French Lentils à la Quarantine
Serves 1-4 ish
Pour more olive oil than you’d think (or canola, or grapeseed oil, but olive oil is really good) into a large saucepan, and set it over medium heat.
Add 1-2 thinly sliced onions, depending on how much you like onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned. Color is flavor.
Once the onions have browned, toss in 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely diced. Cook for a few minutes, just until the garlic has turned translucent.
At this point, you should feel free to spice up the dish a bit. I tend to do it with a pinch of ground coriander and about half a pinch of ground cumin, but I invite you to experiment.
Rinse 1-2 cups of french lentils by swishing them around for a few seconds in a bowl of water, changing the water 2-3 times. Other types of legume or grain can be used as well.
Add lentils to the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add to the pan roughly twice as much chicken stock, by volume, as you used lentils. (Again, chicken stock is just a placeholder. Any other liquid, even water, will do just fine.) Introducing liquid will loosen the brown junk at the bottom of the pan. Make sure to scrape it all up. That’s the good stuff.
At this point, you will probably want to add some amount of salt, depending on the liquid you used. Don’t be afraid to dip in a spoon to taste.
Cover your saucepan and crank up the heat, bringing it to a boil as quickly as possible.
As soon as the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook, with the lid on, until all of the stock has been absorbed. This should take 30-60 minutes or so, depending on the type and quantity of legume or grain used. (Despite what you may have heard, lifting the lid or even digging down a bit with a spoon to see how much liquid is left will not wreck the finished product.)
Remove the lentils from the heat and let them sit for ten minutes or so to mellow out, then finish off the dish with about a tablespoon of balsamic or red wine vinegar, just to add a little bit of tang. Eat a few spoonfuls before serving it to anyone else.
Variations are endless. One of my favorites though is to use hulled barley in place of lentils, leave out the coriander, and omit the vinegar at the end.
This dish can easily be turned into a soup by about doubling the amount of liquid. That’s really all there is to it.