I made this for lunch yesterday, and it came out beautifully. My adaptations are reflected in the recipe; I only had frozen shallot, so I left it out of the vinaigrette, and we didn’t miss it. The bacon was a perfect foil for the lentils, and was cut into small enough pieces (sliced lengthwise once, then across) that it didn’t overpower the lentils themselves. I also used frozen onion, and it worked fine. I added a bit of extra salt and vinegar just before serving, and Jeremy commented that it was perfectly seasoned. Definitely a recipe to make again (and again).
Salad of Lentilles de Puy
This lentil salad best when the sautéed carrots and onions are just-tender, then mixed into the warm lentils along with the vinaigrette.
3/4 C French green lentilles de Puy
1 bay leaf
a few springs of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1/2 a onion, peeled and finely diced
1 slice thick applewood-smoked bacon, finely diced
1 T red wine or sherry vinegar
3 T high quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
Rinse the lentils and remove any foreign matter. Transfer the lentils to a large saucepan, about 6 quarts, then cover with a copious amount of water, which should cover the lentils by at least 3-4 inches. Add the bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a bit of salt, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary. Be sure not to overcook them. While the lentils are cooking, mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl large enough to hold everything. When the lentils are done, drain them well, then toss them in the vinaigrette with the cooked vegetables; remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Stir a few times to release the steam, and add some fresh thyme leaves, if desired.
Now cook the bacon in a skillet; when crisp, add it to the lentils along with a bit of bacon fat. Remove remaining excess fat, leaving a teaspoon or so, and add the carrots and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently until tender. Add to the lentils and bacon, taste, and season with more vinegar, salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. About 3 servings. Cooked lentils will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. They can be reheated in a pan on the stovetop or in a microwave. Some other ideas:
*Dress the lentils with less vinaigrette and omit the mustard. When the lentils are cool, dress them right before serving with a very good-quality walnut or hazelnut oil and a handful of toasted nuts.
*Once cool, add a big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and more fresh thyme or savory.
*Add other root vegetables, like celery root or parsnips. Oven roast cubes of them in olive oil with salt and pepper until browned, then add them with the vinaigrette.
*Stir a spoonful of duck fat into the warm lentils.
*Crumble coarse chunks of fresh goat cheese into the room temperature lightly-dressed lentils. This is particularly good drizzled with walnut or hazelnut oil.
Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz.