Spanish Chorizo and Lentil Soup: cooking 101

May 29, 2013
Cook’s Illustrated – March/April 2013
Spanish Chorizo and Lentil Soup

130529soup“To achieve authentically deep, complex flavor in this hearty soup, we had to turn down the flame.” ~ David Paz

Sometimes you’ve just got to have faith… at least, that’s what I told myself when I gave Big Ring the keys to my 12 Months of Cooking Challenge. For May’s challenge, I plopped a stack of magazines in front of him and told him to choose my next recipe. The only perimeter I gave him was that it had to be a proper meal – no other limitations – and I was fully aware, and freaked out, of the consequences this could present. What if he picked pork? I do NOT eat piggies*

Big Ring, to his credit, took the challenge seriously. He told me he didn’t want to pick something super easy, or super hard for that matter, just the right recipe to hone my skills, give me a challenge, but not send me into a flurry of F bombs. The result: Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup.

*I know what you’re all thinking: sausage, that’s pig. No it’s not, neither is ham 😉

Big Ring picked well; this recipe was full of Cooking 101 lessons. I learned NOT to stand so close to a pan of spitting, angry oil, but only AFTER having my arms, chest and cheeks painstakingly charred! I learned that unless I want eyeliner streaks staining my cheeks, I must invest in a pair of onion goggles. And I learned the definition of simmer, a term I’ve thought for years meant to cook over the lowest temperature. But nope, that’s not it at all.

Simmer [sim•mer]
verb (used without object)
To cook or cook in a liquid at or just below the boiling point

I only looked the definition up because I wasn’t 100 per cent confident in my understanding of the word, and because I want to follow these recipes to a tee, I felt it imperative to get out the dictionary 😀

That’s a cup of tears right there!

I also learned a new technique – Sweating Out The Veggies – that’s not so 101, but maybe a wee bit more advanced dare I say 😀 Sweating out involves cooking the vegetables super slow to produce a “sweet, vegetal taste” that wouldn’t overpower the entire dish. Big Ring thought this technique would be the hardest  for me, probably because of my tendency towards impatience, but it was actually quite easy. I just had to keep an eye on it, and make sure it didn’t brown, or goodness forbid, BURN!

All in all, I kind of liked this recipe. Even though it was time consuming as hell chopping and measuring all those dang vegetables and sweating them out, and prepping the lentils, and sauteing the spices into a “fragrant bloom,” etc., etc., when it finally came together, it was a thing of beauty in my mouth. (Who ever thought I’d say that about my cooking!!!) The melding of the flavours, the stick-to-your-bones lentils, the juiciness of the sausage, it warmed my belly with pure happiness. And the next day, oh man, the flavours were so much more intensified. It was not only Princess approved, it was Big AND Little Ring approved too!

There were a couple challenges however. We couldn’t find proper Spanish chorizo, so we used kielbasa instead, which the recipe said would be fine, but I think the intensity of chorizo would have been better. The second issue was my blood sugars. They did NOT like this recipe at all! Because there was no real way of measuring the carbs in the lentils, given it was combined with the veggies and sausage, I pretty much had to guesstimate my insulin dose – to which I failed miserably 🙁

1 pound (2 1/4  cups) lentils, picked over and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1 large onion
5T extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Spanish-style chorizo sausage, pricked with fork several times
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3T minced fresh parsley
7 cups water, plus extra as needed
3T sherry vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
2 bay leaves
1/8t ground cloves
2T sweet smoked paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
1T all-purpose flour

1. Place lentils and 2 teaspoons salt in heatproof container. Cover with 4 cups boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, finely chop three quarters of onion (you should have about 1 cup) and grate remaining quarter (you should have about 3 tablespoons). Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chorizo to plate. Reduce heat to low and add chopped onion, carrots, 1 tablespoon parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft but not brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If vegetables begin to brown, add 1 tablespoon water to pot.
3. Add lentils and sherry vinegar to vegetables; increase heat to medium-high; and cook, stirring frequently until vinegar starts to evaporate, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 7 cups water, chorizo, bay leaves, and cloves; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover; and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add paprika, grated onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute longer. Remove chorizo and bay leaves from lentils. Stir paprika mixture into lentils and continue to cook until flavours have blended and soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. When chorizo is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/4 inch thick slices. Return chorizo to soup along with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and heat through, about 1 minute. Season with salt, pepper, and up to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar to taste, and serve. (Soup can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

Serves 6 to 8

Previous 12 Months of Challenge Recipes:
• February 1, 2013: “Impossible” Ham and Cheese Pie
• March 20, 2013: Easy Asparagus Tart
• April 17, 2013: Chicken and Rice Soup
• April 20, 2013: Braciole

6 thoughts on “Spanish Chorizo and Lentil Soup: cooking 101”

  1. Debb Hickey-Perks

    Dearest “I Don’t Eat Piggies Princess” – just out of curiosity, what do you suppose the chorizo sausage is made from? FYI – it ain’t no veggie burger….sorry.

  2. Oh and I’m curious about the cost of the seasonings, given your previous post on finances. At first blush, it seems like a big investment in pretty particular seasonings that, if only used infrequently, are not a budget helper. What’s the cost of smoked paprika and how often does one use it?

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