Hearty Chicken, Lentil, and Butternut Soup...

'Tis the season for a good book and being curled up in front of the fire.  It is also the season for soup and lots of it.  It gets quite cold in Utah, and soup somehow makes me think it's not so bitter outside!  What can I say, I am easy to fool...

This is a pretty simple way to put together a great meal.  I use homemade chicken stock, but you could easily buy a quart and no one would know the difference.  I made croutons quickly with a few slices of challah bread and a little butter and sautéed some bacon to top it all off.  According to my 8-year-old farmhand, bacon makes everything better.  I think he might be right...

Hearty Chicken, Lentil, and Butternut Soup
backyard farmgals

2 chicken breasts (bone in, skin on gives you more flavor)
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 quart chicken stock
1 1/2 cups uncooked green lentils
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1/2-inch cubes
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1-2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 sage leaf crushed (or 1/4 tsp ground sage)
salt and pepper to taste

4 slices cooked bacon cooled and cut into pieces

3 slices challah bread, cubed
1/4 cup butter
salt and pepper

In a large, heavy bottomed soup pot add a few tablespoons of olive oil, heat over medium heat.  Add the chicken breasts and cook until slightly browned.  Turn chicken over and brown other side.  Add 2 cups water (or enough to cover chicken), turn heat to medium-low and simmer (do not boil) chicken until it is tender and cooked through, I usually give mine about an hour.

While the chicken is cooking away, cook the lentils separately according to package directions.  If you have a pressure cooker, it makes this step really quick.  I add 3 cups of water to the lentils and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.  Drain the lentils and set aside after they are cooked.

Remove chicken and shred making sure to discard all the skin and bones (reserve water).  Set aside.  Add to water from chicken a quart of chicken stock, herbs, some salt and pepper.  Add the squash, parsnips, carrots, celery, and onion.  Turn up heat and bring just to a simmer, cover and turn heat down to low.  (You don't want to boil your vegetables, they will fall apart - just let them sit and they will soften and be lovely.)  When the vegetables are just soft, add the shredded chicken and lentils to the pot and remove from heat.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit for a bit to let the flavors meld.

To make the croutons, toss bread with melted butter on a sheet pan.  Place in a 350ºF oven until just lightly browned.  About 10 minutes.

Top each bowl of soup with a few croutons and some bacon.  Serve warm on a cold night.


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