02.18.08: dinner.

Flank steak with Braised Lentils

Flank Steak with Braised Lentils

One thing I learned from Top Chef is that lentils go with beef.  I guess this follows the old chemistry adage ‘like dissolves like’, and one savory high-protein substance pairs well with another.

My friend Laura awakened in me a love of the noble flank steak many years ago.  For whatever reason, it never seems to be on sale, but it’s a fairly healthy and versatile cut of beef.  This was before I had my grill pan, so I assume I wrestled to get this cooked correctly either in a frying pan or on an electric grill.  I do not advocate the purchase of lots of ‘kitchen gadgets’ per se, but if you like meat or fish, buy a grill pan.  As a physical chemist and a cook I am *quite* ashamed to say, I don’t know why it works so well, but it does.

The lentils seem here are standard supermarket variety, and frankly, now, one year later, I try to avoid these.  The local catch-all natural market carries bulk containered French lentils that are sooooo much better.  Here’s the very basic recipe, delivered in scalable form:

Lentils, braised (unembellished, for 2+ leftovers)

  • 1/2 pound dry French lentils (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 cups stock of choice
  • fresh thyme
  • ground cumin

Sweat the vegetables with a good pinch of salt for 5 minutes, then add the lentils.  Increase the heat add the stock; bring to a boil then reduce the heat.  Cover partially and simmer for 20-30 minutes (I start taste-testing them after 20 minutes until they are al dente.  Mushy lentils are no good unless one is making soup; in fact, one reason why French lentils are better is that they hold up to the heat better).  This batch was finished with lots of yummy fresh thyme and sometimes I use a splash of vinegar at the end as well.  I also like cumin, which I add near the end.

I call this lentil dish ‘unembellished’ because it’s not started with any meat.  If you please, saute some (1/4-1/2 lb) fatty meat product like bacon, sausage or my favorite pancetta, for 5 minutes to render some fat out.  Then add the veggies and proceed.  Remember, it’s scalable to double as needed.

One final note about lentils.  One fifth of the above recipe contains 120 calories, no fat and 10 g of protein.  See you at the beach, nuff said.

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