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Hearty Lentil Soup with Smoky Bacon and Sweet Onions

Mariel here. Have you accounted for all of your frostbitten fingers and toes? Broken a hip slip-sliding away on the sidewalk? Suffered through exploding tires after getting stuck in a mound of snow? Anybody else sick of winter yet? Over the past three weeks, I’ve basically been hibernating, only leaving my apartment to walk the dogs and begrudgingly attend work events. Bloomie has taken an absolute beating in the press for his handling of the back-to-back snow-downs, but really, how can one solitary billionaire go head-to-head with Mother Nature? When it snows in the city, it just plain sucks. SO, on that uplifting note, I share with you a recipe that’ll take the chill out of winter and the rumble out of your exercise-starved stomach. I didn’t use fancy French lentils or even a decent cut of bacon. This soup is about as basic as it comes – and I hesitate to even call it soup because the lentils take over. But it’s hearty and warm, salty and savory, and the flavors intensify with every reheating. Growing up, my mother always served us lentil soup on the nastiest, coldest, snowiest winter nights so for me, this dish represents a little slice of childhood. It’s comfort food – but not bad-for-you comfort food – which makes it all the more comforting. And let me tell you, it beats the pants off the canned stuff. No offense Progresso. PS: Every time I now use bay leaves, I think about High Plains Drifter‘s hilarious diatribe against these seemingly useless herbs. Read it, if you’re looking for a laugh.

Hearty Lentil Soup with Smoky Bacon and Sweet Onions Makes about 6 entree-size servings

Note regarding reheating: Any leftover lentils will absorb more broth overnight, so upon reheating, add a few tablespoons of broth to create a soupier consistency, if desired. Ingredients: 2 cups dry lentils, rinsed thoroughly – $1.89 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth) – stock 2 cups water – stock 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped finely – $0.89 5 pieces of bacon (or turkey bacon), crumbled – $3.49 3 cloves garlic, minced – stock ½-cup freshly-grated parmesan – $3.99 ½-cup green onions, chopped – $0.75 2 bay leaves – stock Freshly ground salt and pepper – stock Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $11.01 Cost per serving: $1.83 Directions: 1. In a large stock pot, fry the bacon until very crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon, crumble, and set aside. In the same stock pot, saute the Vidalia onion and garlic in the bacon drippings over high heat until the onions are = very soft and they start to caramelize. This takes about 12 minutes. Stir very frequently to prevent burning. 2. Add the broth, water, parmesan, bay leaves, lentils and crumbled bacon to the stock pot. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat and simmer on medium-low for about 2 hours or until the lentils are tender. Be sure to taste-test the broth intermittently and season with salt & pepper. Add a ¼-cup of water, as needed, if the lentils absorb too much broth. 3. Once the lentils are tender, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve hot.