Rain, rain, and more rain! Very unusual for San Diego in October, but it's always needed and makes everything so fresh and crisp.
We didn't get out for a Tranquil Thursdays photography shoot this past weekend, but we did meet Bobby Flay at his book signing of Bobby Flay's Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes from Food Network's Ultimate Cooking Challenge, and then we met Jimmy Webb at an intimate concert celebrating the release of his new CD, Just Across the River. Click here for the beautiful new version of The Highwayman featuring Mark Knopfler.
I'll be in the kitchen this weekend while John completes construction of the Halloween props for our party. In the meantime, for your tranquil and rainy Thursday, here's a wonderful and hearty autumn soup from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.
Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
Serves 6 (makes 10 cups)
8 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
¾ to 1 teaspoon Yellow Curry Powder or Madras curry powder
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes
2 Sachets (1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, 10 black peppercorns, 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled - all wrapped and tied in cheesecloth)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) Spanish Pardina lentils or French de Puy lentils, small stones removed, rinsed
8 cups Chicken stock, or low sodium chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Make a parchment lid (**see below)
Cut the bacon into lardons that are 1 inch long and ½ inch thick.
Heat the canola oil in an 8- to 10- quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon, reduce the heat to low, and render the fat for 20 to 25 minutes. The bacon should color but not crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.
Add the carrots, leeks, onions, and curry powder to the pot and stir to coat in the bacon fat. Season with salt, reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid, and cook very slowly for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard to the parchment lid.
Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes. Trim them and cut them into a ½-inch dice. Put the potatoes, one of the sachets, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and spread on a tray to cool; discard the sachet.
Add the lentils, second sachet, and stock to the vegetables, bring to a simmer, and simmer for the 30 to 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. (At this point, the soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 day.)
Spread the bacon in a small frying pan and crisp over medium-high heat.
Add the vinegar to taste to the soup, then add the potatoes and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the soup garnished with the bacon and cilantro leaves.
**Making a Parchment Lid:
Fold a length of parchment paper in half to give you a piece larger than the pot to be covered. Place the crease to your right. Folding away from you, fold in half again to make a crease in front of you. Fold this bottom crease up to make a narrow triangle. Continue to fold the triangle over until you have reached the opposite side of the parchment paper.
To gauge the size, place the tip over the center of the pot to be covered an mark the edges of the pot with your thumb, then cut the end off there. With a pair of scissors, cut 1/4 inch off the narrow tip of the triangle. Trim the pointed edges of the triangle to form a smooth rounded edge. Unfold the triangle. It will be a circle the size of your pot with a steam hole in the center. Put the paper lid in the pot so that it rests gently on the food you're cooking.