I never thought I’d be pushing lentils on anyone, but this smoky lentil stew is so packed with flavor that it’s turned me into a fan. It’s the perfect, low-maintenance meal to have cooking on the stove while you’re preparing elaborate Thanksgiving side dishes, which is how I spent my weekend. (We celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday.)
I think my husband about fell out of his chair when I told him I was cooking lentils. He loves lentils and has only waited 21 years for me to fulfill his request to make something with them. (I didn’t want to spoil him.)
In my defense, I’ve bought lentils in the past, and wouldn’t you know it, the expiration date had passed by the time I considered doing anything with them. So, I bought the lentils again probably a year ago, and they stared at me like a sack of good intentions every time I opened my pantry. (Don’t tell my husband, but I was secretly hoping they’d go bad so I could use that as an excuse once more.) But last week, when I glanced at the expiration date, it showed the lentils were good for another whole year. Oy.
So, the guilt finally got to me. I watched an Ina Garten (I love her recipes) video on lentil soup, and decided to use it for guidance. I omitted the leeks, since I don’t stock them, cooked my onions until they were almost brown and added some Liquid Smoke for a nice flavor kick. I changed the amounts of the remaining ingredients according to what I had on hand, and the result was a hearty, comforting and intensely flavorful bowl of stew, really, since most of the chicken stock was absorbed. I could have added some water to make it more soupy, but didn’t want to dilute an ounce of that delicious onion-y, smoky flavor. We sprinkled on some fresh Parmesan, and wow. Just wow.
My husband went back for seconds before I had even finished my serving, and we gleefully enjoyed the leftovers for an early lunch yesterday, while the turkey was in the oven. In full disclosure, our kids have never liked lentils and were not won over. I think lentils are an acquired taste, though, and am glad to hoard the extras.
I’ll definitely be making this smoky lentil stew again. For my husband. I’m considerate like that.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from Ina Garten)
Smoky Lentil Stew
- 1 pound lentils (brown or green)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion (peeled & chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled & chopped)
- 5-6 carrots (peeled & sliced into coins 1/2-inch thick)
- 2 stalks celery (diced)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3-4 dashes red pepper flakes
- 4-5 dashes Liquid Smoke
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh strainer and see if there any particles to remove. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Heat olive oil on medium high in a soup pot and add the onion. After a couple of minutes, stir in the garlic. Cook until the onions are soft and almost starting to brown, lowering the heat a bit if needed.
- While the onions and garlic are cooking, rinse and peel the carrots, chop off and discard the ends, and slice the carrots into 1/2-inch-thick coins. Wash the celery, trim off and discard the ends, and dice the celery (cut into small pieces).
- When the onions are almost starting to brown, add the celery, carrots, and tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine. Cook for 10 minutes, adding a little of the chicken stock if the oil evaporates. Then add all of the chicken stock, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Liquid Smoke, cumin, thyme and lentils. Raise the heat and cover the pot until it boils.
- When the pot is boiling, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for one hour and 15 minutes.
- Serve with freshly grated Parmesan on top. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
I store unused tomato paste in my freezer by placing a 2-3 tablespoons of it in plastic wrap and then putting those little packets in a freezer bag so they're ready for recipes like this one.