Petite Auberge’s Lentil Soup is family recipe

Q: Could you get the recipe for the Lentil Soup from Petite Auberge restaurant at Toco Hills? I had lunch there and the soup was outstanding. Thank you. — Diane Elrod, Decatur

A: Anthony Gropp, head chef and co-owner of Petite Auberge, was glad to share this recipe and gave us a little history. “This recipe has been used by my father and myself since the restaurant opened. My father’s passion was making soups and sauces. He learned at a very young age to make filling meals such as the lentil soup with inexpensive, fresh ingredients. This was, of course, necessary after World War II because there were not many ingredients to be found.”

At the restaurant, the chicken stock is housemade and a serving of soup is 6 ounces or about 3/4 cup. Gropp says it’s fine to use bacon ends and pieces, available at some butchers, in place of more expensive whole bacon strips.

Petite Auberge’s Lentil Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 pound applewood-smoked bacon

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 pound dried lentils

8 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon vinegar, more if desired

Salt and pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Watercress and sour cream, for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil about 2 minutes on high heat. Add bacon and cook until partially done, about 2 minutes. Add celery, onion, carrot and garlic and lower heat. Cook just until vegetables begin to soften, stirring frequently so they do not burn. Add the lentils and stir until all the lentils are coated. Add chicken stock and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat so soup simmers vigorously and cook until lentils are tender, from 30 to 45 minutes depending on your lentils. Be sure to stir the soup regularly.

When lentils are tender, remove soup from heat and cool for several minutes. In the jar of a blender, puree the soup in batches. Or use an immersion blender. Puree to the texture you like. At the restaurant, they prefer a chunky consistency for its rustic appeal. Return the soup to the saucepan and put it over low heat. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add cream and stir soup again. Garnish with a drizzle of sour cream and a sprig of watercress, if desired. Makes: 9 cups

Per 1-cup serving: 382 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 29 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams fiber, 20 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 47 milligrams cholesterol, 260 milligrams sodium.