Monday, January 20, 2014

James Beard's rice, lamb, and lentil soup (improved!)

I remember copying this recipe from a James Beard cookbook more than twenty years ago. It's simple to make and delicious to eat, but was not so good to look at. I felt compelled to improve it.

Begin by browning one pound of lamb in "its own or additional fat," as the original recipe directs. I buy a couple of inexpensive shank pieces and brown them in olive oil.

Next, remove the lamb to a plate and, in a little more oil if necessary, add about a cup each of chopped carrots and chopped celery (this is what Mr. Beard did not think of. Lacking the color from these vegetables, his lamb soup ended up awfully gray). Soften these in the oil for five minutes.

Return the lamb to the pot and add 3 cups of water, a teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for two and a half hours.

Wash 1 cup of lentils, add to the pot, and continue cooking.

Brown 1 large onion in more olive oil in a different pan. Add this to the soup. Add two more cups of water, then bring it back to a boil and add 1 cup raw rice. Cover and continue cooking until the rice is soft and everything is tender. You can add more water to make this soup just the right consistency you like, but it will be thick. Taste it frequently to check the saltiness, too.

It's a three-hour plus endeavor, but like so many dishes that take time, it doesn't take a lot of work: you've got plenty of free time in those three hours. And it's so good for a cold, slushy winter day.

And the wine? Pour yourself almost anything robust, but perhaps a lamb-friendly shiraz, or a malbec, would be best.

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