Monday, January 30, 2012

Cold Weather Comfort Food: My Mom's Lentil Soup

I know, I know... it was in the 60s again today. In January. It doesn't seem right to be writing about cozying up in the kitchen with a ginormous pot of soup, but it really is January so you know we won't make it until spring without some cold days ahead. I loved this soup growing up. My mom always served it with freshly chopped raw onions and one of those fake lemon plastic squeeze bottles of lemon juice. I'm using real lemons since I'm obsessed with lemons ever since I found whole bags of Meyer lemons at Walmart... and if you doubt me, go take a peek at my Pinterest boards. Seriously though, without the crunch of the chopped fresh onions and tang of the lemon juice, this soup might actually be boring. Wait... how can anything with bacon in it be boring? No way.

Here's what you'll need to make this:

2 bags of lentils (you need 1 1/2 bags for the soup)
1 pound bag of carrots
5 stalks of celery
2 onions (one for the soup and one to dice up to sprinkle on top when you eat it)
lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but if you must use that plastic fake lemon just don't tell me!)
5 potatoes
1 pound of bacon
ham bone or ham hocks (I had leftover ham from Christmas that I had frozen, so I used that)
3-4 bay leaves
salt & pepper
2-3 quarts of water


First, dice up and cook the bacon. You will want a large pot for this, something that holds at least 6 quarts, but don't cook your bacon in it. I have learned that when you cook bacon in a pot with high sides, the steam that forms will keep the bacon from browning so you end up with ugly little pieces of fat that you will not want to eat.

Cook your bacon in a skillet, then set it aside while you prep your veggies, and pour some of the bacon drippings into your soup pot. Bacon drippings sounds a lot less nasty than bacon grease, right?

Mmm... BACON!!

Dice up the carrots, celery, 1 onion and potatoes. Start cooking the onions in the bacon drippings. I didn't use all of the bacon drippings and made up the difference with olive oil so there was at least some healthy oil in there but still some extra flavor from the bacon.

Throw in the carrots.


...and the taters

When it says to use 5 potatoes, it means normal sized ones, but I had some of those tiny Yukon potatoes, so this is about how many I used:

Throw it all into the pot and toss everything together. Nice steam coming off the pot! Cook everything long enough so the veggies start to get a bit translucent, but not fully cooked because this will continue to simmer for several hours when it becomes soup. If you taste it they should still be a little bit crunchy.

Now mix in your cooked bacon and diced ham.

Add the bay leaves. I used my big fat Turkish bay leaves from Penzey's.

Next, add the water. I used the full 3 quarts. Okay, I know that you know how to add water to a pot... but it's so much fun taking pictures while I cook that I couldn't help myself.

Now toss in the lentils. Lentils are very healthy, so that should cancel out the bacon, right?

Mix everything in and simmer for at least 3 hours.

...getting there

Finally... it's soup! Squirt in a little lemon juice, top with the diced fresh onion and savor. This makes a ton, but you can freeze some of the leftovers for another day when you don't feel like cooking. Thanks mom!!

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