Wednesday, February 12, 2014

French Sausage Soup with Lentils

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. – Ernest Hemingway

We are renting an apartment in Dartmouth. A furnished apartment. Anyone who has ever done that know’s where I’m going with this. It’s always lacking something you feel is a necessity in the kitchen.

The necessity that I miss most? A cast iron Dutch oven – that most useful of kitchen pots. It’s important to have a dish that gos from stovetop to oven without a second thought. Since it’s a necessity, I went looking for one.

What I didn’t want to do is duplicate a pot I have already at the house. I know too well what problems that can cause from my experience of combining two complete households when we moved to the country.

So I went looking, and I found what I was looking for. I bought a Spanish cazulea with a cover – partly because I was too cheap to buy a cast iron Dutch oven. It was $19.99 at Winners. The Dutch ovens started at $39 and went up from there.

Sautéing on the stovetop.
A cazuela is a glazed clay dish which, when soaked in water, can be used to go from stove top to oven. It can also be used over direct flame on a barbecue. I was a little leery the first time I used it. It was so pretty I didn’t want to crack it open on top of the burner...

Have you ever used clay pots? Think about it. Before our wonderful metal pots were in common use ancient peoples had to use something to cook in. Guess what? It was clay!

You do have to soak new clay pots in water before using them the first time, but they are an amazing material that are great for browning things on top of the stove as well as for slow cooking in the oven. They make succulent, tender meats. Just like a Dutch oven, at half the cost!

For longevity and performance a clay pot needs to absorb water before it is introduced to heat. The thicker the clay, the longer it needs to soak. Thick pots should be soaked for at least a couple hours, thinner ones can get away with a half hour.

You don’t need to soak it in water before every use. A process called ‘seasoning’ takes place every time the clay is used which means the more the piece is used the tougher it becomes.

I have gained a great deal of respect for clay since I have begun to use it. I probably will look for another dish or two to add to the collection!

SAo what did I make? Armed with my new covered cazula, I made soup – excellent soup with the French garlic sausage I posted two days ago. I promised you the recipe. I wasn’t drunk when I said it, but I take Hemingway’s advice to heart. I keep my promises.

Ready for the first stage in the oven.
French Sausage Soup with Lentils
Prep: 15 min  |  Cook: 1 hour  |  Serves 4    
200g thick smoked bacon, diced
1 lg onion, diced
1 lg carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
19 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup dried green lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1 lb French Garlic Sausage, sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Soak top and bottom of a medium clay cooker in water for 15 to 30 minutes, if it's a new dish like mine was. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Slowly heat the clay pot bottom over medium heat by turning up the heat from low, to medium low to medium. Don’t stick it on the burner at high heat...just to be safe.

Add the diced bacon, onion, carrot and celery. Sauté until the bacon starts to exude fat and the onions become translucent.

Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the lentils and stock. Add some salt and pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Then cover and place the pot in the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the pot and add the sausage and red wine vinegar. Stir well, cover and bake for an additional 30 minutes. If it looks like the soup will dry out, add more stock or water.There’s not a lot of broth when the recipe’s done.

Once the lentils are tender, taste for salt and pepper, adjust if necessary and serve with a crusty country loaf.


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