Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Occupy Your Kitchen: Garlicky Lentils

Lentils with pork trotters, sour cabbage and queso cotija.
Michael Pollan upbraids us to spend more time in our kitchens - as if our life quite literally could depend on it.

Well, maybe I'm being a touch hyperbolic. Regardless, Cooked has arrived in the post and I have started to read it with gusto (see what I did there?). In it Pollan posits that cooking may not just be a critical facet of human culture, but it's progenitor. Cooking at home, and moreover, making a meal from scratch is on the decline in favor of fast food and frozen dinners. What is lost when you remove the family from the dinner table, when cooking is no longer a communal act?

Framed in this manner, Pollan considers buying, cooking and eating food to be a political act. We couldn't agree more.

--

Pig trotter.
Yesterday I was cooped up at the Potrero offices of Chowbacca! with a giant pot of boiling bones - some of the cheapest eats you can find. The bones were from a pig roast, Porkpocalypse II in fact, and I had promised my friend Jil that I would get her the skull.

See, the "Skullz" is the name of our "gang", and collecting skulls is our "thing". (Our thing is also having a good time and looking good doing it. Skullz 4 lyfe!!).

We even have an adjunct moped gang. Hear us coming, walk away quickly in fear. Or not. Probably nothing will happen. We're lovers, not fighters.

Anyway, I have boiled down this pig carcass (or rather half of it) and I've rescued a few treasures: four trotters and shanks, the animals tongue and a good amount of rib meat (no, I am not planning on making my own McRibs but that's not a terrible idea).

Breakfast was easy: sliced pig tongue crisped up in a little pork fat, served in a taco with sour cabbage and queso cotija. After a second pork taco (shanks and tendons) for lunch, I started to look around the pantry to see if I had something to start using up all this stock.

I found what I was looking for, French lentils, and got to work making a thick lentil stew.

--

Garlic Lentil Stew
  • 1/2 yellow onion or 1/4 large white onion, diced.
  • 4-5 large cloves of garlic, chopped.
  • 2 scallions, greens and whites separated, sliced.
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped sage.
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme.
  • Chopped dried chiles, to taste.
  • 2 cups of French lentils, rinsed.
  • 5 cups of pork broth.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Olive oil.
Sautée garlic, onions, scallion whites and chiles and a pinch of salt in olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn translucent. Add lentils and toss, coating the lentils with oil and integrating the onions and garlic. Add broth, sage and whole sprigs of thyme, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes covered, 5 uncovered.

Check lentils for doneness and adjust salt and pepper.

When lentils are tender to your liking, blend with a stick blender until the stew reaches the desired consistency (I like mine to be the consistency of heavy cream).

Serve with pork chops, sweetbreads, seared beef hearts, chicken thighs, duck confit or any variety of vegetable accoutrement: roasted squash, beets, sautéed radishes, braised kale, broccoli rapé, rainbow chard, sautéed wild mushrooms.

I chose pig trotters, not everyone's favorite (more bones than meat, and the meat is almost entirely connective tissue meaning that the trotters must be braised or boiled for hours).

Lentils made in this fashion are a great utility dish that can be used throughout the week (sometimes near the end of the week I like to take the remaining lentils and form them into dumplings, or blend them into savory crepe batter).