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Lentils with Tuna and Caramelized Shallots

October 6, 2009

Lentils with Tuna

I will be the first to admit that this is not the most attractive meal. However, it is so darned tasty and easy that, from its first accidental inception in my kitchen it has rapidly become one of my favorite easy, inexpensive weeknight dinners. The lentils, cooked with a bit of Worcestershire sauce, are rich and silky and delicious on their own, but paired with good quality Italian tuna and crispy, sweet caramelized onions, they feel positively indulgent.

The trick to making this really, very good is to use good tuna, packed in olive oil. Mushy, watery Chicken of the Sea simply will not do. I’m sure that a pan-seared tuna fillet would be excellent, but part of the ease of this dinner lies in the canned tuna, which is, for me, a pantry staple.

The other key to this tasty meal is the lentils. I haven’t tried this with brown or basic green lentils, so I can’t say it would be bad, but brown and green lentils have a tendency to break down a little more and become mush. I use French Green or Puy lentils, which stay firmer. Black beluga lentils would probably also be great.

Ingredients for Lentils with Tuna

I have done this with both shallots and with Walla Walla sweet onions, and they are both good. Generally, you want a milder onion, so Vidalia’s and Maui’s would be good, too. And if you’re really not a fan of tuna or are vegetarian, hell, I think these lentils would be an excellent meal on their own. They are that good. This recipe makes enough for one, so just multiply if you’re feeding more.

Lentils with Tuna and Caramelized Shallots

  • 1/2 T. olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a carrot, diced
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1/2 c. Puy lentils
  • 1/2 to 1/3 c. vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
  • a splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • Caramelized Shallots or Onions (see below)
  • 1/2 can of high-quality tuna, packed in oil

Caramelized Shallots or Onions

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced OR 1/2 small onion, sliced

The caramelized shallots will take about 30 minutes, so start them first. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter and olive oil together. Once they’ve melted and the foaming has subsided, lower the heat. Add the shallots to the pan and spread them out in a single layer, then leave them, flipping them only once, until they’re lovely and brown and as crispy as you like. The trick to good caramelized onions is giving them lots of space and cooking them over low heat.

While they cook, start the lentils. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and carrots to the saucepan and stir to coat well with oil. Cook the carrots for about three or four minutes, then stir in the thyme, lentils, and broth. Add a splash of Worcestershire and some salt and pepper, lower the heat, and cover the saucepan. Let the lentils cook, covered, until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed, probably about 30 minutes.

Lentils and Caramelized Shallots

Once the lentils are done and the onions are browned and delicious, spoon the lentils into a bowl, and top with the onions and the tuna. I like to stir it all together into one big bowl of tastiness.

Either I’m settling into more boring culinary habits or this meal really is spectacular because I’ve made three times and crave it frequently. In fact, I’m kind of wanting to eat it now, but in the interests of this blog I’ve already made a personal promise to cook only new things this week. You can bet, though, that this has a solid place in my menu rotation. Easy, inexpensive, delicious, and perfect when you’re cooking for one. Everything I look for in dinner these days.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Maggie permalink
    October 9, 2009 8:44 pm

    I made this meal and it turned out really well, even with subpar tuna, onion rather than shallots and I have no idea of the type of lentils I have the produce market just write lentils on it but they were firm. I look forward to making this with the better ingredients!! Oh & my Worcestershire sauce expired in 2006!!

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