Seared Ahi with Depuy Lentils and Arugula

Yield 4 portions

I like to begin food and wine pairings by thinking in terms of the “relative weight”.. What this means is, that I tend to pair ‘heavy’ or richer foods with ‘heavy’, more complex wines, and ‘light’ foods with ‘lighter’ wines.

Ahi is a lean, textured, full-flavored fish, and therefore one that pairs well with red wine. I have created this dish to enjoy with Sonoma County Merlot. The wonderful earthy flavor of Du Puy Lentils adds depth and balance to the dish.

(note: in this recipe I list bay leaves by the “inch”, since they vary in size)

Lentils:

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons leeks, white only, finely chopped
  • 1 each medium sized carrot, (1/2 cup diced)
  • 2 inches bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Merlot
  • 3/4 cup Du Puy Lentils
  • 1 teaspoon  thyme, fresh, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups  chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • to taste salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped

Fried Leeks:

  • 1/2 cup   leeks, white only, cut into 2”long thin julienne strips
  • 1 Tablespoon  Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons  canola oil
  • to taste sea salt

Merlot Drizzle:

  • 1/2 cup   merlot
  • 2 Tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil

Ahi:

  • 1 pound   ahi fillet, center cut, cut into 4 pieces, 1” thick
  • 1 Tablespoon   canola oil
  • 2 cups   baby arugula

Lentils:

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, place olive oil, chopped leeks and a pinch of salt. Cover and let cook for 2 minutes, or until the leeks are cooked but not brown. Remove cover, add carrots and bay leaves, cover again and sweat the vegetables for 4-5 minutes. Add the merlot, bring to a boil, add the lentils, thyme, chicken broth and water. Bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat for approximately 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Let the lentils rest until needed. There should still be some broth not yet absorbed by the lentils. This is part of the dish, and will be the “sauce”. If the lentils sit long enough to absorb this liquid, add a bit of warm water just before serving, and re-heat.

Fried Leeks:

Rinse leeks in a collander with cold water, then dry by patting with a paper towel. This should leave them still slightly damp. Place the leeks in a small bowl, add the flour and toss to coat.

Meanwhile, place a small sauté pan over medium heat and add the canola oil. When the oil is hot (1-2 minutes), add the flour-coated leeks and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes or until they are crisp and slightly golden. Remove the leeks from the oil, and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Sprinkle the leeks with a pinch of salt and toss. Reserve for later.

Merlot Dressing:

In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, add _ cup merlot and boil until it has reduced to 1 Tablespoon. Pour into a small bowl or dressing container. Add the olive oil and whisk (or shake) until combined and slightly thickened.

The Fish:

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, place canola oil and pre-heat for 1 minute. Season the fish on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place gently into the sauté pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. I like to serve the ahi very rare. If you prefer to cook it rare to medium-rare, add 2 more minutes to each side.

To Serve:

Reheat the lentils. Toss the arugula with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and a touch of coarse sea salt. Place a mound of arugula on the center of a warm plate. Add the fresh chopped parsley to the lentils and place a healthy scoop just to the side of the arugula. Place the seared ahi atop the lentils and arugula and drizzle with merlot dressing. Sprinkle with a small pinch of coarse sea salt. Top the ahi with a small handful of fried leeks standing tall to give the dish some dramatic height. This dish is great served with whole roasted baby carrots.

Enjoy with a glass of Sonoma County Merlot!

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