French Lentil Soup with Sausage
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The temperatures overnight took a nose dive, and it’s time to break out the knock-off Uggs. They are goofy-looking, especially on me, but I really don’t care. They’re the type that go up to my mid-calf. So cozy and warm.
Our house is big and almost impossible to heat. Originally, there were two houses (the second one definitely homemade!). Someone along the way decided to connect the two. Unfortunately, the connecting hallways go off at weird angles because the two structures weren’t aligned. The back wing is just bedrooms, two of which are empty now.
We don’t have central heat. In the front of the house, we have a pellet stove and a wood burning fireplace. The pellet stove doesn’t really cut it, because it’s a large, two story, great room/kitchen with two separate loft areas upstairs.
During the day, the poor little pellet stove works hard but leaves me with numb hands and frozen feet. Hence the Uggs.
The back wing is way too large to heat, although the pellet stove back there will heat up the upstairs (not the downstairs) if we get it cranking. It’s not worth the money, because pellets aren’t cheap and no one is back there during the day.
One of the reasons I love soups for dinner during the cold months is how easy they are to throw together. Even better, they freeze very well, so if you make a double batch, you can have dinner on the table in minutes on those nights when you’re too bushed or busy to cook.
And with the Holidays approaching, there seem to be an awful lot those going around. Especially if you have kids.
Today’s soup is not the prettiest, I’m the first to admit. But it is pretty darn yummy, filling, easy and nutritious. If you’ve never made lentil soup, there are some facts you should know.
They are high in protein, low in fat and are a good source of fiber. Lentils are also a good source of folate, iron, potassium, and phosphorus. Lentils are not a complete protein because they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids. You can obtain all amino acids necessary by pairing cooked lentils with a grain such as rice.
Brown lentils, the most common type, can be found in most grocery stores. They are mild in flavor, often described as earthy and can be used in a variety of recipes. Brown lentils soften when cooked but still hold their shape. They can become mushy if they are cooked too long. Use them for soup recipes.
Puy or French Green Lentils
French green or Puy lentils are also common. They were originally grown in the Le Puy region of France, hence their name. Puy lentils are often considered the most flavorful variety because they have a peppery taste. They take a bit longer to cook, but Puy lentils tend to stay firm. Use them in dishes that need a little crunch, such as salads.
These resemble caviar. They are a beautiful black, and also stay firm while cooking.
Red lentils are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. They are actually brown massor lentils with the hulls removed. Red lentils have a mild, sweet flavor. When cooked, they turn a golden color. Red lentils do not hold their shape very well and tend to become mushy. Use them for purees or as a thickener for a recipe.
Today’s Lentil Soup calls for French, Green Lentils, but I have made it with brown ones. And I suppose you could use Red Lentils, if you wanted a creamier texture.
You can throw this together in minutes and then simmer in your crock pot or on the stove top for the afternoon.
This recipe is adapted from the original, from Gourmet Magazine
French Lentil Soup with Sausage
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots (or equivalent baby carrots), chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 1/4 cups lentils (preferably French green), rinsed and checked for tiny rocks (rare but it does happen)
8 cups water
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper
One package smoked sausage, like Polska Kielbasa (I use turkey), sliced
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in large stock pot over medium high heat. Brown sliced sausage, then remove from pan.
Heat 2 Tbsp. in same pot (don’t wash off the brown bits). Cook onion, carrots and celery for about 5-6 minutes.
Add lentils, water, salt and pepper. You can add the browned sausage at this time or wait until serving time. I have tested with both types of sausage. The full fat, regular kielbasa will stand up to hours on the stovetop. If using turkey kielbasa, add it, browned, only at the last minute. Turkey kielbasa has little fat and will dry out if added to the soup at the beginning.
Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Reduce heat to moderate and cook, covered, until lentils are tender, about ½ to 1 hour. If you cook all day, your lentils will stay tender but green ones won’t fall apart. Your carrots and celery will get softer, though.
When you’re ready to eat, taste your soup. It will probably need more salt and pepper. Maybe not, since full fat kielbasa will add a lot of saltiness.
Add in 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or to taste), stir and ladle into bowls.