Al dente adjustment to a Jacques Pépin lentil, cabbage and bacon salad

Lentil, cabbage and bacon saladLike most who inhabit this food-centric segment of the global web, Gourmandistan is not going to question the legendary Jacques Pépin. But we will cheekily update his recipe to add a bit more crunch. Michelle found this 1991 recipe (and its accompanying article declaring “la salade has arrived”) in the New York Times archives when looking for something to do with a Savoy cabbage. We thought the ingredient list had promise, but the cooking methods and the delicate Savoy made the end result a bit mushy and mild. Lentils The next time, Michelle broke the original recipe down to its components, determining that preparing each part separately would keep things crisper. She replaced onions with lots of shallot, added some celery and carrot for more flavor and brightness, and used a regular cabbage instead of Savoy to maintain more crunch even when warmed with some just-cooked lentils. Steve doctored up the simple dressing with a bit more mustard and vinegar, and we had another go at Pépin’s “composed salad.” Lentil, cabbage and bacon salad The result was a much tastier, less mushy mélange of lentils, bacon and cabbage—a quite good salad that makes a lovely lunch or dinner.


(adapted from Jacques Pépin in The New York Times)

  • 1/3 c. dried lentils (preferably Le Puy)
  • Bay leaf
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Chicken stock or water
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2/3 c. sliced shallots
  • 1 carrot, chopped in small dice
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped in small dice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • Approximately 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • Approximately 1 c. croutons (preferably homemade)

Rinse the lentils in a colander, removing and discarding any bad ones. Place the lentils in a small pot along with bay leaf and thyme and cover with stock or water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 30 or 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet, then remove to a plate covered with a paper towel. Crumble into small pieces.

Add the shallots to the bacon fat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add carrots and celery and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until shallots are beginning to caramelize and other vegetables are just cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.

Place mustards, vinegar, olive oil and some salt and pepper in a salad bowl and whisk until combined. Add cabbage, along with the shallots and other cooked vegetables, and toss to mix. Remove the herbs, drain any remaining cooking liquid from the lentils and add them, while still warm, to the salad bowl. Add parsley and mix well. Add some good salt, if needed.

When ready to serve, add the croutons and bacon and toss.


    • I know! That’s what was so screwy about the original recipe. You cooked these (way too big) croutons along with the bacon and onions. As if that would work properly… I know, I know (how well I know), things were different in 1991. 😉

  1. You’ve answered a question I’ve had for ages: why make a mushy salad? The answer is that you don;t have to make it mushy at all. Thanks for taking the time to refine it.

  2. Eha

    Great adaptation from one of the French greats who has made the US home! How does one copy a Legion of Honour winner with all the classical degrees from the US unis he has 🙂 ? Since I am hugely into salads even in our winter months [Down Under, shall copy yours exactly!!] thanks!! By the bye, am having huge fun with current ‘British’ recipes, especially by the now elderly Pierre Koffman and Marcus Waring both basically talking to us from Knightsbridge [well, love the Berkeley!! 🙂 !] Look up and enjoy!!!!

  3. I wonder if the 90ies were not only a decade for bad clothes, but also mushy salads ? Anyway, your “aldentisation” does justice to these wonderful winter vegetables. Love the croutons!

    • Oh, dear, Sabine. I suppose I should remember. But I’ve forgotten everything. Anyway, in the ’90s, I was young and working constantly and smoking like a fiend, so I never had any reason to eat salads! 🙂

  4. Michelle, I love your smart changes. I have been craving a classic lentil dish with a touch of tangy mustard(s). Hubby loves a crisp cabbage. Looking forward to trying your hearty yet elegant, and quite composed 🙂 salad.

    • Thanks, Nick! With all the bread Steve makes around here, croutons are de rigueur (though the original did call for them, just lots bigger and thus more mushy).

  5. Pingback: Lentils | dinner prompt

  6. Reblogged this on A Single Serving and commented:
    I’m on about under-appreciated vegetables this evening. I just reblogged a post on beet soup so now it’s on to cabbage (which I think is also under-appreciated–just relegated to “slaw” which is often just horrible). This is a great modification of this recipe. Thanks!

  7. I love lentils and what a perfectly simple recipe. Love that first shot of the lentils in the scooper. I’m starting to really be attracted to simple combinations of easy whole ingredients as a meal. I’ve underrated them and now that I’m starting to do things like this I’m realizing what a disservice I’ve done to myself. Thanks, Michelle and Steve!

  8. Pingback: Lentils – dinner prompt

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