Saturday, September 02, 2006

Caviar de la Croix Rousse

Something you'll likely see as an appetizer on any of the menus of the Lyon Bouchons is Caviar de la Croix Rousse. Don't take the name too seriously and you won't be dissapointed. It is basically lentils that have been cooked with lardons, which are cubes of smoked bacon, and a simple bouquet garni. This is served warm or chilled with a shallot or garlic vinaigrette. Caviar de la Croix Rousse is often featured along side salade de museau and thick sliced rosette lyonnaise as the first course at the Cafe des Federations. Mop up the juices with fresh pain de campagne and wash it down with a good Cote du Rhone on tap, and you're ready to begin your meal.

les Lentilles Vertes du Puy

The lentils we use in Lyon mostly come from the mountains of Puy, a stones throw from here to the west. Although these lentils are a bit more expensive, they are remarkably good as lentils go. They maintain their body when cooked, and maintain a good flavor when cooked. They too have the AOC label, and the farmers follow a whole slew of rules, which I'll go into one of these days. For now, I offer you the recipe for Caviar de la Croix Rousse.

Caviar de la Croix Rousse

1 cup or 250 grams lentilles vertes du puy or lentils of your choice
150 grams or 1/3 pound of smoked bacon, prefereably in one piece
a bouquet garni with a sprig of thyme, 2 French bay leaves or 1/2 california bay, and 3 or 4 sprigs of parsley
1/2 an onion
1 small shallot or 1/2 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
sea salt and ground black pepper

Rinse your lentils under running water until they're sure to be clean, and place them in a large pot with the bouquet garni, the 1/2 onion, and a teaspoon of sea salt. Slice off the skin from the bacon in one piece, and put it in the pot. Slice the bacon into lardons, and add them to the lentils. Cover the beans and bacon with three times their volume of water, and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium, and slowly boil for 20 minutes. The lentils will lose their green color while cooking, and turn a light brown color. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat, but leave the lentils in their liquor while you prepare the vinaigrette. Blend the shallot or garlic, oils, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon each of sea salt and pepper in the blender or with an immersion blender. In the absence of a blender, just mince the shallot or garlic, and whisk with the oils, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Strain the lentils of their liquor, and put them in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette and gently coat the lentils. Add parsley if desired, when serving.

This is especailly delicious warm, and is often served that way, although the longer it lasts, the better it tastes. It always tastes better on the second day. If you don't have Puy lentils, never fear, follow the same instructions as above, but follow the cooking time recommended for your particular lentils.

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Blogger Katie said...

Wonderful recipe! I love lentils. I have made a similar salad using Iberian Ham but I didn't cook it with the lentils - used it more as a garnish. This sounds better - plus, now that I'm in France... use the local products...

11:07 AM, September 03, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hmmm, not sure what could be better than Iberian ham, Katie. Test out all the poitrine fume in your neighborhood, too. The butchers in my neighborhood get theirs from different sources and each one has its own distinct flavor.

12:39 PM, September 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait for fall to actually grasp NYC so dishes like this can re-enter my repertoire!
I bet I can find those beautiful lentils here... and I know I can get my hands on some fantastic bacon... sounds like I must cook this!
merci lucy!

3:14 PM, September 05, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Update: Succulent additions:
Kitchen pickles which have been in their vinegar for about a week. Added chopped shallot chunks.

12:28 PM, September 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been looking for puy lentils, and bought some lentilles vertes in Sainsbury's £0.69 for 500 grams, and then I found puy lentils in Waitrose for £1.99 for the same amount.
Is the other lentil superior? Or is it the same lentil, but different pricing/marketing? I live in England and no one is able to tell me what the difference is - I'm sure you will! Thanks

9:09 PM, December 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been looking for puy lentils. As I could not find any in Sainsbury's (I live in England) I bought 500 gr of Lentilles Vertes for £0.69. Then on the way home I saw Puy Lentils in Waitrose - 500 gr for £1.99! I bought them too, because I wasn't sure whether they were the same thing. What's the difference between those two types of lentils? Are they the same, and is the pricing the only difference, or are Puy Lentils superior?

9:36 PM, December 30, 2008  
Anonymous Brass Frog said...

In the US, Puy lentils are available in the bulk foods section at Whole Foods. They also sometime have a lovely cold salad made from them that has a hint of ginger.

1:48 PM, April 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy; Thanks for the recipe
I remember the lentil salad at the 'Fed' being creamier than the salad this recipe makes. Any suggestions about what ingredient to use to match the 'Fed'?
My wife also thinks she remembers chopped hard boiled egg being in the salad also!! Of course it has been nearly a year since we were in that wonderful city.

7:17 PM, April 20, 2011  

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