Serve this vegetarian appetizer as you would caviar; place a spoonful of glistening Beluga lentils atop a cracker, then add a tangle of caramelized onions and a bit of crème fraîche. Beluga lentils are similar to common varieties in taste and cooking technique but turn glossy once properly cooked. You can substitute French green lentils for Belugas. The lentils and onions can be prepared up to one day in advance, but be sure to bring to room temperature for serving. Prep: 20 minutes; Cook: 1 hour 5 minutes; Stand: 1 hour 20 minutes.
3/4 cup Beluga lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
3 tablespoons crème de cassis
Garnish: Melba toast rounds, 1/2 cup crème fraîche
How to Make It
Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain and transfer lentils to a bowl. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Whisk together 2 tablespoons vinegar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oils until blended. Pour over cooled lentils, adjust seasoning, and set aside. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill until needed, up to 1 day in advance.
Melt butter in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add onion and remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 45 to 50 minutes or until soft and caramelized. Transfer to a bowl, and deglaze the pan with remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar. Pour hot vinegar into bowl with onion; add crème de cassis, and stir to incorporate. Let mixture cool 10 minutes, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until needed.
Return lentils and caramelized onion to room temperature 1 hour before serving. Arrange crackers on a plate with a bowl of caramelized onion and a bowl of lentils. Let guests spread crackers with 1/4 teaspoon crème fraîche each, and top with a spoonful each of lentils and caramelized onion.