Salmon on a bed lentils is a French classic. And although I am confident there are much more complicated ways to achieve this dish, I believe my très simple version is absolutely delicious. And it’s fast. It’s an easy way to wow guests, but it’s also a perfect dinner for one when you need to remind yourself that preparing a wholesome and tasty meal for yourself need not involve a great deal of effort or clean-up.
Tiny, French Le Puy lentils are simmered and generously accented with seasoning, white wine vinegar and lemon. These serve as a base for a piece of rich salmon. The whole dish is topped with caramelized shallots and a showering of fresh parsley.
Pairing: French Rosé
For me, this dish absolutely requires a French rosé. It can be from Provence or the Rhone — and I wouldn’t turn down rosé Champagne, come to think of it. This E. Guigal 2013 Cotes du Rhone Rosé ($15) is a nice choice — affordable, available, consistent. With tangy red raspberry and currant fruit laced with orange peel and a touch of mineral — it’s crisp and pretty and super food-friendly. Find it!
Recipe: Salmon with Lentils
2/3 cup tiny green Le Puy French lentils, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of one medium or large lemon, 2+ Tablespoons
2 large shallots, chopped
a pinch of sugar
2 pieces of salmon, about 6 ounces each
large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Place lentils in a small saucepan with the garlic cloves and bay leaf; add water to cover by about an inch. Partially cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, until just tender.
Drain lentils and place in a bowl. Add a couple of pinches of kosher salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, two tablespoons of the oil, all of the vinegar and at least 2 tablespoons lemon juice, stirring gently to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed — particularly consider adding additional vinegar and/or lemon juice. You want these slightly tangy to contrast with the rich, fatty salmon.
Heat the remaining two tablespoons oil in a medium skillet. Add shallots and a pinch of sugar and cook slowly over medium-low heat until caramelized. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Scrape out the shallots into a bowl and set aside.
Season the salmon with kosher salt. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat and add the salmon, skin-side down, and cook for 1 minute. Using a flexible spatula, lift salmon off of skin, remove skin from pan and discard, flip fish and cook on the other side until done to your taste.
To serve, place half the lentils on each plate, top with a piece of salmon, half the shallots, a generous sprinkling of parsley, and a bit more lemon juice if desired.