Happy New Year! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? My fingers feel stiff and rusty from lack of blogging. Or maybe it’s the frigid weather. Yes, it’s frigid in Miami! While you Michiganders and Minnesotans are probably scoffing at our Floridian fragility, 40-degree weather is unheard of down here and I’m freezing. It doesn’t help that we don’t even know how to turn the heat on. So, what to do when it’s cold out? Make soup, of course.
In Italy, it’s good luck to eat lentils on New Year’s Day. I think everyone’s looking for a little luck this year because my local grocery store was completely sold out of lentils all week. I had to pilfer some from my mom’s pantry (thanks Mom!). So I’m kicking off 2010 on Bitchin’ Camero with lucky lentils and a resolution to blog more often and redesign the site. Here’s hoping.
This recipe is actually an adaptation from my favorite Christmas present – Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook (thanks Tom!). If you’re going to buy one cookbook this year, this should be it. Not only is it spectacularly beautiful, it’s full of all kinds of tips for mastering home cooking, from essential cookware to building the perfect salad dressing. Did I mention the hundreds of amazing recipes? I am in love with this book. It’s all about showcasing good ingredients in interesting ways. Like the Roasted Beet and Potato Salad with Smoked Salmon and Soft-cooked Eggs we had last night. Sounds weird, but tastes like heaven.
This soup caught my attention immediately. Sweet potatoes, lentils, bacon and cilantro are definitely a few of my favorite things. Of course I decided to make this before work, and the recipe ended up being too much for me to handle in the morning, so I simplified it a bit. When I have more time, I’ll be making it Thomas Keller’s way and I’m sure it will blow my mind. As it turns out, the simplified version is pretty darn good, too. A little smoky from the bacon and curry powder, a little sweet from the potatoes, carrots and onions, and brightened up with cilantro and sherry vinegar. For me, it’s the perfect bowl of soup and the perfect way to ring in this rather nippy new year.
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, which you should buy immediately.
5 thick slices applewoord smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 large yellow onion (or 2 small), diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups French Lentils (Lentils de Puy)
8 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. Madras Curry powder (or other yellow curry powder)
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
salt & pepper
1 large handful of cilantro leaves
Set a very large pot over medium-low heat and cook the bacon until the fat renders and it begins to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve the bacon. Add the onions and carrots to the pot and cook in the bacon fat until soft – about 10 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes, lentils, chicken stock and curry powder and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low and cook for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and lentils are tender. I wanted to thicken my soup up a bit, so I mashed the soup with a potato masher (or ricer) about 15 times. This is optional.
Add the sherry vinegar and taste the soup. Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into bowl and sprinkle with bacon bits and fresh cilantro leaves.
Makes 6 – 8 servings.