Lentils with braised fennel!
Today I wanted to write a little bit about lentils. People have been eating them for a long time, and there is a very good reason. They are very nutritious. However, most Americans don’t eat them. I am not really sure why that is though. It seems that this is one of the secrets that vegetarians have been keeping to themselves! Lentils are high in protein and fiber, and also have a great flavor. The two biggest reasons I don’t understand why Americans don’t eat lentils are that they are fast cooking, and also that they are CHEAP!
Last night I decided that I was going to make some dinner, and rather than our usual rice or potatoes, I’d make some lentils. I also wanted to add some fennel to give a nice counterpoint to the earthy flavor of the lentils. We were going to have chicken, and asparagus as well.
Start the lentils first, and pre-heat the oven to 350F. Lentils don’t need soaking, unlike other legumes. You really should sort through them for rocks, and other foreign materials. Then rinse them. Any that float, just pitch them. They are too dry to really cook well. Pour off the water, and cover them by about an inch or so with water. Do not salt them. That will make them less tender. Bring them up to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. They will need to cook for 30-40 minutes, depending on how tender you like them. Then season them with salt and pepper.
While the lentils are cooking, I julienned half a bulb of fennel, and then placed it in a pot with about a cup of orange juice and a 1/4 cup of bourbon. Bring this up to a boil, and allow the liquid to reduce to a syrup.
The chicken I seasoned with salt and pepper and herbes de provence, and baked for about 15 minutes.
Once everything was just about done I cut the ends off some asparagus, and put them in a skillet with some melted butter and salt and pepper, and lightly sauted them, until they were just tender.
The fennel I used as a garnish on the chicken, and the reduced liquid I poured over the lentils, although there wasn’t a lot of it left. I turned out very nicely, and the sweetness of the fennel balanced the earthy lentils very nicely. It was certainly nice to have something a little different too.