Monday, January 18, 2010

Lentils with onions, carrots, and bacon

This recipe was taken straight from Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything," so I won't reproduce it exactly -- as usual, just paraphrasing. I wouldn't want to infringe on anyone's copyright!

Pork is a beautiful thing. It's full of flavour, unbelievably versatile, and, comparatively speaking, cheap. In Quebec, high quality pork is easy to find year round. I've already mentioned Porcmeilleur, a farm-direct pork vendor at the Jean-Talon market. Their pork is fabulous, and they have just about every imaginable cut, both fresh and frozen. While their bacon is more expensive than Claude & Henri at Atwater (about $12/kilo as opposed to $11 at C&H), it is really perfect, so I won't complain too noisily. One of these days I'll do a taste test to compare the two.

To make this fabulously tasty, cheap, and healthy side dish, you start by chopping about six strips of bacon into 1 cm squares. Fry them in a medium saucepan (not a frying pan) until they're brown and crispy, and then take them out of the pan, leaving all the grease behind. In the grease, cook a medium onion and a couple of carrots (that you have diced beforehand, of course) until the onion is translucent. Then, drop in two cups of lentils, some thyme, a bay leaf, salt and pepper, and 3-4 cups of stock (beef, chicken, vegetable, whatever). Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender, adding more stock as you go if necessary. You don't want it to be too soupy, so at the end if you need to cook off extra liquid you can turn the heat up and let it boil rapidly until it reaches the consistency you like. Then, put the bacon back in, and serve with a sprig of parsley. This could also be made in a crock pot -- just throw the ingredients (minus the bacon, you have to fry that yourself) in the pot in the morning, and your dinner will be waiting for you when you get home from work.

Protein-rich lentils, I learned, are a Canadian specialty. While the biggest producer in the world is India, by far, Canada is second and exports more lentils than any other country, since India's lentils are mostly consumed domestically. So, while we in Quebec have to live with the fact that our lentils have probably travelled by train across the country from Saskatchewan, we know we're still supporting the national economy, and they're not travelling around the world on a boat. As it happens, lentils were one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East, and have more protein (by weight) than any other plant except soybeans and hemp, making them a staple for vegetarians. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Local carrots and onions are always easy to find, making them great winter staples. They can both be used in so many dishes -- be on the lookout for an entry on carrot and cheddar soup tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. A note: this dish makes GREAT leftovers, even cold. The flavour is out of this world.