A few weeks ago, we explored poaching pears to take advantage of their flavor and ability to soak up other flavors.
Gill Meller, one of the head chefs at England’s River Cottage cooking school, takes another approach to the fruit. In this savory lentil dish from “Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes” (Quadrille, $35), Gill Meller fries pear slices and cooked lentils to mix with roasted red onions, a trifecta of ingredients that blend beautifully together but also might inspire other dishes with lightly fried fruit, skillet-popped lentils or roasted alliums.
Choose ripe pears, but not overripe or else they will fall apart in the pan when you fry them. Taste the lentils as they cook to make sure they crisp up nicely without getting too crunchy. (However, some people cook them in the oven until they are crunchy for a protein-dense snack.) No need to serve this dish with meat, but a few crumbles of goat or blue cheese might be a nice addition.
Fried Pears with Roasted Red Onions and Crispy Puy Lentils
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the rinsed lentils in a medium pan, cover with water, and set over high heat. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 18 to 25 minutes, until the lentils have softened but retain some bite. Drain them, then leave them in the colander and allow the steam to evaporate.
While the lentils cook, place the onion wedges in a roasting pan with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, toss to coat and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast the onions in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the wedges are soft and starting to color. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Slice each pear into quarters, remove the cores, then cut each quarter in half again, giving 16 wedges of pear altogether. Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter and oil mixture is bubbling, add the pear slices to the pan. Fry them gently for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until they have taken on a little color. Remove the pear wedges from the pan and keep them warm.
Leaving the skillet on the stove, increase the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining oil, followed by the cooked lentils. Season with a little salt and pepper, and fry, tossing regularly, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are crisped.
Arrange the warm roast onions and pears on a large serving platter. Scatter over the lentils, drizzle over the lemon juice, and bring to the table immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
— From “Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes” (Quadrille, $35) by Gill Meller