Lentils are my favorite bean. I love lentil soup, lentil salad, and even lentils as a side. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is “a basic recipe” for French lentils, which I made as a side.
Dorie suggests using French Le Puy lentils instead of the brown lentils you usually see at the grocery store. I know that some Doristas had trouble sourcing these, but fortunately, my local Whole Foods always has these in the bulk section where I buy them by the pounds. I love them, particularly in lentil salad, because they hold their shape instead of getting mushy. I agree that they are worth seeking out.
This recipe’s preparation is similar to my usual method, but also a little bit different. I’m always up for trying new ways of doing things before deciding whether to adopt some or all of the experiment for a new and enhanced “usual” method.
For this version, first the lentils are boiled for two minutes, then drained before continuing. This is to give the lentils a cleaner flavor. I’m not sure I could tell the difference, but I might try it again.
The lentils are simmered with an onion studded with a clove, a carrot, a celery stalk, a smashed garlic clove, and a bay leaf. Once they are tender, some brandy is stirred in for just a minute, before draining the lentils again. My question about this step is: what’s the point of the brandy? I didn’t notice any residual taste. Even though I didn’t use fancy brandy, just Christian Brothers, it still seemed like a waste of brandy.
At this point, cook’s choice: discard the vegetables or chop them up. I chopped them up, mixed them into the lentils, and adjusted the seasoning.
The lentils made the perfect accompaniment to duck confit, beet salad, and braised kale. This dish, or maybe it was the whole meal, felt like a baby step towards welcoming the crispness in the air as summer comes to an end and autumn is upon us.
As far as adjustments to my favorite method, I would try the initial quick boil and drain step again before making a final judgment on that step. I usually simmer my lentils with chopped onion and carrots (and a bay leaf). I found the chopping of the warm (well, hot, I was impatient) vegetables fussy, though I did enjoy the flavors, so I might start adding chopped celery and garlic to the mix. but not whole vegetables. Also, no brandy unless I just stirred it into the warm lentils. So, mixed results on takeaways for me.
I was at Squam Lake in New Hampshire overnight with a couple of my morning boot camp buddies. This morning, we hiked to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, and this is the view back over the lake. Gorgeous, no?
Without any doubt, lentil soup is my hands-down favorite kind of soup. I have multiple favorite recipes and rotate between them, but I’m not fixated on only those recipes and often try something new.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is yet another variation on lentil soup: Orange-Scented Lentil Soup to be more specific. The basic recipe was typical, but this version’s flavorings were a little exotic. Dorie adds orange peel, chopped fresh ginger, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and a clove.
This wasn’t my favorite lentil soup ever. I doubt it will make a repeat appearance in my kitchen. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t wow me. The only liberty I took was to use just a quart of chicken stock because I know the soup recipes in this book can be too thin for my taste.
For one thing, this soup is pureed. I prefer whole lentils in my soup. Also, I used an immersion blender because Dorie said it would be chunkier that way. However, I had my usual trouble with that tool. It never seems to do the job I want. I never get the pot size right and usually make a big mess and cover myself and the stovetop with soup.. In addition to not liking the lentils pureed, another problem was that the immersion blender left noticeable pieces of orange peel and ginger and didn’t do anything to the whole spices. I didn’t really like the surprise of an entire coriander seed or peppercorn as I swallowed a spoonful of soup.
I served the soup topped with a dollop of yogurt and some crumbled bacon, yet even the delicious toppings didn’t make the soup a winner. (Note: if you want to try a winner recipe, check out the recipe for Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup in the most recent issue (March/April) of Cooks’ Illustrated magazine. It’s excellent.