The French prize lentils that hold their shape in cooking. The most famous is probably the lentille verte du Puy from Auvergne, protected by an appellation of origin. I am also very fond of the lentille blonde de Saint-Flour from the same region, which was saved from oblivion in the nineties, and recognized by the Slow Food movement. The tiny, light-brown lentil cooks into sweet little nibs that pop under tooth in the most delicate way. This makes it perfect for zesty, filling salads dressed with Bistro Vinaigrette, but it works just as well in soups, which appear on Paris bistro menus during the chillier months. I adore this recipe, cooked with diced fennel and chunks of Toulouse sausage. It comes together easily and improves overnight.
- The day before you want to cook them, soak the lentils in enough cold water to cover by 2 inches mixed with the baking soda.
- The next day, in a heavy-bottomed pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned, breaking it into bits with a wooden spoon as it cooks. (If the sausage meat is lean, add 2 teaspoons olive oil so it doesn’t stick.) Scoop out and set aside on a plate.
- Add the onion, fennel, and salt to the pot and cook, stirring regularly, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Drain and rinse the lentils. Add to the pot with the cloves and thyme. Add the stock, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. If you want to give more body to the soup, mash roughly with a potato masher, or process briefly with an immersion blender. You want the soup to remain chunky.
- Return the sausage to the pot and stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Ladle into bowls. Add a spoonful of crème fraîche, black pepper, and parsley, and serve. I like a dash of hot sauce, too.
Reprinted from Tasting Paris. Copyright © 2018 by Clotilde Dusoulier. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Nicole Franzen. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.