A Warm Lentil Salad, an item found on many French bistro menus, is a simple but flavorful dish when topped with spicy lamb Merguez sausages. Old fashioned French comfort food at its best, it’s perfect for either lunch or your evening meal. If you don’t care for sausages, you could top the warm lentil salad with confit duck legs, pan seared salmon or even a runny poached egg. Enjoyed with a crisp baguette and a glass of red wine, this dish will transport you to one of the cozy, unpretentious French bistros hidden along the back streets of Paris.
I used dark green Lentils de Puy for my salad. These delicious little legumes, known for their exceptional flavor and texture, are from the Auvergne region of France but are also grown in Italy and North America. They cost more than other lentils and may be hard to find in some areas, but I think they are worth searching out as they hold their shape well and have a nice nutty flavor. If you can’t find the green lentils, you can substitute brown lentils but the texture and taste of the salad will be very different. If you use brown lentils, simmer very gently and don’t overcook them or you will have a mushy dish.
Warm Lentil Salad With Merguez Sausage
Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 2 Tbsp. of either sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- a good pinch of sea salt (about 1/8 tsp.)
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbsp. finely minced shallot
- 2 tsp. of a good Dijon mustard (whole grain mustard can be substituted)
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar, salt, pepper and the minced shallots. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the shallots soften a little. Stir in the mustard and then whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust the vinaigrette, if needed. If it’s too sharp, add some more oil. If it seems too bland, add more vinegar, mustard or salt to your own taste.
- 2 spicy lamb Merguez sausages (Saucisse de Toulouse, Chorizo or other well seasoned sausages of your choice can be substituted)
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 1/2 small bulb of fennel, diced (optional)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3/4 c. green Lentils de Puy, checked for small stones and rinsed well
- 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
- a few sprigs of fresh parsley and thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 potato (I used Yukon Gold), peeled and diced*
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced*
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh chopped thyme or parsley for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the sausages and cook until done and a little crispy. Remove from the pan and keep warm. In the same saucepan, add the onions, celery and fennel, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the lentils, broth, and water to cover by about 2 to 3 inches. Add the parsley and thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pan with a lid and simmer the lentils until they are just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the diced potatoes and carrots with cold, salted water. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and place in a large bowl, toss with a little of the vinaigrette. *To save time, you can simmer the potatoes and carrots along with the lentils but their color will be a little dark.
When the lentils are done, drain well, place in the bowl with the cooked potatoes and carrots. Discard the bay leaf, parsley and thyme sprigs. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and toss well. Let sit for a few minutes until the vinaigrette is absorbed, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the lentils seem dry, you can drizzle with a little olive oil. To serve, transfer the lentils to individual plates or bowls and top with the sausages.
The important thing to remember when making this recipe is to add the vinaigrette while the lentils and vegetables are hot so that they can absorb all the flavors.
This classic French bistro meal is quick to prepare and very flavorful. The lentils are delicious warm but are equally good cold. They would make a nice accompaniment to a simple roast chicken packed into a picnic basket along with a baguette, some cheese, fresh fruit and a lovely bottle of wine. All that is needed is a park bench close to the Eiffel tower and you would have a memorable French inspired picnic. Bon appétit!