Wine Glazed Lentils
Updated: May 16
If you ever travel internationally and have a family like mine, I recommend designating a responsible adult member of your party to speak to customs and immigration. I frequently drive to Canada with my husband, and, when switching off behind the wheel during the seven hour ride I contrive to be the one in the driver's seat when we cross the border. I don't trust my husband to speak to the border agent.
Anyone who has travelled overseas has had the experience of being behind someone in the passport line who announces she is a citizen of the world, or, at customs, someone who says the only thing he has to declare is his genius. Such people should rightfully be shipped back from wherever they came from, but instead they hold up the line for many hours while they have their luggage searched for something to explain their poor judgment. My husband does not say any of these things, but, unfortunately for me, he is one of those people who goes through life seeing the humor in everything. There are countries where this position gets you thrown in a gulag, I am sure.
This past week, driving across the border, we are asked where we live (Connecticut) and the purpose of our visit to Canada.
"We're here for Passover," I say.
The border agent swipes our passports through his machine, and looks straight ahead and not at me, in the way that they do. "Passover is everywhere."
"Why are you coming here for Passover when you can have Passover at home?"
"There are no Jews where we come from," says Husband, helpfully.
"All the time, Americans come here and when I ask them what are you going to be doing in Toronto, and they say they are 'staying in a hotel.' What kind of answer is that? Aren't there hotels in your own country?"
"You've convinced me," says Husband, "we'll turn around now."
"We are visiting our son for Passover," I say quickly, stepping on his line.
"Aha! Visiting Family," says the guard, who is apparently trying to complete some kind of checklist. I have crossed this border perhaps a hundred times, and never realized that this is what they do.
I tell this story as a PSA for when you are travelling to Canada with a smart-arse like my husband.
Lentils are fantastic. My favorite are lentilles de Puy, which are meaty and faintly peppery and have the most beautiful color, somewhere between deep green and slate grey. There are a number of recipes for glazed lentils. Mine uses incorporates the glaze found in the recipe from Naomi Pomeroy, whose brilliant cookbook Taste and Technique I refer to often.
This is a forgiving recipe, and one that can be made ahead and assembled just before a meal. It's ideal if you are having guests over and want to have a quick and impressive starter. You can also eat this midweek as either a side dish or a main. I have successfully added fennel and chayote to the aromatics, and have used different types of onions. It requires a bottle of wine, but there is enough left for a couple of glasses to drink with the dish.
1 cup of Puy lentils
4 cups of water
1 cup of dry red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
salt and pepper
For the glaze:
1 cup dry red wine
4 smashed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I have also used rice vinegar)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used double concentrated tomato paste)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6-8 anchovies, chopped up very fine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Place the lentils in a saucepan with water and red wine. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and then lower the heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are al dente. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, and let the lentils sit off heat and cook with remaining heat, then drain.
While the lentils are cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender.
For the glaze: Add 1 cup red wine, thyme, and 2 of the smashed garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook until the wine is reduced to a syrup. Strain into a jar. Add vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, remaining garlic, anchovy paste, and mustard. Shake thoroughly to combine.
All this may be done ahead.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of glaze and stir until glaze begins to separate and clump. Add 2/3rds of a cup of lentils, turn the heat up to medium-high and let lentils fry a bit in the glaze. Add a third of a cup of vegetables and heat through.
Do not to cook all of the glaze, lentils, and vegetables at once in the skillet, but instead do quick 2- minute preparations of individual portions.