French Lentil and Sausage Soup: A meal in a bowl

Lentils are a grossly underrated whole grain, and American chefs don’t tend to use them in their home cooking. I find lentils filling and nutritious, and the longer they soak in the food, the tastier they become.

There are two different types of lentils, and the type you choose makes a huge difference in how a recipe turns out. Most of us know green and red lentils, which are wonderful but cook and mushy quickly. Green and red lentils certainly have their place, but green French du Puy lentils and brown Greek lentils keep their shape and have a nice al dente bite. Because of this, it takes much longer to cook. If you can’t tell the difference from the label, the lentils for this recipe are almost round, not disk-shaped.

You can use any type of sausage to make this soup. I have a kosher home and don’t have local access to a lot of sausages, so I use beef keelbasa. You can absolutely substitute lamb sausage, andouille sausage, or whatever variety you prefer.

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This is a classic recipe that can also be easily made vegetarian. Just use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth and leave out the sausage. There are also very good no-chicken broths available in both powder and liquid form.

This makes a nice big amount and serves 8. I never make small amounts of soup because it’s wonderful to freeze the extra and have a lightly warmed up dinner on a busy night.

FRENCH lentil and sausage soup

1 pound of lentils, like you puy
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 cups of chopped onions
3 rinsed and chopped leeks (note: leeks tend to be sandy and need to be soaked well before use)
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons of cumin
2 cups of chopped celery
3 cups of sliced ​​carrots
3 liters of chicken broth and some water if necessary
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 pound sausage of your choice
1/4 cup of dry red wine or 2 tablespoons of red wine or balsamic vinegar

Rinse, drain and transfer the lentils to a bowl. Boil a kettle and pour it over the lentils until just covered. Soak the lentils for 20 minutes and then drain again.

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions for 5 minutes. Add the leek, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté for 15 minutes longer. When the onion mixture looks translucent, stir in the fresh herbs and cumin.

Add the carrots and celery and sauté for another 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste before adding chicken broth, drained lentils, and 2 bay leaves. Bring to the boil, put on the lid and simmer for 1 hour.

Cut the sausage into cubes. Some people like to fry it first for extra texture, but I want to save time and just add it right out of the box. Add the sausage and wine / vinegar and cook without a lid for another 25-30 minutes.

This soup doesn’t have a lot of excess broth in it. However, if you feel like the lentils are really soaking up the liquid, you can stir in half a cup of water at a time until the consistency you want is reached. Remove the bay leaves before serving. If you like a little kick in your food, add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper when you add the sausage.

Since this soup takes almost 2 hours to prepare and fully prepare, I tend to serve it for Shabbat lunch or Sunday lunch with French breads. This is a hearty soup that is a perfect meal in itself. Enjoy!

Two notes on fresh herbs and wine in recipes
For herbs: It’s much cheaper to grow your own herbs. However, if you buy fresh herbs and have extra leftovers, just freeze the leftovers to use at a later date. You can also use dried herbs instead of fresh herbs if you have a need and the recipe calls for fresh ones. The ratio is 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs. This conversion works for any type of herb.

For Wine: When you need small amounts for a recipe and don’t have wine for dinner, opening a new bottle just to cook it can be wasteful. Think ahead the next time you serve wine. If you open a bottle of wine that you just don’t love, or if you open too much while talking and it’s slowly losing freshness, this is the perfect time to freeze wine for later use in cooking. You can use ice cube trays or you can just freeze them in a plastic bag or container. Just label the type of wine and the amount that will be kept on the bag or container. PJC

Jessica Grann is a Pittsburgh based chef.

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