Lentil Vegetable Beef Soup

Somebody once said that soup was simply a way of cheating you out of dinner.  This hearty recipe – and many others in the Soup section – really can be a meal in itsel.  This is a perfect boat dish, requiring only one pot.  It can, of course, be made well in advance and simply heated before serving.

You’ll need:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lb chuck roast, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
¾ cup diced carrots
¾ cup diced celery
¾ cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 14oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 cups beef stock, preferably homemade (see Pantry section)
1 cup lentils
2 cups chopped Swiss chard or spinach
Salt and pepper
¼ cup Asiago cheese, shaved (you could substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Splash of sherry (optional)

What you do:

Heat the olive oil and brown the meat in a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat for approximately 6-7 minutes. Remove the meat and season with salt. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the same pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  Return the beef to land and add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme and beef stock.  Simmer for 45 minutes or until the beef is tender.  Add the lentils and cook for another 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the Swiss chard and cook for approximately 10 minutes. (If you use spinach instead of Swiss chard, reduce the cooking time to 2 minutes.) Add a splash of sherry.

Serve in soup bowls garnished with shaved Asiago.

John’s Wine Pairing

Sherries and soups are almost always a great match.  Usually, we add a touch of the sherry we’re going to drink to the soup itself.  The sherry I’m pairing here is an Oloroso which, I in the order of sweetness, is toward the sweet side.  It has a great nutty flavor which goes quite well with the lentils.  This isn’t a wine that you’d drink in copious amounts with the soup but a sip or two complements the soup perfectly.  Sherries don’t keep well and the drier they are the faster they deteriorate after opening.  That’s a good reason to buy half bottles.  Or decant the remaining sherry into a smaller bottle and store in the refrigerator.

If your tastes run drier than an Oloroso, try an Amontillado or a Fino…