As a way of saving money and still eating well in Milan on a student budget, I began to create one-pot stews enough to last me a week. I am a slim woman but with daily stops at the local gelateria, pasta out the ears and panini for lunch I managed to put on 10 lbs. So not only was this a economical choice but also a healthier choice. My first try at a stew was feijoada — my absolute favorite Brazilian dish — which taught me the basics of making a bean and meat stew while allowing me to adapt and experiment with the recipe. My second foray into the stew world was a twist on traditional feijoada using lentils instead of black beans. Lentils are one of those superfoods with which you just can’t go wrong and such a stew as this is comfort food to the max.
1 bag green lentils (at home, rinse and drain, pick out bad beans)
1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes
2-4 bay leaves
Srichacha chili sauce
Ground cumin or cumin seeds
Chorizo or spicy italian sausage
2 cloves of garlic
1 large red onion
Dice shallots, garlic and onion.
Warm large stock pot on stove at medium heat with a enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
Toss in shallots, garlic and onion and saute until golden brown.
Next throw in the bag of lentils, minus the plastic of course! and the can of tomatoes with their sauce. Stir and keep an eye on the water level: the lentils will soak up the water from the tomatoes and soften and the rest will cook off.
While all that’s going on, in a skillet brown up the Andouille sausage (you can either cut them into 1/4 inch circles before or after you cook them). If you want, you can take the chorizo or spicy italian sausage and slip it out of its casing and brown in the pan as you would ground beef for tacos or slice it with the casing on the same as the andouille. The idea behind just browning the meat is that you don’t want to cook it completely because after it’s been browned you will throw it into the stew pot and let the heat of the water/stew cook the meat the rest of the way while it soaks up all the flavors. Once the meat is in the stock pot, toss in your bay leaves and cumin, as much Srichacha (or Defcon for that heat) as you can handle, lots of ground pepper. This is mostly a waiting game once you’ve got it all together, usually an hour, so don’t be in a rush. This is one of those dishes that is always better the next day.
End goal: lentils that are al dente and not crunchy, a stew that is thick and not watery or soupy. Eat hearty and drink up. I would recommend a really tart gueuze or a saison with this to take some of that heat off the tongue and clear your palate for another helping, such as Cantillon Gueuze or Saison Dupont (incredibly versatile beer with food).
*Browning meat is like giving it a sun tan – the skin touching the pan heat will turn a different color than the insides but you don’t want the whole piece to be that color. So when one side gets a touch of that sun tan, flip it and let the other side have a chance. This is a very quick process, we’re not talking minutes in the pan.*