It is still really cold and dreary here in Seattle. We aren’t used to winters as cold as this year has been. I feel like we have been hibernating a bit on the weekends, and in this family that calls for soup! I have been trying to get creative with soups and stews that really act as a one-pot meal, and that I can leave simmering on the stovetop all day. They are easy and also tend to feed the family for dinner, and then give my daughter and I lunch for a few days after that, which is great. Feel free to make this soup as spicy (or not!) as you please. You can certainly add more red pepper or chilies, or omit it completely. But I would keep the spicy sausage, as it has such a tiny amount of heat, and has more flavor than mild chicken sausage.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb spicy Italian chicken sausage
2 Tb fennel seeds
1 Large yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
4 medium carrots cut into 2” chunks
2 cups mushrooms, halved
3 cups of whole lentils, rinsed
12 cups of chicken broth
2 cups red wine
2 Tbs cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and Black pepper to taste
Heat a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. To the pot, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and drop the chicken sausage into the pot in ½ inch balls. Cook the sausage until lightly browned, but not cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pot and put them on a paper towel to drain.
Add the rest of the olive oil, and add the fennel seeds. Fry them until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add the onions and garlic to the pot, sprinkle them with a tsp of kosher salt and reduce the heat to medium. Let the onions and garlic sweat until soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the carrots to a food processor, and pulse until finely and evenly chopped, but not mushy. Reserve the carrots, and do the same for the mushrooms. When the onions are sweated, add the celery, finely chopped, and the carrots and mushrooms. Sprinkle with another tsp of salt, and cover. Let the vegetables sweat together another 5 minutes.
Add the lentils and the chicken sausage back to the pot. Pour in the 12 cups of chicken broth and 2tsp of red pepper flakes. Cover the pot, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the lentils cook for about 20-30 minutes, and then remove the pot. Turn the heat back to medium, and add the red wine and cumin. Let the soup cook, uncovered for another 15 minutes. Taste the soup, and season it with kosher salt, black pepper, and if needed more cumin or red pepper.
I serve it garnished with chopped green onions, and my husband likes it with crumbled bacon or pancetta! By the way- this soup only gets better the next day.