Friday, March 9, 2012

Pot-roasted Parsnips over Herbed Lentils with Warm Buttermilk Sauce

That's a long name! And I didn't even fit the element of truffles in there...

Josh and I both agreed we'd be more than happy to receive this as a vegetarian main at any good restaurant. This. Was. Gooooood. One day, when I meet that benevolent benefactor who is just dying to invest in our cafe (or actually save up all the money to invest in it ourselves... whichever comes first), we will happily serve this dish. (Can you tell I'm proud of this one?)

Of course, simply prepared meals with high-quality ingredients rarely go wrong. So, perhaps I can't take all the credit. I was just so happy to have the idea of this dish speak to me one afternoon, then be able to make it materialize in such a satisfying way.

Oh, and speaking of high-quality ingredients:

Yes, you should: You should definitely indulge in $10 salt and $15 oil. (Fleur de Sel and White Truffle Oil, that is.) You really should. The tiniest little bit goes a really long way, and takes the simplest dish right over the line from just good to downright Amazing. Even the humble omelette can benefit from their magic. Treat yourself! You won't be sorry.

The idea for pot-roasting root vegetables, and dousing them in buttermilk, came from this month's issue of Bon Apetit. There's a profile piece on Rene Redzepi, chef and forager behind Noma. Want to eat there the next time you're in Copenhagen? Get a reservation like two years ago.

Anyway, Chef Redzepi likes to pot-roast a whole celeriac (celery root), and dress it with warm buttermilk and olives. He even tosses a couple of coffee beans in for good measure. I, however, am not a Danish avant-garde forager/chef, and I opted out of the coffee bean variation. I chose potatoes and parsnips, dropped the olives, added the truffle oil... served over French (or Le Puy) lentils stewed with herbs and... Success.

I generally prefer French lentils (the little black ones, most likely found in your natural food store's bulk bins) because they hold their shape better than brown and definitely better than their red cousins. Also, I love this idea of sort of treating hearty vegetables like meat. Expect to see more braised and pot-roasted non-meats taking center stage.

2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of fennel seed
pinch of coriander seed
1 lb. parsnips, scrubbed but not peeled and quartered, lengthwise
5 medium-sized red potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, quartered lengthwise
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
kosher salt

1 bunch parsley, 1/2 c. reserved and chopped for garnish
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 c. French lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 peppercorns, secured in small muslin bag or bit of cheesecloth
3 c. water

1 c. buttermilk
1/2 lemon
1 tsp. white truffle oil
fleur de sel

Heat 2 TB oil in large heavy pot over medium heat. Crush coriander and fennel with side of knife or spoon, add to oil and sauté until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add parsnips and potatoes and cook, turning frequently, until golden on the edges, 10-15 minutes. Add butter and a large pinch of kosher salt. When butter begins to foam, reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 c. water. Cover and cook, adding more water by the tablespoonful if pan is dry, until vegetables are very tender, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 3 c. water to boil in medium pot. Add fresh herbs and lentils, stir and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. The lentils will absorb most of the liquid. Once cooked, remove as many herb sprigs/twigs as you can find and spoon lentils into serving dish.

Top with parsnips and potatoes:

Toward the end of the lentils' cooking time, very gently warm buttermilk in a small pan (it will break/separate if warmed too much, so don't boil it!). Squeeze in a few drops fresh lemon juice and add the teaspoon of white truffle oil. Spoon sauce around the vegetables on each plate. Garnish with chopped parsley and a touch of fleur de sel. We enjoyed a very nice Cotes du Rhone with ours. Earthy undertones seemed to compliment the root vegetables and truffle oil.

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