Lentils with bacon.

Nick is a pretty, pretty boy, with bright blue eyes and dimples, and he’s tall and I met him in poetry class in 2006. He was literate and a looker, and that’s all I thought I needed. We started dating in 2007, and shortly thereafter I learned that he fished. And then I learned that he hunted. We were engaged almost immediately, and I’m still surprised I wasn’t the one who asked.

For the past couple of years, we’ve had our freezer stocked with wild local venison, and I can’t think of a bigger thing to brag about. Last year Nathan, my brother-in-law, brought the deer home and we got a portion – a few pounds of ground meat and some backstrap. This year, he and Nick got the deer together a little north of Princeton, BC, and so we have half a deer to call our own, portioned into roasts, chops, stew meat, and ground, and it is some of the most flavourful meat I’ve ever had. Once you try the meat of an animal that’s lived a happy life and that’s been fed its natural diet, there’s no going back to that cruelly treated but cheaper feedlot stuff. This is beautiful meat, dark and lean, wild-tasting but not gamey. If it’s possible, I am more into Nick now that he’s bringing home wild game than I was when our teacher was comparing him to John Thompson and Ezra Pound. The good meat more than makes up for Nick’s faults, which I would later discover include teeth-grinding, wrong-part-of-the-toothpaste-squeezing, and drinking the last of anything I might have wanted in the fridge, among other things.

I’ve deviated a fair bit from what I wanted to tell you, and I hope you’re not disappointed that the thing I sat down to write about here was lentils. I made a venison sirloin tip roast tonight, and it was flawless, cooked perfectly and seasoned with black pepper and rosemary, but to be honest I didn’t write the recipe down and now I’ve forgotten it. I was intent on telling you about the lentils, which Nick groaned about when I suggested them, but which he later helped himself to seconds of, and even though I planned for there to be four servings of the stuff, there ended up only being two.

If you’re going to make these as your side dish, maybe make a salad as well, so there’s enough to go around. These lentils are spicy, warming, a little tart, and taste of bacon, so don’t underestimate their appeal.

Lentils with bacon

(Serves four as a side-dish.)

  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 19 oz. can lentils
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towel, and drain all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan.

Add olive oil to pan.

Add onions to pan, and fry until translucent. Add chili flakes, garlic, and lemon zest, and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add lentils, and then squish lemon juice over top. Add salt, and cook until lentils are warmed through and beginning to brown, about two minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings, and then add bacon back to the pan. Add parsley, and cook until leaves have brightened, 30 seconds to a minute, and then serve.

These are excellent alongside roasted meat, but they’d also be pretty fabulous on their own with some buttered crusty bread, or with some roasted winter vegetables for a mostly wholesome weeknight meal. The recipe is easily doubled, but if you do double it, taste as you go before doubling the lemon; the zest and juice of two lemons might be a lot more than you’ll need.

 

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9 thoughts on “Lentils with bacon.

  1. Oh YUM! Normally lentils are low on the list of priority, having been subjected to them in the form of a weekly lentil loaf as a child, but these look tasty. We get venison too, from a friend who hunts. For some reason beef tastes insipid after eating venison regularly.

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  2. Lentils are one of my favorite things to cook. They are economical and oh, so nutritious. The bacon was not made from the venison, correct? Just served with the dish? Looking forward to making this.

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  3. All right, THAT is what I want. Which is a shame, as I am off to a birthday party (not mine!) at a Japanese restaurant tonight. But I can make do with delicious Japanese food.

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  4. Rootie: Lentil loaf? I’m going to have to look this up. It sounds both awesome and terrifying, but I suppose it depends on what else is in it 😉 Also, totally agree about beef. Deer is where it’s at!

    Dani_Zaz: Oh, yes – make them! The bacon was regular old pig bacon, but now you’ve made me want to look into making my own with the venison. Next year, hopefully!

    Linda: Delicious Japanese food is a worthwhile substitute for lentils at home! Actually, I kind of want some now …

    Sharon: The need to force is greatly reduced with the inclusion of bacon, I find. I can get Nick to try almost anything if there’s bacon in, on, or near it!

    Quay Po: Ooh, I’m going to need to know your recipe for the soup!

    Dani: It’s great, isn’t it? I’ve been rationing mine, as I never ever want to run out.

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  5. Lentil Loaf the way Mom made it: lentils, brown rice and a clove of garlic, mashed into a loaf pan and baked until brown and loafish. The only reason she used the garlic was because she heard it was good for you. Mom is the reason my brother and I love to cook, and why we started at age 9.

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