Monday, January 21, 2008

Lentils with Sausage

I was waiting on line at the butcher when the woman in front of me asked about the different kinds of sausage hanging in the back. She left with with a few kilos of garlic sausage. (It's rare that I see someone walk out of the butcher with fewer than two kilos of meat.) I decided to copy her and took home a link myself.

The sausage was dry but much softer than the typical cured sausage. I ate some on bread. It was dully bland; its fat took over my mouth, but without any strong flavor but a bit of smokiness. Giovanna commented that it wasn't her favorite sausage, and I wondered if it would be better cooked. We put this experiment into action. The cooked sausage made a crunchy, intense morsel. The sausage was so much better, and the difference in flavor so reminiscent of the difference between raw and cooked meat, that now I'm not sure if that sausage was intended to be eaten raw.

I adapted this from a Mark Bittman recipe by replacing its bacon with this sausage and decreasing the proportion of lentils. (Sorry to be so Mark-dependent. When I come back home, I promise to broaden my horizons a bit.) I'm not sure what to replace the sausage with if you're outside of Hungary. It should be the softest, fattiest cured sausage you can find. This makes enough for about three people, or two people with lots of leftovers. It takes 45 minutes to an hour, not counting lentil soaking time.

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 12 dkg fokhagymás páraszti kolbász or other sausage
  • 1 large onion, or 2 smaller ones
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • less than 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Put the lentils, stock, the bay leaf, and some salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes and turn it off. Let the lentils soak, and refrigerate if necessary. Or skip this step.

Chop the onion, carrot, and parsnip. Cut the sausage into 1/2 inch chunks; they should be really small since the sausage is so powerful. In a medium pot, put the oil over medium heat and fry the sausage pieces, shaking them around only after they've crisped on one side. Put the sausage aside, turn the heat down slightly, and fry the vegetables in the fat that remains in the pan. Add some salt to them. After five minutes, add the lentils and stock, cover, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. The lentils should be done in about thirty minutes, though I'm not very good at estimating lentil-cooking times. Add some more stock or water if necessary. When the lentils are soft, add the lemon juice or the vinegar. Mark Bittman suggested red wine vinegar. I didn't have any, so I used white wine vinegar and unthinkingly added about a tablespoon of it, which wasn't good but didn't ruin the dish. I figure lemon juice would be good too.

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