Friday, November 23, 2012

Zuppa Di Lenticchie e Manzo

Fig.1. Just before adding water. 

If you’ve been a faithful follower of THI for more than one winter, you’ll no doubt be aware that nesting is a part of my pre-winter routine. While cold air might involuntarily compel some people to stack their pantry shelves with Campbell’s canned soup, the cold air triggers the need in me to nest by way of homemade soup. (By the way, did you know that Campbell’s discovered several years back that they could increase soup sales by linking their radio advertising spots with cold weather. They developed an algorithmic computer program that tells different radio stations across the Continent when to run their soup ads; if you’re hearing a Campbell’s soup ad on the radio, there’s a good chance you’ll need an umbrella and a parka.)
Cold, frigid air demands a hot and hearty soup and nothing does hearty like lentils and beef. Protein is the key word here; one bowl is usually enough to keep you satisfied for hours. I’m getting tired of saying this, but this soup does taste better the next day.

Fig.2. Zen And The Art of Mis-en-Place

Zuppa di Lenticchie e Manzo  
Beef and Lentil Soup
Serves: a small army

When I make soup like this, I make enough to freeze. Knowing that I have several containers of soup nestled in the freezer nurtures my inner nester.  If meat isn’t your thing, just omit the beef, at your own peril.

4 to 5 tbsp olive oil
about 700g Stewing beef, cut into large pieces (I like to use the blade, but feel free to use pre-cut cubes of stewing beef. Some stewing beef sold in supermarkets isn't the greatest so go to a butcher instead and tell them you want a beef cut that will shred easily when braised or boiled.)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large parsnips, chopped
4 to 5 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 to 5 medium potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1 can (28oz) whole plum tomatoes
4 bay leaves
1 ½ cups lentil (I use Easton Green, they take very well to being boiled and won't go mushy)
Salt and Pepper

Fig.3. Browning the meat and getting a proper fond on the bottom of your pot is crucial to any soup or stew.  The trick is patience and low to medium heat.  Never set burners too high.

Add olive oil to a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot and set over medium heat.  When your oil begins to shimmer and slightly smoke, add some meat to the pot (do not over-crowd). Brown meat on both sides and set aside.  Add some more olive oil to the pot if necessary and add the onion, parsnips, carrots, celery and potatoes. Cook and stir well for about 8 minutes. Place the meat back into the pot and add just enough water to barely cover the meat.  With a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of your pot making sure you dislodge all the fond stuck to the bottom (this is all flavor baby!)  Add the chicken stock, the can of tomatoes and the bay leaves and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the lentils and simmer until lentils are done, carrots are tender, and beef breaks apart. Season with salt and pepper.

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