About a year ago my father started a blog, Eating Every Day, which is just that--a daily blog about what he eats. Yesterday morning I opened it, as I do most mornings, and had to laugh. The night before, my parents had eaten Umbrian Lentil Stew (from the March issue of Food and Wine). Guess what we ate that same night?
Maybe you remember I wrote a couple weeks ago about making this stew sometime this month. I'm pleased to report that I made good on this resolution. Of course, I planned on making it much sooner, but then the kids were both out (so we went out for dinner), or I started dinner too late, or there were more leftovers than expected. Something kept getting in the way, until Wednesday night. Maybe I was just waiting for the stars to line up so I could have dinner with my parents. Well, virtually, anyway.
I like to follow recipes pretty exactly on a first try. But right now I'm also trying to use up things in the pantry. So I passed on buying Umbrian lentils, and substituted the little French ones that have been waiting so patiently in my cupboard. I think they cook similarly to the Umbrian, staying firmer to the tooth than most lentils.
I also substituted guanciale for the prosciutto. Here's why I'd be a lousy recipe tester. I might be pretty good about following recipes, but I can't really be trusted around the ingredients. In the original recipe, the prosciutto cooks with the lentils. I rendered the guanciale's fat, and then scooped the bits out of the pan, holding them back until the lentils had cooked a while.
Do you realize what a perfect appetizer a plate of guanciale bits is? I do. And I did. Here's my rationalization. I cooked the same weight of guanciale as what was called for in prosciutto. But the guanciale has a lot more fat, so you probably don't need as much. If you use guanciale (or bacon or pancetta) I suggest you use the same weight. And pour yourself a glass of wine and nibble on the bits. Caution: there's really only enough for one person to nibble, so you might want to set the plate somewhere out of clear sight. As an aside, if you look carefully at the photo above you'll see a snippet of an ad. I like how it suggests those bits of guanciale might be 90,000 friends I haven't met yet.
Be sure to check my father's blog--he has a much prettier picture of the dinner.
And here's the recipe--for some reason the link to Food and Wine is being a little hinky today--I don't know if that's an ongoing problem.
Umbrian Lentil Stew with Olive-Oil-Fried Eggs
Adapted from Matt Molina's recipe in Food and Wine, March 2009
2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
2 ounces guanciale, chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 small celery rib, coarsely chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 pound Umbrian lentils (or French or green)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper
4 large eggs
4 handfuls rocket (AKA arugula)
Parmesan and aged balsamic (or sherry-)vinegar for serving
- In a saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil; add the guanciale and cook over low heat until the fat has rendered. Remove guanciale bits, and set aside.
- Add the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the saucepan and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, 7 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and stir over moderately high heat until shiny, 1 minute.
- Add the lentils and 2 1/2 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the broth has been absorbed, 25 minutes.
- Add 1 more cup of the broth and continue simmering until absorbed, 10 minutes.
- Add the guanciale bits along with the remaining 1/2 cup of broth and simmer until the lentils are tender and suspended in a creamy sauce, about 10 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a large skillet, heat a thin film of olive oil. Crack the eggs into the skillet, season with salt and cook over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, the whites are just set and the yolks are still runny.