Sometimes, all you need is comfort food.
That’s how I felt tonight when I was walking home. It was cold and windy, and my hands felt like ice by the time I got to the train. I knew that I needed something thick and warming that would make me feel like I wrapped my most comfortable blanket around my shoulders. So I decided to make this French lentil stew.
Part of the reason I like to make lentil stew is because of the way the white wine, shallots, lentils and thyme smell when they’re cooking. It’s almost indescribable. It’s rich and intense, but also a little sweet from the shallots and earthy from the lentils and thyme. Usually I get more excited about the way baked goods smell (see, fudge brownies), but this savory combo does not disappoint.
I thought it was a little weird that this recipe called for coconut milk, and I was worried about how the end product would taste. But don’t worry–the coconut flavor disappears under everything else that’s going on in the pot. You’re left with a comforting stew that’s perfect for a cold, blustery wintery night. Or whenever you need the food equivalent of a blanket.
Here are some French-inspired tunes to get you going. My sister just recommended the track and I’ve been jamming out to it all day.
French Lentil Stew with Mushrooms and Kale (ever-so-slightly adapted from The First Mess)
¾ cup French green lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, fine dice (roughly 1/3 cup diced shallot)
1 lb (454 grams) mixed mushrooms, stemmed + sliced
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
½ teaspoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup unsweetened plant milk—I find carton coconut-based milk is preferable here (this one + this one are my go-tos)
3-4 kale stalks, stems removed + leaves sliced (1 ½ packed cups of sliced kale)
fresh bread or toasts, for serving
Bring a medium saucepan of water (equivalent to 3/4 cup lentils, so just shy of 4 cups) to a boil. Add the lentils to the water along with a fat pinch of salt. Simmer the lentils until they’re just-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a braiser or medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots to the pot and stir. Cook the shallots until slightly softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and let them sit for a full minute. Stir the mushrooms up and season with pepper. Let the mushrooms sit in the pan another full minute.
Stir the mushrooms until they start glistening slightly. Season the mushrooms with salt. Add the garlic and thyme to the pot and stir. Once the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, add the white wine and tamari to the pan. Stir the mushrooms. Add the vegetable stock and plant milk to the pot. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil.
Ladle half of the mushroom mixture into your blender pitcher, ensuring that you include enough of the liquid. Blend on high until completely smooth. Scrape the blended mushroom mixture back into the pot, along with the cooked lentils. Add the sliced kale and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil and check it for seasoning. The texture should be like a thick and creamy stew.
Serve hot with toasts or other accompaniments of your choosing.