This is a stick to your ribs winter soup. I love lentil soup. I posted a vegetarian lentil soup previously. This one is not vegetarian, but it's still full of wonderful things. The addition of bacon gives it a smoky flavor, which is quite delicious, without adding too much richness.
You really should make this the day before because lentil soup, like many soups and stews, gets better after chilling in the fridge. All the flavors come together in a more cohesive whole. It also freezes well.
Day Before Lentil Soup
(serves 9 generously)
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon oil
2 onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and checked for any pebbles
8 cups water
¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
quartered hard boiled eggs
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and the fat has rendered out. Remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel to drain. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and thyme. Cook for another minute. Add the black pepper, bay leaf, salt, lentils, water, and reserved bacon. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes (less time if lower than Boulder, CO altitude of 5300 ft) until lentils are tender but not mushy.
If you don't plan to eat the soup right away (good call!), chill in the fridge. Fish out the bay leaf and discard. Put about 3 cups of soup in the blender and puree. This makes the soup thicker and creamy. Or, you can use an immersion blender to puree it slightly, right in the pot. Reheat over medium-low heat until piping hot. Stir in vinegar and fresh parsley. Check for salt; add more if needed. Serve with garnishes of your choice. Add a salad and you've got yourself a hearty meal.
Adapted from Cooking with Cornelius: The Corning Cookbook by Cornelius O'Donnell, Random House, 1982.