Lentil and Rice Soup

It’s comforting to know there’s a pot of soup simmering on the stove along with a loaf of fresh bread. This is especially true when it’s your reward for yet another day of shoveling snow.

While this is lentil and rice soup, the pancetta is what makes the diner sit up and say “Ooo Mommy” (food science humor). And by happy coincidence, pancetta fits into this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge.

To be fair, I should mention that my pancetta predates Charcutepalooza – I made it last December after the previous batch ran out. I started with two pork bellies (about 20 pounds) and dry-cured them following a recipe similar to the one given by Ruhlman adding juniper berries and lots of coriander. This batch was thicker than usual and took nearly two weeks to cure. Once cured, I hung the meat to dry on the elegant rack over the closet door in my office where it currently shares space with a country ham.  Once the weather starts to warm up I’ll wrap the pancetta in freezer paper and move it to the basement.

The remaining ingredients for the soup are less esoteric – carrots, onions, lentils and rice. Brown rice works best because it holds its shape and doesn’t turn mushy. Start the soup by cooking half a cup of diced pancetta in your soup pot over low heat. Once it starts to brown, turn up the heat to medium and add a cup each of diced onion and sliced carrots. Cook stirring occasionally until they start to brown. Next add a pound of lentils and a half cup of rice along with two quarts of water. This is also the time to add additional spices – I added a teaspoon of cracked black pepper, half a teaspoon of dried thyme and some chopped up fennel tops I found hiding in the crisper. Turn the heat down low and simmer until the lentils are tender.

And there you have it – bread and soup for winter’s day.

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