Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

Lentils skip all over the globe.  France, India, America, you name it.  Zach made a great green lentil soup the other day that we served with homemade apple-caraway sausage, then when that ran out, we added some crisped-up duck confit.  It’s going to rain for the next seven straight days in Napa Valley, and few things are more comforting than lentil soup in these conditions.  To that end, I made some at home the other day.

I often exhort our cooks, when something they’ve made is lacking flavor or seasoning or cheese or OOMPH, “Make it like you would at home!”  That is, make it delicious, be excited to eat it, cook it like you would for yourself or your grandmother or your girlfriend.  If you wouldn’t be excited to eat it, what the hell are you doing serving it?  And so naturally when I made lentil soup at home, rain falling outside the kitchen window, I started with about a third of a pound of bacon.  Once that was crispy, I added diced carrots, then onions, then a little fuji apple, then minced garlic:

This flavor base–technically a matignon–would be a good start to beans, kale, striped bass, you name it.  Every culture has one–mirepoix, holy trinity, soffritto, ginger-garlic-scallions–and they all act as set-up to the main ingredients.  This is the time-consuming part and the one to get right–in addition to the bacon, I used one huge yellow onion, five carrots, one fuji apple, and three cloves of garlic for about twenty-four ounces of lentils and water/broth to cover by two inches.  Add a bay leaf and some sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary, cracked black pepper, cook till the lentils are creamy, then finish it with the secret ingredient that no educated diner of any age can resist:

Slice and sear like sausage, mix it into the soup.  We add a few drops of our neighbors’ red wine vinegar at the table.  A good crunchy salad, crusty buttery bread, and nice cool light red (Beaujolais?  Dolcetto?  Oregon Pinot?) round out a very satisfying meal.  And it’s just soup.

One Response to “lentejas/lentilles/lentils/dhal?”

  1. Meg K. says:

    Hey, Brandon! You’ve inspired me. Your mom and dad are coming to the house Wed night to share a pot of lentil soup with Ricky and me. I can’t believe how close your recipe is to one my mom made for me when I was little. In hers, though, no apple, just chopped celery and fresh parsley instead. And slices of good ol’ Hummel’s hotdogs, the pride of New Haven! Next time you’re in the northeast, give them a try – mmmmm. If you haven’t already, read Mark Bittman in the Jan. 2 Sunday NYTimes week in review. We’re all doing our part to sustain the planet eating your lentil soup! Happy, healthy new year to you and your family. Love, Meg

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