Monday, November 1, 2010

Du Jour, Thick as Pea, To Nuts, Up....

Can you guess what I'm getting at? Yup, it's officially nasty as hell outside, rain, wind,'s definitely SOUP weather! I love that soup gets used in sayings, as my post title illustrates, and I love soup. I don't know if I could pick out a favorite, maybe clam chowder, possibly chicken noodle (but only if it has homemade noodles), turkey noodle right after Thanksgiving, or the one I'm about to share with you.

When my parents had their 25th wedding anniversary, we decided to take them out for dinner - no fancy parties, we couldn't afford it, but a moderately priced restaurant was definitely doable. So we chose the Rheinlander on Stark in Portland - I believe it's still there, cheesy as ever most likely, with dudes playing accordions and everything. But oh My GOODNESS the food was good, although things got quite fuzzy towards the end of the meal after all the beer etc. we drank kicked in. We ordered some kind of feast where they charge per person, and they start bringing stuff out and apparently never stop - that is uber dangerous for German food. Sausages and fondue and latkes, OH MY! I think my eyes were bulging when I left there, and I can still clearly recall having to unbutton AND zip my Levi Bendovers on the ride was either that or ride stretched out in the back of someones pick up truck.

We all had a good time, and they gave us our receipt with a little card that included two recipes - Lentil Soup and Der Rheinlander Fondue. Both are staples served with meals in the restaurant, and I would be happy as a pig in mud to eat just one or the other anytime - they are both quite amazingly good. I will share the fondue with you later, it will take you a while to finish this much soup, because it makes a pretty big old Revereware dutch ovens were never quite big enough so I have to make it in my stockpot. I will say it has an admirable amount of fat in it - and as that is what gives it it's texture and flavor, would not recommend straying too far from this formulation - but I actually made a much lower fat version tonight and will let you know how it comes out. And sodium? Well, there ain't NO way to take it out without it falling flat, so it's a judgement call as to whether you can handle this is what it is. But I'm guessing Germans retain a lot of water....

Rheinlander Lentil Soup

This is from the restaurant, and doesn't seem like much at all - but it will surprise the shit out of you if you do what it says and cook as long as goes from dishwater to a silky, full bodied thick broth with just enough lentils and veggies to not end up with a "sloshy full"...YUM.

3 oz. bacon, cut in 1/2" strips
1/4 C. olive oil
3/4 C. onion, diced (I double at least)
3/4 C. carrot, diced (double, again)
3/4 C. celery, diced (getting the hang of it?)
3/4 C. flour
3-1/2 quarts water (that would be 14 Cups...I kid you not)
3/4 C. potatoes, 1/2" cubes (again...MORE is better)
1 C. dry lentils
1/4 C. beef bouillon or beef soup mix (the paste kind)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. season salt
2 tsp. MSG
Dash of white pepper and nutmeg

In a BIG pot, saute bacon, olive oil, onion, carrot and celery about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, a little at a time, and stir until all has been absorbed by the veggies. Add water in thirds, stirring well after each addition to break down the flour mixture, add potato, lentils, and all seasonings, bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 3 hours. Yes, I said 3 HOURS. It will look like dishwater, and taste not much better at first, but as it simmers it will develop a wonderful and complex flavor and's almost like gravy, and MUCH more acceptable to eat by the bowlful.

Our standard complement was always cheese bread - our fave is Texas Toast bread, buttered and sprinkled with garlic powder and grated (actually the stuff in the can is best for this) Parmesan and broiled until golden brown. And don't say you don't like lentils or lentil soup, I didn't think I did either. And I know people say this, and it seems odd, but it's even better the next day, or week (from the fridge), or month/year (from the freezer) just never gets old.

So there you go, give it a try - if you make some now, put the extras in the freezer, then you will have it ready when I post the fondue recipe so all you'll have to do is find some liederhosen and an accordion and you'll be fat and happy for a fine German feast! It wouldn't be the "wurst" think you've ever eaten....hahaha.

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