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Author Notes: Hold to the French good-luck tradition and ladle out prosperity, warmth, and a feeling of comfort for the new year with this hearty soup that features one of France's very best products: Du Puy lentils, for which there is no substitution in my kitchen. Where other lentils lose their shape and flavor easily, these stay firm and meaty, rich in taste; seek them out and you'll know why they're called poor man's caviar. In this recipe, adapted from a David Waltuck favorite, the lentils are given a smoky boost with Canadian bacon, and the soup is versatile: you can serve it in bowls at the start of a meal or cook it down to a thick, no-liquid state and plate it alongside any main course. In fact, this dish is so good, it often becomes the one-and-only course for our family's traditional January 1st meal. Bonne année! —Allison Cay Parker
pound Du Puy lentils
tablespoons olive oil
packet (8-10 slices) Canadian bacon, diced
small yellow onion, diced
garlic cloves, minced
cups chicken broth (I use organic low-sodium)
teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
- Rinse lentils in a colander. (There is no need to soak them.) Sift through them carefully and extract any debris you may find. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add Canadian bacon, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic releases its aroma and the onion appears translucent.
- Add the lentils, chicken broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Stir once and increase the heat to high. When soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover the pot, and simmer the lentils for 1 hour, removing the cover periodically to stir.
- Taste and, if desired, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Continue to simmer until the soup reaches your desired consistency. To serve the lentils as a soup, watch the pot closely to make sure all the broth does not cook out; it can go quickly at the end. You can also deliberately simmer until very thick and suitable for plating as a side dish. Just make sure that the lentils do not scorch on the bottom of the pot.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe for Beans