A large oval roaster, a pound of smothered down lentils, bite size chunks of German-style frankfurters, just a touch of spices, and a bowl full of al dente Italian orzo. . .when they all come together perfectly you end up with one of the most comforting of New Orleans comfort foods. It's legumes in a whole new light!
1 lbs. German-style frankfurters
6 cups chicken stock as needed
3 Tbsps. Extra virgin olive oil for sauteing
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried lentils (about a pound)
2 whole bay leaves, broken
1 tsp. Sweet basil (fresh preferred)
1-1/2 tsps. Kosher salt
1 tsp. Coarse ground black pepper
1 lb. Orzo, cooked al dente
Extra virgin olive oil for dressing
Parsley for garnish
Start off by rough-chopping the frankfurters into serving size pieces. Then in a 4-quart Dutch oven, bring half of the chicken stock to a gentle boil, drop in the frankfurter pieces, and delicately poach them until they become soft and tender (which should take about 20 minutes at a low simmer).
At the same time that the franks are poaching, take a non-stick 10-inch skillet, heat the olive oil to medium-high, and saute the chopped onion, the diced celery, and the minced garlic until the onions wilt and the garlic softens. Then when the seasoning veggies are ready, transfer them to the Dutch oven and stir in the lentils until they are completely mixed into the ingredients already in the pot. At this point, stir in the bay leaves, the basil, the salt, and the black pepper and, once again, mix everything together. It should be noted here that it's at this time that you add more chicken broth until it just covers the lentils, say about an inch or so.
It's important to understand that the lentils need to be stirred quite frequently during the cooking stages it keeps them from burning on the bottom of the pot, but mostly it aids in tenderizing them by allowing them to absorb the flavored chicken/frankfurter stock.
For the most part, I recommend that you cook the lentils partially covered, but occasionally remove the lid and stir in additional broth as the liquid evaporates in the end you want to have a pot of tender lentils suspended in a slightly thickened creamy base. And remember that you are not making soup!
Generally, the lentils will be done in about 45 minutes to an hour, but I suggest that you simmer them over low heat until it's time to eat. This recipe is best served over hot, al dente, Italian orzo, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with minced parsley.
1. German-style frankfurters are NOT the ballpark franks you find in the sausage section of your supermarket. They are coarser and firmer than those. . .and they are sometimes hard to find. So if you have trouble locating some for this recipe, it's okay to substitute Polish kielbasa in their place.
2. Continue adding the flavored poaching broth a little at a time until the consistency reaches the texture you desire. If you add too much, you'll end up producing lentil soup. If you don't add enough, you'll find you have a lentil dip. They're both excellent, but the proper consistency is right in the middle of the two.
3. Orzo is rice-shaped pasta made of 100% semolina. Ideally, it is boiled in lightly salted water for about 8 minutes or until al dente (slightly firm to the tooth). It is then served as a 'bed' on which to ladle the lentils. And now for the fried chicken!