I tried this on a cold snowy winter's night and this hearty dish warmed us all thoroughly. The preparation time was very reasonable (for a lentil dish), and could quickly and easily be made even on a weeknight. I love the textural variation in the dish with the crunchiness added by the bacon and the escarole. I also found the fresh, light notes added by the orange and fennel provided a unique and fantastic balance to the heavy starch of the lentils. —epickles
thick cut slices of bacon (Nueske's is a good choice)
low sodium chicken stock
water, plus more as necessary to wilt the escarole
Lentilles du Puy (small French green lentils)
leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
peels of orange zest (about 1" x 3", each)
small bulb fennel, finely chopped
medium carrot, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
medium head of escarole, coarsely chopped
best quality balsamic vinegar
heavy whipping cream
Salt, to taste
Place chicken stock, water, bay leaves, and lentils in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until lentils are al dente (on the softer side) - about 40 minutes; add more water, as necessary, to keep the lentils from drying out.
In the meantime, fry bacon until crisp in a dutch oven; remove with tongs to drain on paper towels and set aside, reserving about 2 Tablespoons of the bacon fat in the dutch oven.
Add oil to the bacon fat in the dutch oven; add leeks and orange zest strips and saute over medium heat until leeks are just beginning to soften; add fennel, carrots, and a good dose of black pepper, and saute until the vegetable are crisp tender; remove from heat until lentils are cooked.
When the lentils are finished cooking, stir them, with 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (add more water, if necessary), into the vegetables in the dutch oven; bring to a simmer, add escarole, and cook until escarole is withered.
Remove from heat; stir in vinegar; stir in cream, adjust salt and pepper to taste; transfer to favorite serving bowl; top with crumbled bacon, and serve.