This recipe makes a vegetarian soup as written, but you can use chicken broth instead of mushroom broth or cook the soup with a ham bone for an omnivorous crowd. It contains wine, but you can leave it out.
MAKE AHEAD: The soup will thicken as it stands and when refrigerated or frozen, so add a little water or broth to thin it when reheating. it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
6 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine (see headnote; optional)
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
1 cup green or brown lentils, picked over to remove debris
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thick-cut slab bacon, cooked and crumbled, for garnish (optional)
6 thin baguette slices, toasted and brushed with olive oil, for garnish (optional)
Place the dried mushrooms in a large, heatproof bowl or liquid measuring cup. Add the boiling water and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid. Finely chop the rehydrated mushrooms.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Stir in the carrots and celery; cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and the garlic, stirring to incorporate. Cook for only a minute before increasing the heat to high and adding the wine, if using. Use a wooden spatula to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook just until the liquid has been absorbed.
Add the smoked paprika and lentils, stirring well, and then pour in the reserved mushroom broth. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Stir in the salt and pepper.
For a brothy soup, serve garnished with bacon or a baguette crouton, if desired. For a pureed soup, cool briefly and then use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the soup right in the pot, until smooth. Or, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender with its center knob removed from the lid so steam can escape, place a paper towel over the opening to avoid splash-ups, and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and heat again, then serve garnished with the bacon or a baguette crouton, if desired. Makes 6 servings (about 10 cups)
Nutrition | Per serving: 180 calories, 8 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 7 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar