Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Salmon with French Green Lentils

Another (delicious) and SUPER easy Barefoot Contessa recipe, this time from Barefoot in Paris. (One of my favorite BC books; also contains her cauliflower gratin recipe which literally makes MRN swoon). Are you thinking, "... lentils and salmon are French?" I know I did. But apparently, it's very French-- particularly the lentils, which I learned about on a trip to Paris earlier this year (that was as much a culinary delight as you would expect). These peppery little treats are smaller than their lentil cousins, and are the finest but most expensive of the lentil family. They are also the meatiest, richest tasting and remain quite firm after cooking making them excellent for salads (so say the experts). Also known as Puy lentils (because they were originally grown in the soils of Puy, France), green lentils are popular ingredients in French rustic cooking. I've had them as part of a hearty lunch, served with pork; though I much prefer this version with salmon. Leave it to Ina.

I've included Ina's recipe for the lentils as is, below-- but this makes far more than 4 servings, so my recommendation would be to cut it in half (as it is, we'll be lucky to get through the rest of the lentils this week). Next time I'd also omit (or at least reduce) the red wine vinegar because it gave it a bit of a sweeter undertone which I didn't love. For the salmon I didn't follow Ina's recipe (gasp!) because it seemed like too much faffing about for me (as the English say)-- heating pans for specified amounts of time and then searing and turning. Instead I just simply rubbed the salmon with olive oil, generously salted and peppered and then roasted, skin side down, on a aluminum foil covered roasting pan at 400 F (about 200 C) for 10 minutes. You don't get that lovely sear that Ina gets, but it's still delicious.

I'd say this recipe was a "good"-- I loved it (minus the red wine vinegar) but MRN only liked the salmon and not the lentils (but might I add, he ATE all the lentils on his plate, and I didn't skimp). We may want to chalk it up to his not liking veggies generally (and the fact that I tend to add a lot more than recipes call for and hide it in his food... sue me. I'm trying to keep him healthy so he lives a long, long time). But since he wasn't jumping up and down and ultimately he's my guinea pig, sadly I can't give it two thumbs up. Thumb and a half?

  • 1/2 pound French green lentils such as du Puy
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for salmon
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 11/2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
  • 11/2 cups chopped carrots (3 carrots)
  • 11/2 cups Homemade Chicken Stock or good canned broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 4 (8-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets, skin removed

For lentils:
Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a sauté pan, add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the celery, carrots, chicken stock, lentils and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the vinegar and season to taste. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

For salmon (this is where I digress-- for Ina's actual recipe, click here):
Rub with good olive oil and salt and pepper generously. Place in oven for 10 minutes-- I have a fan assisted oven, so this is the perfect amount of time; but if you have a standard oven, may want to check to make sure it's cooked. Should be just cooked through, not pink; Although if not serving right away remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil. It will continue roast out of the oven to the perfect temp).

To plate:
Gently run spatula under salmon, just between skin and bottom of fish, to separate fish from skin (after all- you don't want to serve guests something inedible that will make their lovely plate of food unsightly!). Place fish on plates and spoon lentils on either side (or as I did, spoon lentils first and place fish on top). Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.