Friday, November 14, 2008


Some people are Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs. Me, I’m Mental for Lentils.

It was the Mistress of Sarcasm - now safely arrived in Ann Arbor, by the way - who put the thought of Lentil Soup in my head.

She had been given a split pea soup recipe by Hagar (boyfriend Gilad’s sister) a few weeks ago, one that included such diverse elements as diced sweet potato (!), and had had great success with it.

I didn’t have Hagar’s recipe - yet - and so I decided to hold off on the split peas and make lentil soup (a favorite since my Snot-Nose Years) instead.

Making good lentil soup is not brain surgery. Which is fortunate, because my license to perform brain surgery in the state of Georgia seems to have lapsed. But what I did have is a soup pot, plus all the requisite ingredients.

I started with regular brown lentils. There are about a thousand different kinds of lentils, including the excellent Lentilles Vertes du Puy from France...but I wasn’t in a Fancy-Pants mood. First task was to pick through the lentils, making sure no little stones or clods of dirt were lurking in the bag. Biting down on a stone will, most assuredly, ruin your day. Then the little guys got a good rinsing in three changes of water.

Next step was to chop up a yellow onion and throw it into the soup pot with a little olive oil, there to sweat. I added a couple of chopped carrots and a diced celery stalk, plus a peeled and minced garlic clove, then let all of this sweat down for awhile over medium heat.

Once the onions were translucent and everything was nice and aromatic, I added the lentils (about a pound), a quart of beef broth, two quarts of water, a few twists of freshly ground black pepper, and a small handful of chopped parsley. For additional flavor, I made a bouquet garni by tying up about ten parsley stems, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, and a bay leaf with kitchen twine, dropping it into the soup, and tying the other end of the twine to the pot handle for easy retrieval. Then I brought the whole mess up to a simmer, slapped a lid on the pot, and let it cook.

While the soup was simmering, I cooked up a pound of smoked beef sausage and cut it into small chunks. [Yes, I was lazy and used the microwave, but feel free to grill the sausage, pan-fry it, whatever floats your boat. Or use a different kind of sausage. Or use hot dogs.] These went onto the pot, too.

After about 90 minutes, it’s soup o’clock. Yank out the bouquet garni, and (this is important) stir in 1/4 cup of dry (fino) sherry. Do not use sweet varieties like Harvey’s Bristol Cream or the so-called Dry Sack sherry: they are nasty and nekulturny - in this recipe, anyway. Now serve it forth.

Lentil Soup

The finished product.

Some people prefer a smooth-textured soup. If this is you, take the sausage-chunks out of the pot and use an immersion blender to convert this nice, chunky, rustic soup into a smooth, homogenized, boring purée. Then add the meat back in. [I did not do this.]

Enjoy! Perfect on a chilly fall evening.

Update: But watch out for Dutch Oven Potential later...

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