Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Basic French Lentils

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

During my first trip to France I was stuck by how much better even the simplest of dishes tasted, in particular, a very humble plate of lentils. Unlike the mushy, soupy versions that I had previously made at home, these were hearty, toothsome, and intensely flavored—they were like nothing I had previously experienced. I quickly learned that the primary difference was the fact that these were French lentils, otherwise known as lentilles du Puy, a smaller, green-gray variety that grows in central France. But even when I got home and tried to replicate these lovely lentils at home there was something that wasn't quite right.

I had been trying my hand at French lentils with varying degrees of success for the past few years when I finally found the prefect recipe for Basic French Lentils in Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. While I had always incorporated a combination of carrots, celery, and onions, I was missing a few key ingredients—one lone clove, a bay leaf, a bit of Cognac, and most importantly, plenty of stock to cook the lentils in. These few ingredients made all of the difference in the world when it came to the finished bowl of lentils. The flavors were somehow so much deeper and more pronounced, the one little clove added warmth, the stock a meatiness, and the Cognac a bit of richness that you don't often find in legumes.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Around My French Table to give away this week.

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Copyright © 2010. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

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