Hearty fare for a winter’s night (or day): Lentils with Fennel and Sausage

by Terry B on January 11, 2017

Earthy, fiber-rich lentils combine with fennel bulb, carrots, Italian sausage, onion and garlic for a satisfying antidote to cold weather. Recipe below.

Lentils with Fennel and Sausage

At least once each winter, I seem to need to start a post by talking about weather. Chicago deserves some of the credit here. One morning last week, it was 0ºF when I left for work. Zero. The high that day was 11º. Throw in the inevitable stiff winds and the five or six blocks to and from the El at both ends of the commute, and you develop a deep appreciation for hearty, simple, stick-to-your-ribs fare. Like this lentil dish.

Lentils often are served up in soups. Here, they appear in a thicker, almost stewlike form, with just enough liquid to moisten the dish. A fennel bulb (plus fronds), some carrots, Italian sausage, an onion and garlic add to the satisfyingly rustic quality of this wintry meal. It comes together quickly enough for a weeknight, but can be cooked ahead, tasting even better the next night.

Lentils with Fennel and Sausage
Serves 4

1-1/2 cups lentils
6 cups water
3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola or olive oil
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
1 fennel bulb with fronds, about 3/4 pound
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Combine lentils, water, carrots, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking water, and set aside.

Meanwhile, drizzle some oil in a skillet and brown sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When sausage is just cooked through, transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate.

Also meanwhile, trim the fennel bulb. Slice off the bottom and the stalks, reserving the fronds. Use a vegetable peeler to remove any brown spots from the outside, then halve the bulb lengthwise and core it. Halve lengthwise again and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. If you’re not sure how to do this, videos abound on the internet.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium flame. Sweat the fennel bulb and onion in the pan, stirring often to avoid browning, for about 10 minutes. Add the fennel seeds and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add lentils and sausage to the pan, stirring to combine. Add a little of the lentil cooking water to the pan to moisten everything, starting with 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Cook until everything is heated through, 3 to 4 minutes.

While the lentil mixture is heating, quickly chop 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fennel fronds. Stir half into the lentils, along with the red wine vinegar. Spoon into individual serving bowls and top with remaining fennel fronds. Serve.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

John/Kitchen Riffs January 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

I’m one who usually uses lentils in soups, but there are so many great dishes like this — kinda like a stew (as you say), but not quite. Lentils and sausage are wonderful together. And fennel! Its flavor is super, and I can see that it’d add tons of flavor to this. Our weather? We don’t get as cold as you, but it was single digits last week. 62 degrees yesterday! So weird. Anyway, good recipe — thanks.

Barbara Fazio January 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Sounds so yummy. Just made an Italian Vegetable Lentil soup from Cooking Classy website. It may not be freezing here in Scottsdale, but there certainly is a place for soup like yours. Will try next. Love the idea of sausage and lentils.

Cecilia January 12, 2017 at 10:47 am

What a perfect winter meal! I love everything about it and all ingredients in it…! Thanks for sharing.

Terry B January 12, 2017 at 8:52 pm

John, we love lentil soups too, but one non-soup dish we like is the French Chicken with Lentils, in which you roast chicken thighs on a bed of lentils.

Hope you like it, Barbara!

Thanks for stopping by, Cecilia!

Kate January 23, 2017 at 5:31 pm

I streamlined just a tiny bit and cooked the sausage almost through then added the fennel and onions to the same pan and cooked them in the rendered drippings vs. using more olive oil. It came together quickly and the portions are nicd sized. I’m looking forward to having it again for lunch tomorrow.

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