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Jun 4, 2013
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Wine With…Spicy Red Lentils with Sausage

Make-ahead one-dish meals can be a godsend for both casual family suppers and more formal gatherings: the dish is prepared earlier in the day or the day before, which allows you to be sitting on the deck with friends enjoying a drink before dinner instead of standing over a hot stove. All you have to do is pop the pot in the oven or on the stovetop to reheat, toss the salad, and open another bottle of wine. Life is good with one-dish feasting!

Lentils are among the most rewarding ingredients on which to build one-dish meals. Among the many reasons why they ranks among the world’s most popular foods is their fairly neutral taste, which makes them adaptable to a vast array of seasonings and preparations. In this variation-on-a-theme, we’ve spiced up the basic dish and added sausage and potatoes, but you could easily leave out either, or both, and still have a delicious vegetarian dinner by cooking the lentils in water or vegetable broth.


Lentils With Sausage and Potatoes

From sweet or hot Italian sausage to kielbasa, any type of sausage is good in this dish. (Depending on size, allow one to two sausages per person). The sausages may be cooked ahead of time and reheated.

Serves 4-6

2 ½ cups split red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil,
1 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped cilantro and parsley (about equal amounts of each), stems included
1 canned chipotle pepper (chipotle in adobo)*
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
4-6 small potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut in quarters
4-8 sausages, depending on size
Quartered limes for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, over medium heat, stir together the lentils and olive oil for a couple of minutes, then raise the heat and pour in the wine. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, then turn off the heat and let the lentils sit while you prepare the herbs.

In the bowl of a food processor place the cilantro, parsley, chipotle, ginger, garlic and onion. Pulse the mixture until it is finely chopped but do not let it turn to a paste. (Alternatively, the mixture may be chopped with a sharp knife.) Add the herb mixture to the lentils along with the cumin, paprika, turmeric, and salt. Cover the pot and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, about 20-30 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary (the mixture should be slightly soupy). Add the cooked potatoes and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, grill the sausages or sauté in a pan. Then slice them or cut them in chunks (may be done ahead and reheated). Dish up the lentils and potatoes in individual bowls and top with sausage. If using, pass limes at the table.

*Unused chipotle can be transferred to a small freezer bag and frozen for another use.

* * *

This turns out to be a quite versatile dish for wine pairing. Reds and whites both work, though delicate examples, no matter their color, can seem overwhelmed, While not really hot, the dish exhibits a spicy charm, and so demands a wine that can match its piquancy. Oak, so often a problem at the supper table, works just fine here, as it seems to absorb some of the dish’s spiciness. And with reds, don’t worry about tannin. The dish is rich and robust, so even young, forceful wines won’t overpower it.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Condorniu, Penedes (Spain) Cava Brut “Anna de Condorniu” NV

(Imported by Aveniu Brands)

$15

Why does this wine work with this particular dish? The secret comes in the bubbles, with effectually cut through the heat and spice, making the experience refreshing. “Anna” is a blend of Chardonnay and Parellada. It tastes citrusy and very dry, and will enliven this one-dish meal.

Eira Vella, Bierzo (Spain) Mencía “Roble” 2009

(Imported by J.W. Sieg Wines)

$12

A great value, this Mencía, a variety indigenous to the Bierzo region, tastes rich but at the same time appropriately restrained. Its juicy red and black fruit flavors are enhanced by a short period of aging in American oak barrels, something which gives it a spicy character of its own. Not surprisingly, that is what enabled it to pair so well with our lentils and sausage.

Kenwood, Sonoma Mountain (California) Zinfandel “Jack London Vineyard” 2010

$22

Zin has a natural affinity for spicy foods, and this wine proved a delight with our red lentils and sausage. Its briary character meshed seamlessly with the cumin, turmeric, ginger, and paprika, contributing new and delicious zesty notes of its own.

Spragia Family Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley (California) Chardonnay “Home Ranch” 2011

$26

A rich, ripe Chardonnay, with plenty of tropical fruit character and a noticeable oak overlay, this wine came together nicely when enjoyed with this particular dish. Not only did it integrate with the food, but its own elements became more unified and harmonious.

Tahuan, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2010

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$16

A forceful Malbec, offering violet-scented aromas and a distinct tang of black licorice in addition to juicy fruit, this wine’s depth contributed nicely to the pairing. Though not as powerful as some of the other reds we tried, it maintained focus with the food, which is why we are recommending it here. .