2013’s New Year’s lentil recipe has the dual advantages of being vegan and also using up any leftover champagne you might have lying around after the New Year’s Eve festivities. It’s also a wee bit clever, given that they’re beluga lentils. (Incidentally, this is the only kind of caviar I could tolerate even before becoming vegetarian, since I was never able to share my mother’s wild passion for genuine beluga.)
This is a perfect mid-week pasta dish for the rest of the year, since it comes together in about half an hour if you time it right, and you can substitute any white wine or even a dry hard cider, French or even plain old brown lentils, and essentially any sort of green vegetable. I was originally going to add broccolini, but it was missing from the crisper when I went to cook, probably because I added it to soup mid-holiday week and forgot. No matter, since the leeks worked fine, as would any leafy green or brassica.
The only thing I’d recommend not messing with if at all possible is the fresh shiitakes, because they go so satisfyingly crackly at the edges when seared, and add so much meaty savoriness to the dish. Regular button mushrooms would not be quite the same.
Pappardelle with Beluga Lentils, Seared Shiitake Mushrooms and Leftover Champagne
½ cup black (beluga) lentils
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, roughly sliced
2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup leftover champagne or white wine
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
8 ounces dried egg pappardelle
Cook the lentils in a small saucepan with sufficient water to generously cover until just tender, around 20 minutes.
While preparing the sauce, set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta, salting it well once it has reached the boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to the package instructions.
In a large, non-nonstick sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, then add the shiitakes. Sear the mushrooms until deep golden and crisping around the thin edges, adding a bit more oil if the pan gets too dry. Remove the mushrooms but don’t worry about any brown bits that cling to the pan.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, lower the heat to medium, and add the leeks. Sautee until they begin to brown a bit, then deglaze the pan with the champagne, add a generous amount of salt and pepper, and simmer until the champagne has mostly reduced away. Add the lentils and taste, correcting seasonings as necessary.
Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water. Add the pappardelle to the pan and toss with the lentils, loosening it with the reserved pasta water as necessary. Serve in warmed bowls with a quarter of the seared mushrooms mounded on top.
If using fresh pasta instead of dried, you’ll want to double the quantity by weight. Also, if you don’t use leeks, I’d throw in a couple of cloves of minced garlic along with your green vegetable of choice.
It’s important not to use a nonstick pan because you want to be able to use high enough heat to sear the mushrooms properly, and you also want to be able to scrape up all the yummy browned bits when you deglaze with the champagne.