Garlic-Infused Lentils with Franks and Shallots

An amazingly delicious dish that elevates the otherwise lowly yet beloved hot dog!

If you need a dinner idea that tastes better the more you eat ... this is your dish.

If you need to use up that bag of lentils in the back of your pantry ... this is your dish.

If you want to serve a dinner that might actually get your finnicky kids (or that equally finicky adult you live with) to eat without whining TOO much (especially that finicky adult) ... 

... this might work too.

But first I want to speak about the wonders of shallots.

A little background.  Until barely a year ago, I considered shallots to only be pretentious garlic.  Mostly because the first time I was introduced to shallots, it was by a gourmet college friend.  He took a few of us to visit his parents' apartment on an upper floor of a hi-rise on the east side of NYC.  His mother greeted us, then quickly ushered us into the massive living room.  She then proudly pulled back the floor-length curtains to show us a view of a building ... the UN building!  She nimbly picked up some UN commemorative medallion they had purchased, I assume, at the UN giftshop and held it next to the window.  If I'm lying I'm dying, the view from the living room totally matched the image on that medallion.  So we were all very impressed and I figure they must be REALLY rich to have a view like that from their apartment.  And a medallion that commemorated their view from their window.

Anyway, said college friend proceeded to make us dinner.  I have absolutely no memory of what he made, but I do recall one of the ingredients was, as he explained, shallots.  

Since then until barely a year ago, I equated shallots as rich people's food.  Or garlic.  Whatever.  It certainly wasn't carried at the Bronx A&P back then.

Anyway, fast-forward to the semi-present.  I'm at the local Try-n-Save, trying to pick the most perfect red onion this recipe originally called for, when,  I notice immediately to the left of the couple sad-looking onions, were lovely fat shallots, and amazingly not as horrendously priced as I would have thought.  So I picked up a few, figuring to use them instead of said sad red onions.

The shallot is somewhat smaller than an onion, more resembling an elongated orangey smooth two-clove bulb.  Tastes like garlic and red onion mated somewhere along the way, producing a milder, sweeter version of the two.  Shallots can be used in place of red onion in many recipes.  They cook down somewhat faster than onions, so keep that in mind if you use them in your next recipe

This recipe has been appropriated from a diabetic recipe site.  It's supposed to have only 15 gms carbs per serving.  And I'd like to believe it, despite the fact that the carb load from lentils should really be higher.  But it also says that it serves 4.  Maybe 4 starving linebackers.  Seriously, it makes plenty enough for 6 people, especially with the shredded cabbage I added because it happened to be taking up space in the fridge, and seemed like a great idea.  Which it was, adding a nice bit of crunch and texture.  

*UPDATE* while looking up Passover recipes, I somehow segued to a recipe which raved about charring cabbage.  Seemed like a good idea so I tried it.  OMG so good!  So I added the extra step in the recipe.  Adds 20-30 minutes to the recipe (preheating and all that), but totally worth it. 

The balsamic vinegar elevates this dish from the more ordinary lentil soup.  But if you normally don't care for grown-up vinegar (or are serving finnicky kids) add just a  tablespoon anyway.  It really adds a extra note of complexity to the taste.

I used low-fat franks to cut back on the massive fat that would otherwise be in this really really no kidding yummy dinner.  And with all the competing flavors, no one will notice the switcheroo.

To serve on a weekday, a little advance work is essential.  Chop/dice/slice the night before or the morning of.  Then you can be sitting down to lick-the-plate yumminess in around 40 minutes.

Garlic-Infused Lentils with Franks and Shallots
Adapted from:
Yield: 5-6 servings

1 cup brown lentils, well rinsed and picked over
3-1/2 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus additional to taste)
2 Tbl. olive oil
3 carrots, finely diced
3 shallots, peeled and diced (or a small red onion, finely diced)
4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1/4 small cabbage, thinly sliced (if charring [see optional first step], slice a little thicker
1 (12-ounce) pkg. franks (low-fat preferred),  sliced quarter-inch diagonally (so they look fancy-schmancy)
2-3 Tbl. balsamic vinegar, divided
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 ( lightly packed) parsley leaves, coarsely chopped, for garnish

Optional first step:  Preheat oven to 450F. On a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil (parchment will burn so don't use!), toss the cabbage with a drizzle of olive oil, then sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and ground pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast, until most of the cabbage slices start charring on their edges, 15 to 20 minutes.  Set sheet aside.

Combine lentils, water, and salt in a 3-quart or larger saucepot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover and reduce heat to a bare simmer.  Let simmer 20-25 minutes or until lentil are just tender (avoid overcooking).   

While the lentils are simmering, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add carrots, shallots (or onion), and garlic.  Sauté  frequently for 5 minutes or until shallots are tender.  Stir in cabbage, then immediately push veggies to the edges of the skillet.  

Add sliced franks into the center of the skillet.  Sauté for a few minutes, flipping slices until they are browned on both sides.  Turn off heat.  Set skillet aside; loosely covered to keep warm.

When lentils are finished cooking, carefully drain.  Gently stir lentils into the veggie/frank mixture.

Return skillet to burner over medium heat.  Stir in 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar along with the black pepper.  Taste and add additional balsamic and pepper, and salt, if needed.  Serve hot, garnished with parsley leaves.