A creamy and comforting celebration in a bowl … Try to find Puy lentils or at least use small, gray or green French lentils. They are much superior to the larger, softer gray variety. Don’t use red lentils. They’re more Biblical—Esau sold his birthright for porridge made of red lentils—but red lentils dissolve entirely and lack the comforting heft of green lentils.
1 cup dried Puy lentils
3 cups cold water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced and divided
3/4 pound new potatoes (3 medium)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, divided
1 bay leaf tied with 4 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup instant polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and place in a stockpot with 3 cups cold water and 1 slice onion. The onion helps the lentils hold their shape. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic.
Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon oil, covered, until translucent, not brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucier, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Peel the potatoes if you like, but it’s not necessary.
In the chef’s pan over medium heat, combine the lentil mixture, onions, potatoes, 1 cup stock, 1 tablespoon oil, bay leaf, thyme, and sherry and bring to a simmer, uncovered.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to very low heat and cook until creamy, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir into the soup
Simmer the soup, uncovered, until creamy and reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. It tends to stick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf and thyme. Serve with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, or cream.
Makes about 2 quarts.