SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW
Let’s be honest — this dish isn’t going to be winning any beauty pageants anytime soon. With it’s reddish-brown color scheme and thick, chili-like texture, this isn’t the type of recipe that turns many heads on Foodgawker or Tastespotting. So, like a friend who’s just set you up on a blind date with an aesthetically challenged individual, I implore you to move past its humble appearance and try to get to know the soul of this comforting dish.
For me, this is cold weather fare at its best. A warm, stick-to-your-ribs type meal that’s like a hug from a loved one. Creamy lentils and sausages combine to produce a dish that is both high in protein and rich in savory flavor. The best part? It’s cheap and simple to make. In fact, you probably already have everything to make it your kitchen. All you really need is a handful of lentils, a few sausages from the fridge, a leftover glass of wine, and you can have a filling and satisfying meal at a moment’s notice. This is hearty food that reheats well and makes great leftovers.
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SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW
I like to use French green lentils in this recipe because they hold their shape and retain great texture when cooked for long periods of time. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to substitute brown lentils but expect a slightly different finished texture. If you want a healthier version of this stew, omit the bacon and pour off all of the rendered sausage fat after browning. If you decide to go down this route, simply substitute a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil before cooking the vegetables. Feel free to use any herbs or spices you have lying around your kitchen. I’ve made this with everything from rosemary to curry powder with excellent results, so experiment away. Finally, I’ve found that other sausages work well in this application. Merguez and goat would also make for a stellar stew.
- 2 slices smoky bacon
- 4 sweet or hot Italian sausages, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup petite French lentils, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leave
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 14-ounce can tomatoes, crushed
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 roasted red peppers, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 4 sprigs of parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Set a large, heavy-bottomed pot over moderately-low heat and cook bacon until the fat has rendered. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pot and set aside. Increase the heat to moderately-high and brown the sausage pieces in the reserved bacon fat. Be careful not to crowd the pot; fry the sausages in separate batches if necessary. Once they are sufficiently caramelized (about 8 minutes per batch), remove the browned sausage pieces to a plate using a slotted spoon.
- Lower the heat to moderate and add in the carrots, onion and garlic. Sauté until softened and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add in the crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaves and thyme and sauté another 5 minutes. Add in the red wine to deglaze and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon. Allow the wine to reduce by half before adding the lentils, tomatoes, chicken stock, red peppers and parsley.
- Add the cooked bacon and sausages back into the pot along with any juices that may have collected. Stir to mix well and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for an hour, or until the lentils are just al dente. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
- Stir in the balsamic vinegar and season the lentil stew with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.