Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red lentil and sweet potato stew

This is bright orange! And if you make it along with my recipe for hot pink beet sauce it will look like you're having one of Aishwarya Rai's backing dancers for dinner...and if that's not fun I don't know what is.Dice up one small onion (or half of a large one). Peel one small sweet potato and cut into small bite-sized pieces.While you are cutting things up, dice 2 pieces of thick-cut canadian bacon. Now. This is: a.) optional entirely because this is delicious without any meat in it at all; b.) even better if you use 1/4 pound of chopped real bacon instead of canadian; c.) also would be awesome with sausage. Or d.) all of the above! Wait. Scratch d.), I think it's impossible. The moral of the story is I used canadian bacon because I had a bit left over that needed using up, but this will be improved if you replace it with an equal amount of a different pork product, so keep that in mind.Also mince up 1 clove of garlic and measure out 1 cup red lentils.Heat up 1 tablespoon of the fat of your choice (I used bacon fat but butter/olive oil are perfectly fine) and saute the onions over medium heat until they are softened but not at all browned (about 4-5 minutes.)Add in your chunks of canadian bacon. Note: if you are using real bacon or sausage, don't use any extra fat in the first step, but just saute the meat together with the onions--it will render plenty of fat to work with so we don't need to add more. Canadian bacon is just kind of dry and lame so it needs an extra boost.Continue to saute for another few minutes, then add in your sweet potato chunks and minced garlic. Let them cook for 3 minutes, then clear a space in the center, add a drizzle of olive oil (again, only needed if you aren't using bacon or sausage!) and add 1 teapsoon each cumin and chile powder to bloom in the hot oil. This step really brings out the flavor in the spices, rather than just dumping them in. You can also add in a pinch of red pepper flakes at this point.Now in go your lentils! Getting pretty orange in there...Tomato paste! I like the kind that comes in tubes because it stores well in the fridge for when you only need a little bit at a time. Like now. We only need 1 tablespoon for this recipe.Make a space again in the center of the pot and saute the tablespoon of tomato paste quickly, just to get rid of the tinny taste that it has (or is that just me?).It is a lovely reddish orange color, isn't it?Now add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (or water or veggie stock are fine as well) and 1/2 cup white wine.This should be all the liquid the lentils need to get soft. Turn heat to low and cover the pot partway to cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. I then ended up shutting off the heat and covering the pot entirely for the lentils to steam and absorb the hot liquid. They'll finish cooking if you just leave it for another 10 minutes with the lid on and heat off.The lentils should be soft and everything kind of in a stew of deliciousness. Taste to see if it needs any salt, then add a few splashes of Tabasco to perk it up. Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over the top.This is great by itself but the hot pink bollywood beet sauce really takes it to another level. It makes a nice, tangy complement to the sweet and spicy stew. And it looks fabulous!

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