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French Lentil Pilaf with Wine

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Saucisse de Toulouse, pan-grilled and served with French Lentil Pilaf.

Since we were pairing this pilaf with a French-style sausage, made with wine and garlic among other seasonings, we wanted the pilaf to complement the artisan-crafted sausage from the Kocurek Family Artisanal Charcuterie.  So, garlic, white wine and herbs, along with a little spicy red pepper went into the pilaf, and it paired up nicely with the sausage. So did a bottle of chilled Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Fumé Blanc (which was also used in the pilaf.) French Lentil Pilaf with Wine For the lentils: 1 cup French lentils (tiny, green lentils, roundish rather than flat) 3 cloves garlic, peeled 1/2 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped 3 sprigs fresh thyme 2-3 leaves fresh culinary sage Pinch black pepper 1-2 slices salt pork, if desired For the pilaf: 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use 2 slices (2-3 ounces) salt pork, trimmed and diced 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in small dice 1/2 onion, diced 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as a sauvignon blanc or fume blanc 1 ripe tomato, diced Salt, to taste Pinch white pepper 2 tablespoons snipped chives or sliced green onion For the lentils, rinse them, then put in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with 2 inches cold water. Add the garlic, onion, thyme, sage and black pepper. Put over medium heat and bring to a boil; turn down to simmer. Let simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy. This takes some time depending on the age of the dried lentils. (Mine took about an hour and a half.) When the lentils are approaching tenderness, put two tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat on to medium. Fry the salt pork until it is browned, then add the garlic, carrots and onion. Cook the vegetables over medium-medium low heat until the onions are tender. Add the thyme, cayenne pepper, wine and the tomato. Let the mixture simmer slowly until the wine has reduced by at least half and the tomatoes are heated through. Strain the lentils and reserve some of the broth. Pick out the onion, garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme. If you want to use the salt pork, you can mince it up and put it back with the lentils. Put the lentils back in the pot along with a half cup or so of the cooking liquid. Then, put the sauteed vegetables in with the lentils and reheat, stirring gently. Season with salt and white pepper. Put lentils into a serving dish with minced chives on top. Drizzle with some of the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to give the dish some sheen. Makes 3-4servings From Bonnie Walker Photograph by Bonnie Walker  
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