You guys know it’s best not to cook in anger, right? Or when you’re in a rush?
Suddenly, utensils go missing, the stove doesn’t work properly, your ingredients end up on the floor, and suddenly the dog has eaten half a bag of peanuts and that’s really bad.* Nothing is easy, nothing goes your way, and everything you do takes twice as long and is twice as frustrating.
My point? Don’t even try to cook this dish in anger or quickly. I tried to do both; my fiance and I had had a petty disagreement, the dog wouldn’t stop whining for some unknown reason (probably the aforementioned disagreement), and I was starving. Why I decided to take on Mark Bittman and Deb Perelman’s Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils in the first place is beyond me; probably because it sounded soothing and comforting. And it is, but it also takes a deft hand, a lot of patience, and a little finesse.
When made properly, this dish comprises perfectly-cooked rice and lentils with a minimum of effort, ornamented with an awesome caramelized crust that turns an ordinary bowl of complete protein into a culinary experience. The turmeric turns it into poor man’s saffron rice, bright yellow and delicately smelling of curry, onions, and comfort.
When made in anger, you will burn the onions, ruin your pan, and leave your entire house smelling of burnt curry. The final dish might taste fine, but the scent of your fury is definitely going to linger.
But even though my experience was not great, I think yours will be, and you definitely should not let my problems deter you from this dish. As I mentioned, the lentils and rice form a complete protein, making a super-satisfying meatless entree that pairs nicely with any sort of steamed or roasted vegetable. I’d suggest using a non-stick pan or much more oil than you think you need, to save you from the kind of scrubbing I had to undertake.
In the end, if you take your time and give it love, you’ll end up with a filling meatless and gluten-free meal that includes a crunchy surprise. Well worth it.
* That did not actually happen. But it could have.
- 1/2 cup brown lentils, washed and picked over
- 3/4 cup white basmati rice, rinsed well
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
- 1Tbsp lime juice
- 1 Tbsp curry powder
- 1/4 cup water
- Fresh parsley or cilantro, plus extra yogurt for serving
- Bring a medium-sized heavy pot with a tight fitting lid (so you can use one pot for all the steps) of salted water to a boil. Add lentils and rice and return to a boil. Simmer the mixture for five minutes without stirring. Drain mixture and transfer to a large bowl.
- Heat the same pot over medium-high heat. Once heated, add 1 tablespoon oil; once oil is warm, add onions and a couple pinches of salt and cover with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add onions to bowl with rice and lentils. Stir in yogurt, lime juice, curry and water, plus additional salt to taste.
- Heat pot again over medium-high heat. Once fully hot, add remaining oil. Once that is hot, return rice mixture to pot, pressing it in. (It will sizzle.) Wrap clean kitchen towel around lid of pot so it completely covers inside of lid; gather corners on top so they do not fall anywhere near stove. Place lid on pot, sealing tightly. Reduce heat to very low. Cook undisturbed about 30 minutes; rice should smell toasty but not burned and you might need to check on it once or twice if you’re making it for the first time. Remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes more.
- Carefully remove lid and cloth, and turn pot upside down over a platter. If rice comes out in a single crust, terrific. If not, use a spatula to scrape crisp pieces out of pan and onto remaining rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and cilantro, and serve with lime wedges and additional plain yogurt.
- Dig in.