French Lentil Bacon Soup
I'm enjoying a bowl of this soup as I write this, and am feeling considerably better for it, mentally and physically. My house is currently a balmy 48 degrees, and every room is obnoxiously smokey, thanks to a westward wind (and possibly a change in barometric pressure?) preventing the stove pipe from drafting correctly. The windows and doors are flung open, the smoke alarms have gone off multiple times, and I feel overwhelmed from too many cares and concerns to list. This hot bowl of soup is my tether, and an encouraging nod to my efforts to take good care of myself, even when I have what feels like too much on my plate, which I'm guessing is what 99% of us feel like. Soup, man. It really saves the day sometimes.
Leftovers are delicious, of course, but may need to be thinned out with a bit of water or chicken broth when re-heated.
-1 cup French green “puy” lentils (not split peas)
-1 large onion, finely diced
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-2 stalks celery, finely diced
-3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
-2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
-2 cups crushed canned tomatoes with liquid, or 2 cups peeled and roughly chopped fresh tomatoes
-5-6 cups chicken broth
-1 lb. bacon, cut into small cubes
-a few sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary, stem removed and finely chopped
-2 bay leaves
-salt and pepper to taste
-fresh parsley to serve, roughly chopped
-sour cream to serve, if desired
If you have the time and foresight, soak your lentils in 6 cups of water for 12-24 hours. This will improve their digestibility, by removing some of the lectins present in legumes. Drain and rinse before use.
In a large heavy bottomed pot, cook bacon over medium-low heat until bacon is done to your liking. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, and set aside. Drain all but 4 tablespoons bacon fat from the pan (save and use for another time).
Over medium heat with the remaining 4 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan, add onions, celery and carrots along with a big pinch of salt. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until onions are translucent and take on a bit of color. Then add garlic, and cook for 1 minute more, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning.
Immediately add tomatoes and their juices, and stir well to bring up all the flavorful bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then add potatoes, 5 cups chicken broth, chopped herbs, and bay leaves, with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook over medium heat for about 30-35 minutes, uncovered, until the potatoes and lentils are tender. If the soup is thicker than you'd like (lentils and potatoes absorb a lot of liquid), add 1-2 cups more chicken broth or water towards the end, then simmer for a few more minutes.
Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper as needed, remembering that you will be serving the soup with bacon which adds its own saltiness.
To serve, top each bowl with bacon, fresh parsley, and sour cream if desired. Enjoy :)