It looks like we’re having a bit of weather.
It’s like the Weather Gods knew it was Labor Day, and they flipped the “Autumn” switch without missing a beat. It’s chilly, windy and rainy with no Indian summer in sight. Foodstuffs must be hearty, warming, nourishing. Ergo: mushroom and lentil turnovers. A great excuse to eat lots of butter and sherry while still deluding yourself into thinking you’re doing something that’s good for you.
It starts with lentils. I recommend puy – they’re tasty, have a nice texture and hold their shape well – although that’s not what I used because the only places I can find puy lentils are freaking expensive. I got myself some off-brand Fresh Direct green lentils, kissed them up to god and hoped they wouldn’t disintegrate like the last off-brand lentils I bought. They went into boiling water with bay leaves, salt and a clove-studded onion.
While the lentils simmered, I started the veg by sauteing carrots and cremini mushrooms in a little bit of butter. I’d wanted to use the wonderful CSA carrots our neighbors dropped off before they went on vacation a while ago, but underestimated how long a “while” is; the CSA beauties were withered and useless, and I had to be content with a freakily gigundous PathMark special.
Leeks were diced and assiduously rinsed. Leeks hold onto dirt like motherfuckers, and the last thing you want is grit in your turnovers. Well, if it’s not the LAST LAST thing you want, it’s probably up there. In any case, my grit-free leeks went into the mushroom mixture near the end of the cooking time to soften up a bit.
Time for a sauce! You can’t just shove some lentils and vegetables into puff pastry and call it a day, you need something to bring everything together. That is, you need a way to work more butter and booze into the dish.
My mushrooms had inconveniently sucked up all the butter I’d wanted to use for my roux, the bastards, so I made a little well in the veg and added some more, sprinkling in an equivalent amount of flour once it was melted. I cooked the roux for a few minutes, then whisked in some stock, sherry and, for a little more kick, sherry vinegar.
The cooked lentils, sans-onion and bay leaves, went into the veg and sauce along with some fresh thyme and some salt and pepper. I let the whole mess cook down until it was thick and fragrant, the sauce barely coating the other ingredients.
I had a bit of a dilemma when it came to seasoning, because I have a hell of a cold and can’t taste for shit. So I had to use Brian as my taster to make sure I didn’t oversalt, but Brian is notorious for undersalting; it was all very O. Henry. Eventually, we hit a point where the mixture was palatable to both of us, although I can’t be sure it would be to anyone else. Then he sold his beard to buy me legwarmers, and I sold my legs to buy him a beard cozy. The end.
I set the finished filling aside to cool so it wouldn’t instantly melt the butter in the puff pastry, picking out the defoliated thyme stems.
This mixture is delicious and would be wonderful over some brown rice or wilted spinach, or topped with a poached or fried egg. You could enliven it with any number of cured or smoked pork products, or work in lots of other veggies. But I didn’t send Brian to the store in the pouring rain to buy me puff pastry for nothing, so: turnovers.
Puff pastry was hastily rolled out, filled with the lentils and sealed shut with an egg wash and much fork-crimping.
Not pictured: the finished turnovers with the godawful egg wash I gave them. The only pastry brush we have is a wretched silicone number with these enormous floppy “bristles” that do the world’s worst job of soaking up or distributing anything. I don’t know why I bought it in the first place, or why I continue to use it. A pox upon this pastry brush. A pox, I say.
Thirty minutes in a hot oven, and dinner was served.
Yes, it looks kind of like a Hot Pocket. I am aware, thank you.
Thankfully, it does not taste at all like a Hot Pocket. Or what I imagine a Hot Pocket tastes like, having never actually eaten one. Earthy mushrooms and lentils brought together by the sweetness of carrot and sherry, all enlivened with a splash of vinegar. The whole encased in crisp, flaky, butter pastry. Crunchy. Steamy. Toothsome. Herbal. What did I say before, something about hearty, warming and nourishing? Yeah, that.
Brian, upon finishing dinner: “Can I have another one?”
Mushroom and Lentil Turnovers
1/2 c. green lentils
1/2 small onion
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
10 oz. mushrooms of your choice, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 leek, diced
2 tbsp. AP flour + extra for rolling out the pull pastry
2/3 c. chicken or veg stock
1/4 c. sherry
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 package puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten
Cook the lentils: Shove the cloves into the onion. Fill a medium saucepan with water. Add the lentils, bay leaves, and onion, bring to a boil, and cook until the lentils are just tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain, pick out the onion and bay, and set aside.
Cook the veg: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and carrots and cook until the carrots are tender and the mushrooms are starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the leeks and cook 3-4 minutes more.
Make a well in the center of the veg and add the other two tablespoons of butter. When it’s melted, whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Pour in the stock and sherry, stirring well so your roux doesn’t leave any lumps of flour; the liquid will thicken considerably as it comes to a boil.
Finish the filling: Dump the cooked lentils and thyme into the pan with the veg and sauce and toss to combine. Cook everything together for 4-5 minutes, adding the vinegar during the last few minutes of cooking. Set the finished filling aside the cool.
Preheat your oven to 375.
Assemble the turnovers: Cut the sheet of puff pastry into quarters. Flour your cutting board or countertop, and working one at a time, roll each piece of pastry out to approx 6×10 inches.
Heap about 1/2 cup of the filing into the middle of your pastry rectangle. Brush the edges with beaten egg, fold them over to make a little package, and crimp the edges. Use a fork to poke the top of each turnover a few times so steam can escape during baking. Do this for each piece of pastry.
Transfer the filled pastries to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and a light golden brown. Let rest for a few minutes, then serve.