 45-50 minutes. The wine was Ique Malbec, left over from dinner the night before. The chicken stock was Penzey's chicken soup base. I cooked them at home, and then reheated them in a little water at my brother-in-law's home. As she says in the recipe, the lentils do get softer when re-heated, but on a blustery day, the texture is welcome. After tasting the lentils, I did add an uncalled-for 2 tbsps of an olive oil-balsamic-red wine vinaigrette left over from dressing the salad just before serving.
The lentils were incredible, with a wonderful depth of flavor and texture that I've never gotten with plain brown lentils before. They got raves, went well with the grilled lamb, pinot noir and asaparagus, and gaev me a new lease on lentils.
On the way home, the DH and I were reflecting on the success of Ms. Rodgers's recipes so far, and we concluded thusly: the techniques aren't hard, and you have to have good ingredients to start, but it's all about the layering of flavors to make a whole bigger than the sum of its parts. And what a yummy whole it is.
And another report on the success of pre-seasoning, although of much shorter duration. I thawed some swordfish steaks from TJ's earlier this week, and rubbed them with the remainders of the melange of pre-ground salt/pepper/coriander/fennel seeds called for in the bone-in-pork roast recipe. I let them sit a half hour in the fridge before searing. Delicious, and the flavors blended well with the peperonata sauce I spooned on top.