Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
I always keep certain ingredients on hand for quick dinners that require little forethought. This dish of sausages and lentils is a great example, a simple meal that comes together fast and only uses one pan.
You can make an even speedier version by using canned lentils (in which case you'd just use a little stock and simmer to allow the flavors to come together). Canned lentils result in a creamier texture, whereas dried ones turn out firmer. If you’re pressed for time, or just forget to plan ahead, you can skip soaking the lentils, as that step is not as necessary as with other types of dried beans. (However, soaking does help them cook more quickly and makes them more digestible.)
We also love to vary this dish by switching in chickpeas instead of lentils and changing up the type of greens added in. Baby kale is an easy substitution for arugula, as it has a similar texture and wilts into the dish in much the same way.
I used garlic-herb chicken sausages here, but you can try out different types of sausages as well. If you pick a spicy sausage, consider fruitier-style wines for a pairing. With any of these variations, I like to serve a little mustard on the side to have with the sausages.
In trying out pairings for this dish, I looked for wines that balanced fruit and savory notes. I initially chose a Pinot Noir from Oregon and a Provençal red blend that includes Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The Pinot Noir had lots of red fruit, with hints of stone and herbs. It was refreshing, but its lighter body was a bit overwhelmed by the food. A fleshier Pinot Noir might have made a better match.
The Provençal red had a mix of red and black fruits, herbal notes and dusty tannins. With more body than the Pinot Noir, it matched the meatiness of the sausage and suited the still-chilly evening weather. It definitely won the night.
Because this dish yielded leftovers, we had the chance to try it alongside another wine, a red Bordeaux, a couple days later. After taking a while to open up, this red showed traditional notes of cassis, lead pencil and dried herbs, with a touch of tobacco—another nice combination with the dish.
Pair with a fuller-bodied red that balances fruit and savory notes, such as Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2016 (89 points, $18) from southern France or Château Haut Cadet St.-Emilion 2015 (89 points, $18) from Bordeaux.
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus 2 to 4 hours if soaking lentils
Cooking time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total time: 45 to 50 minutes
Approximate food costs: $15
1. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep braising pan, wide pot or Dutch oven. Once the oil is hot and starting to shimmer, add the sausages and sear until browned on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the sausages to a plate.
2. Deglaze the pan with a little of the stock. Add the shallots and carrots to the pan and sweat until they start to turn tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
3. Add the lentils to the pan and toss to combine, then add the thyme and a generous pinch of pepper. Pour enough stock into the pan to just barely cover the lentils. (If needed, you can add water.) Return the sausages back to the pan. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender and cooked through. Most of the liquid should be absorbed. (If a lot of liquid remains, continue to cook uncovered for a few minutes to reduce. If the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are not sufficiently tender, add more stock or water and cook for a few more minutes.) Remove the sprigs of thyme. Season the lentils to taste with salt and additional pepper.
4. Add the arugula on top, for gentler heat to preserve more color, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until it wilts. Stir the arugula into the lentils. Serve with mustard on the side for the sausages, if desired. Serves 6 to 8.