Salmon with Lentils and Red Wine Salmon Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

A few recipes seem to ignore the rules of balance: all their components are full flavored and no one ingredient plays second fiddle to another. Here is one of those combinations: lentils are flavored with bacon, garlic, and shallots and simmered in cream; salmon is naturally rich and oily; red wine sauce is intense. But despite their strength, these elements don’t overpower one another. This is because fresh herbs reign in the strongly flavored lentils, the fish is simply seared and roasted, and the sauce is used sparingly, almost as an accent.

NotesFrench green lentils are the most flavorful and hold up the best when cooked.

Make-ahead notes

• The Red Wine Salmon Sauce can be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen.

• The lentils can be refrigerated up to 4 days.

• The seared fish can be kept at room temperature on a lightly oiled baking sheet, herb-side up, for up to 1 hour; or refrigerated up to 3 hours and brought to room temperature before finishing in the oven.

Makes6 servings

Cooking Methodpan-frying, roasting


Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionFormal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, high fiber, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturecreamy, herby, juicy, rich, savory, sharp, smoky, spiced, tangy, winey


  • 1 cup lentils, preferably French green lentils
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 3 thick slices bacon, cut into small dice (about ½ cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 salmon fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup Red Wine Salmon Sauce


  1. For the lentils:

  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes, and drain.

  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until almost smoking. Add the bacon and cook 1 minute. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring, until the mixture is softened but not colored, Add the cream, bring to a boil, and cook until bubbly and slightly thickened, about 1 minute, Add the lentils, thyme, and marjoram, bring to a boil, and simmer until the lentils are heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. For the salmon:

  5. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Season the fillets with salt and pepper.

  6. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until smoking. Add the fillets and sear on the skin side. Place in the oven until the fish is medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the pan to high heat and add the butter. Turn the fish and sear the other side 30 to 45 seconds. Turn the fish back over and remove from the pan.

  7. To serve:

  8. Divide the lentils among 6 warmed plates. Cover with a salmon fillet and drizzle about 3 tablespoons of the red wine sauce over and around the salmon. Serve immediately.

  9. Variations:

  10. Omit the bacon if you choose, although the lentils will lose their slightly smoky taste.

  11. Substitute Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes for lentils, a drizzle of Basil Oil for the sauce.

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