There’s a reason you always see sausages with lentils. They pair well together. Over the years I’ve tried to make lentil dishes which stand alone on their merits and have been successful with some. But when paired with sausage the combination is downright magical. I don’t know if it’s the saltiness of the sausage reacting with the lentils or the earthiness of the lentils acting on the sausage. Whatever it is, it works.
So it was with great conviction this week I decided to make a dinner with these wonderful Beluga lentils as the main ingredient. They’re plump and earthy, and hold their shape well if cooked properly. I did my due diligence by consulting The Flavor Bible and picked some favorable ingredients to add to the cooked lentils. Though sausage was in the list I was determined to show off the lentils.
Guanciale, thyme, shallots, garlic, a mustard vinaigrette, yes, these would be enough to sufficiently flavor the lentils and make them sing. I would not resort to the easy fix! When I tasted the dish I found the lentils were very very good. But my inner-perfectionist told me something was missing. Knowing I can be too judgmental on my cooking and not wanting to complicate what I had already made I decided to step back, leave it alone and see what Cheryl thought when she got home from work.
She tasted them and also thought the lentils were really good. Whew. Take that sausage! You’re not a necessity for this lentil dish! Satisfied that my new creation could stand on its own, I of course went out and hubristically grilled up some new Creole Seasoned sausages I recently made. I’ll show you, sausage! Here, sit next to these wonderful lentils and watch how much you’re not needed.
With that, we sat down and ate dinner. And the sausage mocked me. Damn you sausage!
The second the very first forkful of sausage and lentils hit my tongue I knew I was wrong. It was a foolish thing to even think they could survive without each other. It doesn’t matter how flavorful the lentils were, sausage just makes them better and vice versa. There’s a reason sausage is in bold black letters (indicating a strong complementary relationship) under ‘Lentils’ in the Flavor Bible. A very delicious reason.
Side Roam: You know I’m big on cooking ratios and there’s one in here! You’ll always be able to make salad dressing if you remember the easy ratio for vinaigrette: 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Simple!
Beluga Lentils with Mustard Vinaigrette and Grilled Sausage(4 servings)
- 2 C black beluga lentils
- 8 C water
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 oz guanciale/bacon, small dice
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ C Havarti Dill cheese, small dice
- 1 Tbs fresh thyme
- ¾ C basic mustard vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 4 grilled sausages, spicy
In a large pot over medium heat place the lentils in 8 C of water with the bay leaves. Bring the water to a very low boil, then reduce to a low simmer. You really need to cook lentils with delicate care. Once you start it simmering low cook the lentils for 12-15 minutes, until they are tender but still firm and holding their shape. You do not want mushy lentils.
Drain and cool, remove bay leaves.
Over medium heat on the stove cook the guanciale/bacon in a frying pan and cook until crispy.
Drain off fat, return pan to burner, and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for a minute and add the guanciale/bacon back in. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Make the mustard vinaigrette (see below).
Combine 4 C of the cooked lentils (you’ll have a little extra), guanciale/bacon-shallots-garlic mixture, thyme, cheese cubes and stir together. Chill in refrigerator.
When ready to serve take out of refrigerator, pour the vinaigrette over the lentils, and stir in.
Salt and pepper to taste, add a little more mustard if desired.
Serve on a bed of lettuce topped with a grilled sausage, preferably a spicy one.
Basic Mustard Vinaigrette
- ¼ C red wine vinegar (or your favorite)
- 1 ½ Tbs mustard (again, your choice; Dijon, grainy)
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ C extra virgin olive oil
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the vinegar, mustard and salt, making sure the salt dissolves.
While whisking continuously, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream. Take breaks in adding the oil in order to make sure the oil and vinegar become fully incorporated. If you add the oil all at once the oil and vinegar will separate. You want to keep it intact.