It’s the New Year, which means we’re all watching what we’re eating or at least trying very hard to make the right decisions when it comes to food. This doesn’t mean that we have to give up on taste though. Let’s not call it a diet, because diets aren’t a very good mindset to have. What’s more I don’t even think we should even call them resolutions. Let’s focus less on what we won’t be doing this year and focus more on what we will be doing. I’m all about the un-resolution. This year we should reintroduce ourselves with our love of food and remember that it’s not at all what we shouldn’t be eating, but rather it’s all about eating what we want…in moderation. That’s the key. Maybe this means eating somewhat healthy during the week, and cheating during the weekends. That seems like the best plan to me. This French Lentil Stew with Sausage for instance, just happens to be a healthier option to the guilty comfort food we’re all use to in winter, but it’s filling and warming and won’t make you feel like you’re over-indulging. This recipe is inspired from my favorite dish from a tiny French restaurant in Austin, Texas called Chez Nous. A lentil stew packed with so much flavor and topped with roasted tomatoes, grilled house-made sausage and a lightly (but perfectly) dressed mixed green salad. It’s heaven in a bowl, and you’ll want that bowl to never end. Trust me.
Let’s start by sautéing some veggies in a bit of olive oil until softened. This is a mixture of onion, celery, and carrots, which happens to be called mirepoix, which is a long standing cooking technique in French cooking and very fancy restaurants. We’re also adding garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes for even more added flavor.
**Note: Mirepoix is the base for a lot of hearty soups, stews and classic French dishes, which is similar to the Cajun holy trinity which is onion, celery and bell peppers!**
Once the veggies have softened, stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly. This helps develop the flavor of the tomato paste, giving the dish a nice tomatoey depth of flavor!
Deglaze the pan with some dry white wine and Sherry vinegar, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, once the wine has been added, which helps pick up any browned bits at the bottom. Cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated.
**Tip: You want a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. As always, whenever you cook with wine, you don’t want to break the bank with an expensive bottle, but you do want to make sure it’s something you’d drink as the flavor will infuse your dish, and if you use something you don’t particularly enjoy, then you won’t like the dish!**
Once the wine has evaporated, stir in the rinsed French green lentils. Give it a stir to evenly incorate along with everything else.
**Tip: If you can’t find French Le Puy lentils, plain green lentils will also work! Just make sure you rinse them properly to remove any dirt or grit that can sometimes be found in the package.**
Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until the lentils have softened and the stew has thickened, about 30 to 35 minutes. If at any point the liquid evaporates too much, but the lentils aren’t cooked yet, stir in a bit of hot water to loosen it up.
**Tip: If you want to keep this dish vegetarian, just use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and you’ll be good to go!**
Meanwhile, place halved tomatoes onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Roast in a preheated 425 degree F oven until the tomatoes have softened and just begun to char, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a medium bowl, toss together mixed greens with olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Once the lentils have softened, give them a taste and adjust seasoning accordingly, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
Grill the smoked sausage on a stovetop grill pan or outdoor grill over medium heat until the sausage is charred all around, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly before slicing.
**Note: I’m using a smoked Kielbasa for this dish, but any sausage would do the trick! If you want to keep things vegetarian, you can easily omit the sausage and still have a great dish!**
To serve, spoon the lentil stew into shallow serving bowls and then top with the roasted tomatoes, the dressed greens and the grilled sausage. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately.
As with many stews, this one gets better the longer it sits. Just rewarm, covered, over low heat and making sure to stir often to prevent the stew from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 5 t0 8 minutes until warmed through. It’s a great winter weeknight meal to get you through the week, without all of the guilt. It’s filling and incredibly delicious!
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks celery, peeled and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
- 1¼ cups French green lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 3 small tomatoes, halved
- 1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa
- 8 ounces mixed baby greens or Mesclun
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- crusty bread, for serving
- Place a large dutch oven, over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once hot, add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves, fresh thyme and season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Once the vegetables have softened, stir in the tomato paste, cooking for about 30 seconds to develop its flavor. Stir in the white wine and vinegar and simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Add the lentils and the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the stew has thickened, and the lentils have softened, about 30 to 35 minutes. If the liquid evaporates too much, and the lentils aren't soft yet, stir in a bit of hot water.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place the tomato halves, cut side up, onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Roast until softened and slightly charred, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Preheat a stove-top or outdoor grill to about medium heat. Once hot, grill the sausage until charred all around, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest slightly. Cut each sausage in half and then slice, without cutting all the way through. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, toss together the greens with the remaining tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper until evenly combined.
- To serve, pour the lentil stew into serving bowls and top each with the roasted tomatoes, a small amount of seasoned greens and the grilled sausage. Top with parsley right before serving. Enjoy!