Monday, January 23, 2012

Lentil Soup with Chorizo

I've just got to tell you about this soup. It was so incredibly good! I make good soup as a matter of course—it is my profession after all—but this soup was special for its depth of flavor and texture. I am making myself silly hungry just typing this.

Cooking has been scarce around the house of late, what with both of us being sick for over a week and then with Ann's surgery and recuperation. But finally, all the planets aligned yesterday on a perfect soup day: cloudy, below freezing, and random snow flurries.

Ann had been talking about lentil soup for over a week and I was on a mission yesterday to make it. Saturday night was miserable at the restaurant with only a handful of customers on account of the crappy weather so I left early, early enough to grab a bunch of cilantro and a pound of Salvadorean chorizo at Food Maxx on the way home. They're usually long closed by the time I am heading home. And before leaving the restaurant, I grabbed some lentils. We only have three kinds in stock now—we usually have a lot more—so I grabbed some of each to give the soup texture and variety: common brown lentils, small green Le Puy lentils from France, and tiny black beluga lentils.

Here you see the principal ingredients: lentils, mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery, and green onions), tomatoes, cilantro, chorizo, pimentón, and garlic. I feel almost embarrassed to give a recipe for soup—it is soup for God's sake! Quantities don't really matter, procedure hardly matters, spicing hardly matters. But I realize that I am in the minority where going-with-the-flow soup is concerned, and so here is the recipe. As you can see from the quantities, I'm not fooling around here. I purposefully made enough to eat for dinner, for leftovers this week, and for the freezer for some other night.

extra virgin olive oil
1 pound soft chorizo
1/2 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup cilantro stems, finely minced
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon pimentón agridulce
2 large (1-1/2 pounds) yellow onions, diced
6 carrots (1 pound), diced
6 stalks (3/4 pound) celery, diced
1 bunch of green onions, diced
3 cups (1-1/2 pounds) mixed lentils
1 12-ounce bottle beer
1 quart peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
1 gallon water
salt to taste

Film a large stock pot with the olive oil. Add the chorizo and break it up as it browns. When the chorizo is browned, add the garlic, cilantro, cumin, and pimentón and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring somewhat frequently. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the vegetables are wilted, stirring once every minute or two for about 10 minutes. Add the lentils, beer, and water. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook at least until the lentils are tender, about a half an hour. Season to taste. I let mine cook about 90 minutes or so.

Tips to take away from this:

1. Mixing lentils gives a variety of texture and flavor.
2. Beer adds a little je ne sais quoi to beans and legumes.
3. Cilantro stems have awesome flavor for sofritos.
4. Pimentón is a gift from the food gods.
5. There is no need to grind cumin for soups.

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