I'm sure by now you've become accustomed to reading about my culinary successes. After all, it's been quite a while since I burned anything (unless you count the Brussels Sprouts). Just when I begin to think I'm getting the knack of this cooking thing, I make a rookie mistake.
Last night, I returned to my naturally undomesticated ways.
Avo had bought me super-fancy Sabarot French Green Lentils in hopes that I would use them to concoct something truly wonderful. Sadly, I failed him.
The evening started auspiciously enough. I turned to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and followed his recipe for
Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
About 6 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock, or water, warmed
1 cup long- or short-grain rice
Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Place 1 tablespoon oil in a large, deep saucepan, and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add chopped onion, and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, and cook 3 minutes more. Add lentils, stir, and add about 4 cups of the stock.
Luckily, Avo made stock from my roast chicken, so I used that. But since I only had about 3 cups, I cut the recipe in half.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add enough of the remaining stock or water so the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid. Stir in rice. Cover, and turn the heat to low.
Meanwhile, place the remaining oil in a medium skillet, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes.
At this point, the girls ran from the room complaining that they couldn't stand the smell of the onions. I can't blame them. I remember doing the same thing when I was a kid.
Scoop out the onions, and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.
Oops. I forgot to let the onions drain. I just left them in the pan to wait their turn.
Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes. When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready. If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. If, on the contrary, the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring, until it evaporates.
Here's where things went bad. The lentils were done, but the rice took about another 20 minutes to cook. Apparently, I used 40 minute rice in a recipe for 20 minute rice. How should I know what sort of rice to use? By the time the rice was cooked, the lentils had pretty much lost all shape and dissolved.
"The lentils are basically mush," I warned Avo.
He took a bite.
"But good mush!" he said.
Once I topped them with caramelized onions, the lentils and rice were slightly more edible.
"The parsley is a nice addition," said Avo. "But it needs pork!"
This morning, when I opened the microwave to re-heat my tea, I found a bowl of green beans in the microwave that I forgot to serve last night with the rice and lentils. It just wasn't my night.