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Spicy Lamb and Lentils with Herbs

Spicy Lamb and Lentils with Herbs
Alison Roman of Bon Appetit

I keep wishing there was another protein to cook with.  How many riffs can you find for boneless skinless chicken breasts?  But it seems unlikely that the Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s is suddenly going to extol the virtues of Rabbit or Goat.  So when I see an intriguing recipe with a protein we don’t eat that often, I am all for cooking it.  That would apply to this wonderful concoction.  Here, ‘aggressively seasoned’ lamb is combined with French Lentils de Puy and a shower of fresh herbs and then laid atop a serving of cool, rich yogurt.  It’s the work of Alison Roman of Bon Appetit Magazine. Ms. Roman is a wildly prolific recipe writer.  She has 244 recipes on epicurious.com ranging from Charred Scallion Butter to Sardines with Grilled Bread and Tomato. And she’s even been here recently with her recipe for Fennel Crusted Pork Chops (See https://chewingthefat.us.com/2016/11/fennel-crusted-pork-chops-with-shallots.html)  In this recipe for Lamb, the seasoning is limited to cumin and red pepper flakes but the final result is definitely spicy.  The counterpoint to the spice is the sweetness of the lentils and the coolness of the yogurt.  Add to that, chopped English cucumber, parsley and cilantro and the balance is pretty well perfect. I’d love to tell you that this dish comes together in 35 minutes as Ms. Roman promised but for that timing, you can’t count the making of the lentils.  That adds another 40 minutes.  But the lentils are just as important to the dish as the lamb.

Lentils are among the first plants ever cultivated by man. In France, they’ve been discovered in Archeological digs dating from Roman times. Lentils de Puy hail from the town of Puy in southwestern France.  They’re prized for the peppery flavor and firmness even after they’ve been cooked.  They cost more than other varieties of the legume and their cooking time is longer than other lentils.  On the plus side, they don’t require any pre-soaking and they stay whole even when cooked unlike many of their cousins. Originally, French Green lentils were grown only in the volcanic soil of the Puy region. Now they’re cultivated in Italy and in North America and still called Lentils de Puy.  The ones I used came from Canada.

To make our Spicy Lamb dish, it’s best to start with making the lentils. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe for French lentils with garlic and thyme. There are any number of other recipes you can follow.  Ina Garten has  a great one.  While you don’t have to soak the lentils, you should rinse them because Lentils very often contain small stones and other debris with they are harvested.   Nigella’s recipe is very easy. You sauté the onions, carrots and garlic, then add the liquid, simmer and in 20 to 25 minutes, they’re done.

The lamb part of the recipe involves seasoning the lamb salted and peppered (Ms. Roman’s word) then making a big, thin lamb patty, cooking that until it is brown and crisp and then chopping it up and mixing in the seasoning.  At this point, you can adjust the heat by making careful additions and tasting it between them.  Then the lamb is replaced by the lentils in the sauté pan and when the lentils have crisped up, the lamb joins the lentils and the cucumber, parsley and cilantro are added in.  The mixture is put atop a layer of Greek Yogurt and the entire dish gets another shower of fresh herbs.  We served this with lemon wedges and flatbreads—we used Garlic flavored Naan from the supermarket.  Here are the recipes:

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