Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lentil and Sausage Salad

What does a good Italian girl do when there's a Patriots game on at 1:00 on New Year's Day, thus throwing a wrench into the traditional lentil and sausage meal to start the New Year?  Improvise and create a game-friendly-on-the-couch munchie with the necessary components.  You can make this salad without making the game-friendly version, or, with very little extra effort create a single-bite game-friendly munchie that will achieve the goal of lentils and sausage on New Year's Day.  The salad is dressed exquisitely with a gentle, but tasty dressing, and the sausage, whether you use hot or sweet is cooked to minimize greasiness and maximize flavor.  The prep on the lentils may seem onerous, but I have never cooked lentils in a manner other than this that will create tender, buttery and wholly intact lentils (thanks to Cook's Illustrated for the method).  You can do the brining step up two days in advance, refrigerating lentils after draining the brine.

For the Lentils:
Preliminary Brine:
  • 1 cup lentils, picked over
  • 4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, whacked with knife to loosen skin, and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chicken stock (homemade or low sodium)
  • 2 cups water
To brine:
  • Combine lentils, salt and water in a bowl and let sit for an hour.
  • Drain
To cook:
  • Preheat oven to 325
  • Combine lentils, garlic, bay leaf, water and chicken stock in a small dutch oven or medium sauce pan.  Cover and place in the oven for 40-60 minutes, until lentils are tender.  Drain and toss with dressing and vegetables immediately.
  • While lentils are cooking, sauté carrots and onions in a little olive oil until softened.  Toss with dressing and drained lentils.
For dressing:
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 TBS grated shallot
  • pinch kosher salt
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
For sausages:
  • 1/2 pound sausage links, hot or sweet
  • 1/2 cup beer
To cook sausages:
  • Prick sausages all over with a fork and place in a pan with beer and cover.  Heat over medium heat until simmering, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Drain sausage of all liquid and fat, place back in pan over medium heat and brown slightly on both sides until cooked through, about 5 minutes total.
To finish as one-bite munchies:
  • Fill pre-baked phyllo cups (available in freezer section of grocery store) with a TBS of lentil salad.
  • Top each cup with a 1/4" disk of sausage
  • Heat in a 350 oven for about 5 minutes and then serve.
To finish as a salad and/or with leftovers from one-bite munchies:
  • Chop sausage into bite-sized pieces and toss with lentil salad.
Serve warm or room temperature.  If you have fresh thyme or tarragon, chop up a TBS or so and add, but the salad will be just as tasty without.  Will make great leftovers, stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

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