Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Best of Byerly's" (Byerly's is a Minnesota upscale grocery store chain) Lentil Soup

Date I made this recipe: January 1, 2012

The Best of Byerly’s – A Recipe Collection from the Test Kitchen of Byerly’s Culinary Specialists (Note: Byerly’s is a Minnesota upscale grocery store chain.)
Published by: Byerly’s
© 1996
Recipe: Lentil Soup – p. 52

Well Happy New Year, everyone!

Given what a bad year it was (my dad died) I was oh-so-happy to see 2011 bite the dust. And to make sure that 2012 started off on the right foot, I decided to make lentils as lentils (and beans and peas) are supposed to bring good luck and prosperity. (And this is because they resemble coins – who knew?).

So I wasn’t taking any chances. But I tell you what, my day almost derailed before it even got started.

My husband and I live across the street from a commercial lumber yard. Nine times out of ten, the place is pretty quiet; they don’t run a third shift and so are usually done by later in the afternoon. Every once in a while, a commercial semi comes in to load up but they are not around for very long. (Well, they used to illegally park next to the lumber yard and then run their cabs all night but that problem seems to have been solved.).

At any rate, for whatever reason, the lumber yard has this “thing” about snow. In the “old” days (and by “old” I mean “as of two years ago…”) they used to plow the snow with a fork lift truck with a big steel box attached to it but that was loud and silly. So they switched to a company-owned truck with a snow plow attachment and that was much better…

…At least until 3:45 a.m. on New Year’s Day when the plow truck woke me up from a sound sleep. We’d had a little bit of snow fall on New Year’s Eve and I guess that was cause for great concern and alarm and so the plow man was dispatched and he proceeded to scrape up the 6-8 flakes that fell as well as half the asphalt.

Now, let’s review the crucial components of this early-morning snow-scrapping expedition: 1) it was Sunday morning and the yard is not open on Sunday; 2) it was New Year’s Day and that is a holiday that is carefully observed by the company so again, no one was there and 3), it was 3 freaking 45 a.m.!!!!

It goes without saying that I about killed that driver who then spent the next hour plowing and therefore keeping me up. I was this close to going outside to confront the man but figured I was just too scary looking at that hour and so I’m saving it for when the yard is open again.

So I dealt with the snowplow serenade as best I could, and by “best I could,” I mean that I posted all about this on Facebook, including the fact that I awarded the company my Corporate Jackass of The Year award. Oh yeah, I was just a little ticked!

So I read for a while and then turned off the light and was just about asleep when I heard the “thump, thump, thump...thump, thump, thump” of the paper delivery person’s car stereo.

Sigh. (You should know the thumping stereo is also an ongoing problem that we are working on with the newspaper company.)

So okay, fine, I finally decided that I should just get up and get on with my day, thinking to myself “at least I can watch the Packers play the Lions.”

Right. For whatever reason, instead of broadcasting a pivotal game between the Packers who clinched the division (and are defending Super Bowl Champions) and the Lions who oddly enough are in playoff contention, they showed those hapless Vikings (Vike-Queens) versus the Bears. I mean…what? WHAT? Sure, the Vikings are the local team, but for those of you who don’t know, the Wisconsin border is 45 minutes away; there are Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs that are further out than that.

At any rate, I was not a happy camper. But thanks to modern technology (i.e. the Internet), I was able to track how my team was doing online, although the longer the game went on, the more nervous I got that this, too, would not end well. It was quite the shootout, with both teams scoring one after the other, but in the end, the Packers won in a very close game and I felt like my New Year’s was back on track. And when I finally got around to making this soup, it sealed the deal.

You should know that this is one of my favorite soups, ever. It’s ridiculously easy to make and although I’ve never done it, can be made vegetarian by eliminating the Canadian bacon and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

The other thing you should know is that although I’ve made this soup several times over, this is the first time I’ve posted a recipe from this cookbook, one of the two Byerly’s cookbooks I own.

As I noted at the top of this blog, Byerly’s is a local, upscale grocery store chain. When I first moved here, everyone said “You have to go to the Byerly’s in St. Louis Park (suburb)” and when I did, I could see why—they had (have) chandeliers over the frozen food section, they had carpeting on the floor, they had their own in-house home economist, a huge deli and takeout section and so on and so on. In fact, it used to be (and maybe still is) that Byerly’s was a “must see” stop on bus tours of the Twin Cities.

Eventually, Don Byerly, Byerly’s founder, sold his business to the Lund family that still runs Lunds grocery stores. Lunds is another upscale grocery store (alas, no chandeliers). To avoid large-scale meltdown by the grocery-shopping public, each store retained its own name so Byerly’s stores retained their Byerly’s name and Lunds stores retained theirs and so all was well with the world.

And so to recap, despite a rocky start to the New Year, all is well with the world if a) the Packers win and b) if you make this “lucky” soup. But take it from me, this soup is just so darned good, you’ll want to make it just for any old reason, any old time.

Lentil Soup – makes 16 cups
1 (16-ounce) package dried lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped Canadian bacon
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 (14 ½ -ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (46-ounce) cans chicken broth (Note: this is a lot of broth but I’ve always found it cooks off pretty quickly so have extra on hand)
¾ cups uncooked rosamarina (Orzo) pasta
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
-freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if desired)

Rinse lentils in strainer. Heat oil in Dutch oven. Cook bacon, onion, celery, carrots and garlic 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lentils, tomatoes and chicken broth. Simmer, covered, 45 minutes. Stir in rosamarina, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until lentils and rosamarina are tender (about 15 minutes). Ladle into soup bowls; sprinkle with Parmesan.

Ann’s note: unbeknownst to me, my husband used up all our celery on another dish so I checked the Internet and discovered I could use 1 teaspoon celery seed to equal 1 cup chopped (fresh) celery.

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