Lentil Soup with Smoked Turkey is humble yet exquisite

I first made this lentil soup just days after receiving the December 2009 issue of Food & Wine magazine. It came from a recipe diary that cookbook author Eugenia Bone kept the previous December, documenting a month's worth of delicious homemade meals.

I've made it more than a dozen times since, more often than any other recipe in recent memory. The ingredient list consists almost entirely of humble staples, but results in a soup with exquisite flavor and aroma. The Food &Wine recipe notes suggested adding a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (they keep forever in the freezer) to the simmering soup for added richness, a trick worth stealing for many soups and stews.

The recipe is amenable to other adaptations as well. On an unexpectedly cold night last month, I made it with three large fresh tomatoes, instead of canned, which added an extra brightness. I often substitute one medium orange sweet potato and cilantro for the potatoes and parsley.

I often keep a smoked turkey leg in the freezer for this recipe. Rather than defrosting it in advance, I simply combine it with the 2 quarts of water in a separate pot, bring the water to a boil and let it simmer, mostly covered, while I prep the rest of the ingredients.

LENTIL SOUP WITH SMOKED TURKEY

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

I like to use French green puy lentils in this recipe, as they hold their shape, but regular brown or green lentils work nicely as well.

-- China Millman

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

16-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved

1 bay leaf

1 cup green or brown lentils

3/4 pound smoked turkey wing and thigh

4 small red potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the garlic, celery, carrots and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, lentils, smoked turkey and 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender, 1 hour. Add potatoes and simmer until tender, 10 minutes.

Remove the turkey meat from the bones and return it to the soup; discard the skin, bones and bay leaf. Add the parsley and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, passing the cheese at the table.

Make ahead: The lentil soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Serves 4 to 6.

-- "Holiday Cooking: December Recipes" by Eugenia Bone, Food & Wine, December 2009

Contact China Millman at cmillman(at)post-gazette.com. Follow her at twitter.com/chinamillman.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.

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