Many years ago Mr. Little Sis and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a few cooking classes at an excellent cooking school. Our culinary skills improved, our foodie horizons expanded and evolved, and we both were forced to admit our undying affection for French cuisine. Play a little Edith Piaf and we both begin drooling and placing our napkins in our laps… okay it’s not that bad, but you get the drift.
Many of the classic dishes that we learned to make during our cooking school days are not exactly on the menu in this food era of ours, but they need not be cast aside. There are ways to apply those fantastic flavor profiles, scratch that culinary itch. Mr Little Sis’s most frequent Frenchie cravings involve chocolate croissants (I’m not even going to think about it), French bread (he’s done that one), and coq au vin (chicken and wine). While tripping around the internets looking for culinary inspiration for dinner, I came across this recipe which gave me hope that we could approach this classic in our own meatless way.
While Meatless Monday’s take on the dish included tofu, I chose to use lentils (shocker) and more mushrooms instead as less expensive, less processed, and tried and true whole food ingredients that go over well in our house. I also swapped chopped onion for pearl onions as I don’t keep pearl onions on hand. Because I included lentils, I was also able to cut the corn starch in half as the lentils helped to thicken the wonderful broth for this dish. We were very pleased with the results of this little Frenchified experiment, and with yet another dip down into cold weather outside, our Veggies Au Vin with rice was warming and deeply satisfying.
- Olive oil for pans
- 1 1/2 c onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 c red wine *
- 3 c water or veggie broth
- 2 T Braggs or soy sauce
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 c lentils (I used brown, but would use French next time)
- 18 oz mushrooms, rough cut
- 2 T corn starch
- 1/2 c water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 c chopped parsley
Warm olive oil in large saucepan. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook for about 5 minutes (stirring occasionally) on medium-low or until onions have become somewhat translucent. Add garlic and carrots and cook for another minute or two. Add bay leaves, wine and broth or water, soy and vinegar and bring to a boil. Add lentils, lower heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.
While lentils cook, warm olive oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt. Saute mushrooms until they are brown (let them sit still a bit to get good browning). A secret to browning mushrooms is not to put too many in the pan at once, “crowding the pan.” Mushrooms release liquid as they cook; if you put them all in at once and they let all that water out, you’ll end up boiling them instead of browning them – this is not a disaster, but I like mine browned. As mushrooms brown, set them aside in a bowl.
When lentils are tender, mix corn starch with water and add to lentil broth. Stir occasionally and cook for a few minutes until broth thickens. Add mushrooms to broth. Serve with your preferred grain. Add generous sprinkle of fresh parsley. Enjoy! Super delish French dish.
* When cooking with wine, it is important to consult with the wine purchaser in your house. I chose what I thought was a yummy but inexpensive bottle for our dinner. Turns out our feast last night was a bit more extravagant than I had intended. The original recipe indicates that you could substitute broth with a little red wine vinegar for the wine in this recipe. I’m sure this would create a tasty dish, but am dubious about it evoking the same flavor profile. Bon Appétit!