Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chorizo & lentil stew

Happy 2014!  Yep, I'm still using that greeting.  "Happy Thanksgiving" is used for most of November and "Merry Christmas" for December, so why not extend the same courtesy to other holidays?

The onset of a new year means different things to different folks.  To my husband, said new year begins with January 1st, otherwise known as National Pork & Sauerkraut Day.  Seriously, don't try to feed him anything else in place of it; nothing will do.  Pork and sauerkraut -- oh, and rye bread -- or bust.

To me, it's about appreciating the past year and then looking forward... and planning new goals, adventures, and projects!

Typically, I spend the first day of the year packing away decorations.  We return the furniture to its normal setup and finish with a swipe of the vacuum.  As stark and bare as it seems after weeks of warm glow from holiday lights and glitter, there's something satisfying about having a clean slate, literally and figuratively.   The vacuum is barely in the closet when my mind is flooded with ideas for organizing projects.  Squee!

This is the part of the day when Matt takes a nap on the couch.  Something about how I exhaust him...

One of the easiest and first tasks was to sort through the piles of magazines we'd been amassing over the past few months.  I knew better than to think this little project would only take 15 minutes but rather the better part of the afternoon.  Because it's impossible not to flip through a magazine, checking for anything worthy of being torn out, and get sucked into reading from cover to cover.  Curse you, witty puns and eye-catching pictures!

Most of the blame can be placed on one publication: Cooks' Illustrated.  Have you ever read it?  My sister's boyfriend recently gave me a stack of old issues to check out, and I hadn't yet sat down and given them their proper due.

Good gracious, I'd been living under a rock.  Cooks' Illustrated is amaaaaaazing!  It's a smaller magazine, each composed roughly 30 pages, but worth its weight in gold.  A new issue is published every two months and accepts no advertisements, which is unprecedented in today's magazines.  Every page is loaded with recipes, reviews of food and equipment, and the most helpful -- practically scientific -- tips you'll ever receive.

Oh, and did I mention the magazine is totally beautiful?  On the back cover of each issue you'll find the most lovely food illustrations; so lovely, they're frame-worthy!

One of the gajillion recipes that was dog-eared was the formula for this mouth-watering chorizo and lentil stew.  Hearty, meaty, packed with flavor, and slow-simmering, perfect for soup-making Sundays.

I streamlined a few of the steps to save time without sacrificing flavor and added some frozen peas for a bright pop of color and a little sweetness to complement the spicy sausage.

This stew is the real deal, guys and gals.  Smoky, savory, and bursting with so many flavors that work perfectly together!  Simmering the chorizo in the lentils and spices, rather than just cooking and adding at the end, really lent such a depth to the dish.  And, whew, this is a hungry man's (or woman's) meal; it is ultra filling!

The testers are Cooks' Illustrated are no joke -- I'd follow them into the unknown as long as I could eat like this for the rest of my life.  Especially this stew, which only got better with time.  I'll caution you that it makes a lot, but rest assured that lot won't be around for more than a few days.  Matt and I enjoyed leftovers for lunch this week and even began our daily afternoon phone call with, "Did the stew taste even better today?"

One recipe down, so many left to make.  As far as the great magazine purge, it generally went well, save for the small pile of Cooks' Illustrated issues with which I can't bear to part.  Not to mention back covers I'd like to turn into kitchen art.  One new project always leads to another :)

One year ago: Chicken, chick pea & collards soup
Two years ago: Chocolate roulade
Three years ago: Macaroni & cheese soup

Chorizo & Lentil Stew
(adapted and changed slightly from Cooks' Illustrated)
-makes 6-8 servings

1 pound (2 1/4 cups) dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 large white onion, diced
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chorizo sausage, pricked with fork several times
7 cups water, plus extra as needed
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup frozen green peas

Place lentils and 2 teaspoons salt in a large glass bowl.  Cover with 4 cups boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoon oil in large stock pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Add chorizo and cook until browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer chorizo to plate.  Reduce heat to low and add onions, parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft but not brown, 20 to 25 minutes.  (If onions begin to brown, add 1 Tablespoon of water to pot.)

Add lentils and vinegar to onions.  Increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until vinegar starts to evaporate, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add 7 cups water, chorizo, bay leaves, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, garlic and cloves; bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and 2 tablespoons water until smooth.  Remove chorizo and bay leaves from lentils.  Add flour water mixture into lentils, stirring until well mixed and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, until soup has thickened.  When chorizo is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Return chorizo to soup and add peas, stirring to combine and heat through, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve and enjoy!

Soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.  As soup cools, it will thicken, so additional water may need to be added to loosen it up slightly.

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