LENTIL & BURNISHED ONIONS
taco bell & other topics
I have been on a journey for the last year. I started exercising regularly and being slightly more conscious of what I put in my body. Not really for health reasons but purely for vanity’s sake. In my mind I am honestly and truly 22 years old but for some reason my body just can’t get there. It really, really knows that I am 31, and I think that it’s really, really rude and unfair. The truth is hangovers hurt and pizza is mean. Taco Bell is delicious every time but how many days in a month can I really eat a chicken quesadilla, a crunch wrap supreme, a Dorito cheesy gordita crunch, and three soft tacos while sitting in my car? The answer is at least 4 days in a month if the month is January and the year is 2022. Dry January, who? I don’t know her. I’m really trying now to be not such a garbage dump trash monster which is where this soup came into my life. I was looking for something gentle and loving and very generous in flavor. Unfortunately, nothing will ever be as generous in flavor as fire sauce on meat from a tube.
This soup is very adaptable. However, the things that I would not stray from are the French green lentils, the burnished onions, and the chicken broth. Those three things will be the base of this soup and lend a welcoming canvas to anything that you have on hand. I’m using chilis, chicken, and kale. Some suggestions I have are potatoes or sweet potatoes, broccolini, any hearty green (collards, bok choy, chard), cabbage, carrots, or celery. Whatever your heart desires. That being said, I would keep it limited to three additional ingredient items. This soup is meant to be simple and clean. Obviously feel free to make it exactly as I have. I dolled it out to many people and it has received rave reviews. It has filled the garbage sized hole in my heart just as I had intended. If you would like to make this vegetarian, double the onions and use vegetable broth or water instead of chicken broth.
As always, I recommend making your own chicken broth for this. You can refer to the first issue of this newsletter for my chicken broth recipe. I also recommend salting your chicken 12-24 hours in advance and poaching it in your broth. You can do this while you’re simmering the chicken broth, before you strain it. Let the chicken cool then pull all the meat from the carcass. This can be done up to two days before making the soup. If you think “this chicken has too much chicken on it” and you don’t want to put all that chicken into your soup, make yourself a little chicken quesadilla while you’re waiting for the lentils to soften.
French green lentils are not only beautiful in color; they are meatier and sturdier than their red or brown counterparts. Which means that they are difficult to overcook and hold up impressively in soups. While they are generally a bit more expensive than other lentils, they give you your money’s worth in texture and flavor.
LENTIL & BURNISHED ONIONS
1 whole chicken – 3ish lb.
3 quarts chicken broth
1 large white or yellow onion (or two small), sliced
10 garlic cloves, sliced
3 serrano chilis (optional), sliced
24 oz. French green lentils
2 handfuls kale, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. white vinegar
I am using a 5.5-quart Dutch oven when making this soup.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and allow them to brown and burn in some places, 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally, not looking for caramelization. Add salt and continue to stir the onions. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the garlic and chilis. Stir to incorporate and sauté for a minute. Add the lentils, and stir to coat the lentils in the oil and onions. Add the chicken broth, and gently simmer lentils on medium or medium-low for 15-20 minutes with the lid on, slightly askew until the lentils are soft. Add the chicken and kale and leave on medium low heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and add vinegar. Salt to taste. Finish with chopped dill, cilantro, parsley, or scallion. Any tender herb will work. Soup will freeze well and keep in the fridge for one week.
What a doozy this February has been. Last week, I broke my favorite platter in half. It’s in the shape of a turkey and I got it at Red White & Blue for $7. It’s one of my favorite possessions. Yesterday, I was rescuing it with some gorilla glue and the thick pieces of ceramic boycotted the mend and bit me right in the thumb. I ended up with stitches! Going to the emergency room with a non-life-threatening ailment is the pits. All that is to say - I won’t be making any soup this week because I can’t use my right thumb. Life is so fun and interesting sometimes. I would also like to let everyone know that over the weekend I had lunch at Huszár. It was one of the best meals I have had in years. Happy Monday and have a blessed week. Stay hydrated.