|Alison Roman of Bon Appetit|
I keep wishing there was another protein to cook with. How many riffs can you find for boneless skinless chicken breasts? But it seems unlikely that the Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s is suddenly going to extol the virtues of Rabbit or Goat. So when I see an intriguing recipe with a protein we don’t eat that often, I am all for cooking it. That would apply to this wonderful concoction. Here, ‘aggressively seasoned’ lamb is combined with French Lentils de Puy and a shower of fresh herbs and then laid atop a serving of cool, rich yogurt. It’s the work of Alison Roman of Bon Appetit Magazine. Ms. Roman is a wildly prolific recipe writer. She has 244 recipes on epicurious.com ranging from Charred Scallion Butter to Sardines with Grilled Bread and Tomato. And she’s even been here recently with her recipe for Fennel Crusted Pork Chops (See http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2016/11/fennel-crusted-pork-chops-with-shallots.html) In this recipe for Lamb, the seasoning is limited to cumin and red pepper flakes but the final result is definitely spicy. The counterpoint to the spice is the sweetness of the lentils and the coolness of the yogurt. Add to that, chopped English cucumber, parsley and cilantro and the balance is pretty well perfect. I’d love to tell you that this dish comes together in 35 minutes as Ms. Roman promised but for that timing, you can’t count the making of the lentils. That adds another 40 minutes. But the lentils are just as important to the dish as the lamb.
Lentils are among the first plants ever cultivated by man. In France, they’ve been discovered in Archeological digs dating from Roman times. Lentils de Puy hail from the town of Puy in southwestern France. They’re prized for the peppery flavor and firmness even after they’ve been cooked. They cost more than other varieties of the legume and their cooking time is longer than other lentils. On the plus side, they don’t require any pre-soaking and they stay whole even when cooked unlike many of their cousins. Originally, French Green lentils were grown only in the volcanic soil of the Puy region. Now they’re cultivated in Italy and in North America and still called Lentils de Puy. The ones I used came from Canada.
The lamb part of the recipe involves seasoning the lamb salted and peppered (Ms. Roman’s word) then making a big, thin lamb patty, cooking that until it is brown and crisp and then chopping it up and mixing in the seasoning. At this point, you can adjust the heat by making careful additions and tasting it between them. Then the lamb is replaced by the lentils in the sauté pan and when the lentils have crisped up, the lamb joins the lentils and the cucumber, parsley and cilantro are added in. The mixture is put atop a layer of Greek Yogurt and the entire dish gets another shower of fresh herbs. We served this with lemon wedges and flatbreads—we used Garlic flavored Naan from the supermarket. Here are the recipes:
1. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add oil. When hot, add chopped vegetables and sauté until softened, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Add 6 cups water, lentils, thyme, bay leaves and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a fast simmer.
Now make the Spicy Lamb and Lentils with Herbs from Alison Roman in Bon Appetit Magazine 4 Servings Active Time 35 mins. Total Time 35 mins.
1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Season lamb with salt and pepper and arrange in pan in an even patty about 1/4″ thick. Cook, pressing occasionally to help meat make contact with pan, until underside is browned and very crisp, about 5 minutes. Carefully turn, pouring off excess fat (reserve), and cook until other side is crisp, about 5 minutes.
2. Break up lamb into small pieces. Mix in garlic, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are fragrant and lamb is cooked through but still juicy, about 2 minutes. Transfer lamb mixture to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
3. Place lentils and 2 tablespoons of reserved fat in same skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until lentils start to brown and crisp, 5–8 minutes. Return lamb to skillet and toss to combine and warm through. Remove from heat and stir in cucumber, cilantro, and parsley.