Monday, October 4, 2010

Pork as a Team Player: Lentil Soup

A week or two ago, after many beers, I was hungry. I scoured through my food pantries and found a bag of lentils. I immediately recognized that I have had this bag of lentils for over a year and never knew what to do with it. But at this time, I wanted to get rid of it. I had some leftover mirepoix-carrots, onions, celery, and some chicken stock, plus various aromatic herbs. So I melted some butter, added some oil, sauted the vegatables, added stock, simmered, seasoned, and woooot, I had Lentil soup.

Perhaps it was my drunken state or just an introduction to lentil soup, but I was hooked to the simplicity of ingredients, quality of flavor, and overall satisfaction of the soup, a very tasty vegatarian soup. So I did a little research on lentil soup and combined a few recipes to create a lentil soup that exhibited pork as a humble ingredient to a recipe that features multitudes of ingredients.

Smoked sausage stands in line with many ingredients here, a team player, a blocker on a special teams unit in football or a penalty kill forward in hockey, but it remains an important part of the whole system, key to its to purpose. Sure, yeah, it is just smoked sausage, but I don't think it would be the same without it.

Sharpen your knife, clean your cutting board, throw on some music, because most of this soup is all prep work.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegatable oil
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 4stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • bunch of fresh thyme springs, tied
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups dry lentils
  • 6 cups chicken broth plus 2 cups water
  • 4 cups spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 lb smoked sausage, cubed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
In your favorite large soup pot, melt butter and add oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add bay leaf, oregano, and bunch thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Add lentils, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. Stir occasionally. After 30 minutes, add potatoes and smoked sausage and cook for 30 minutes more. Remove from heat and let rest. Stir in spinach and let residual heat wilt the spinach. 
This lentil soup is very hearty and chunky and very fulfilling. All the flavors meld very well together. You really get the smoke flavor from the sausage while the thyme, bay leaves, and oregano add a herbaceous tone. The spinach acts like a condiment/topping, wilted and done just right, I really enjoyed it. With all the ingredients, the lentils do not get lost in the crowd. Their grainy texture is noticed on every bite providing many amounts of protein, fiber, and iron. The legumes really absorbs a lot of flavor from the stock.

I am a lover of soups and stews, meaty or vegatarian. Maybe I am nerdy or something but I love prepping for soups and I love a pot simmering for several hours. Life seem more right during these moments. I usually make more than I need to but I enjoy having a huge pot stewing and simmering. This soup does well as a leftover and after a simple reheating, you have another tasty meal.

Please, don't be afraid of vegatables. If you are, add PORK!!!!!!!!!!

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