Friday, December 26, 2008
I hope you enjoyed a lovely holiday. This post is a day late. I was kind of...errr...busy.
Busy, that is, enjoying a velvety pumpkin soup, fois gras on toasted sweet brioche and a roasted canette (female duck) with orange and port sauce accompanied by roasted potatoes and carrots. Friends are here from London and as if it is not special enough that they are here, they invited me in to share Christmas lunch. What a lucky girl!
If duck wasn't on your menu and you happen to have a meaty ham bone on this day-after, toss it in a pot with an onion studded with cloves and a couple of handfuls of these beauties...
...the French green du Puy lentils.
In French cooking, the lentilles du Puy are smaller and offer a beautiful palette of colors ranging from light green to slate. They turn a rich mahogany-brown, however, when they are cooked.
The result of your effort (although I use the word effort quite loosely here) will be this delicious potage* to satisfy, especially if you've spent the previous day navigating a rich and varied holiday menu.
If you are tucking in and cutting corners to prepare for a new year that seems to promise a bit more financial instability before things begin to even out, then a pot of lentils would be a good way to stretch your dollar/euro/peso or whatever currency you are counting and stretching. What's more, according to Mediterranean tradition, cooking the green du Puy lentil on the first day of the year, brings wealth all year long. If we all start 2009 with a pot of lentils, just think of the possibilities!
A sweet whole wheat (organic, of course!) chunk of bread to dig into this stewy bowlful with a salad of mâche and a bit of sliced endive tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette and you'll be putting your feet up and grabbing that new book that was in your stocking with a full belly to face the night (and temperature) as it falls.
LENTILLES AU PETIT SALÉ (Lentils with Salt Pork)
(Adapted from French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David)
Put 1 cup of French green du Puy lentils, rinsed and picked through for anything that isn't a lentil, one onion halved lengthwise, peeled and studded with whole cloves (2-5 in each half, to taste), one bouquet garni, one clove of garlic crushed and a ham hock in a soup pot to which you then add 2 pints of water. Simmer for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours covered. Uncover and take the meat off the bone and take out the onions, bouquet garni and garlic clove (unless it has cooked down...all the better!). By this time the liquid should be starting to be absorbed into a thick consistency and the lentils quite tender. Simmer another hour or more (I had this on a low simmer for the better part of the afternoon). When the meat is shredable-tender and the water has all been absorbed, shred the meat in or out of the pot (if out, return it to the pot). Taste the lentils for seasoning and add a touch of sea salt if needed. Serve in soup bowls with a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. Garnish with a bit of parsley...and let everybody know that "Soup's on!"
*The French have three separate words for soup. Consommé is a clear, thin broth. Soupe refers to a thick, hearty mélange with chunks of food. Potage falls somewhere between the first two in texture and thickness. A potage is usually puréed and is often thickened slightly with cream or egg yolks. Today, the words soupe and potage are often used interchangeably.