Saturday, May 9, 2009

Crispy Fried Brown Rice with Lentils

The other day I pulled two lovely links of basil garlic chicken sausage out of the freezer to defrost - they were to accompany a purple potato dish I was making for the first time. Unfortunately, my plans fell through. I was terribly busy that day and didn't return to the kitchen until 9pm that night, too tired to cook, much less find the energy to chew and digest a sausage. I decided they would be the centerpiece of tomorrow's dinner.

As for sides, I was thinking rice. It would have to be something hardy that could stand up to a brawny sausage. Then I remembered a Peruvian dish I saw in Gourmet calling for white rice, brown lentils and a regional chili paste, all pan fried to create crispy bits throughout. So I took the idea and ran. This brown rice version is chewy, nutty and ended up being the perfect complement to a meaty sausage.

Crispy Fried Brown Rice with Lentils
Inspired by a Peruvian rice and lentils dish published in Gourmet's May 2009 issue, this nuttier version has subtler flavors, making it a wonderful accompaniment to chicken, pork or beef.

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried brown lentils
1 tablespoon butter
1 white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch dried sage
High heat vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly chopped parsley or chives for garnish

Bring brown rice, water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cook, covered, over low heat until all water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (If you're in a hurry, spread rice in a thin layer on a baking sheet to cool quickly).

Meanwhile, place lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with water, about 5 cups. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, garlic and sage and saute until onion is softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and lentils. Fry, adding vegetable oil as needed, until crust starts to form. Stir rice mixture and flatten slightly; allow underside to brown again. Continue this process until bits of crust are dispersed throughout, about 15 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper; garnish with freshly chopped herbs.

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