Slow cooker ham and chile lentil soup

This is a warning. I’m not in a good mood. And no, it has nothing to do with politics, the upcoming ‘big football game’ or even January which I’m sure has lingered longer than it’s allowed by law. Nope, I’m ticked off at people who talk about cooking ‘cheats’ – short cuts to make cooking 1) faster, 2) easier, or just 3) better.

Folks, this isn’t cheating. Cheating was when you copied answers from another kid’s history test in 5th grade. (Cheated was how you felt when you still got a C.) It’s not cooking. Because bottom line, if it tastes good when you tuck in, then it’s good cooking.

Cascabel chiles get their name from the rattling sound they make.

We’ve got enough guilt floating around in the world as it is. If I needed more, I’d call my Mother. So this recipe isn’t a cheat, it’s just tasty. Normally, at Chile HQ, we’d sweat the onions, then add in the celery and carrots – taking our time to extract every morsel of sweet loveliness.

But here, we’re letting the slow cooker do the work for us. A lot of time makes this a super rich dish but all you have to do is a bit of chopping, and you can do that, can’t you? This is a January soup and if you’re clever you’ll freeze the leftovers and have it in February. Because let’s be honest, February may be short but it sure feels long.

Serves 4

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cascabel chile, stem removed

1 tsp chipotle powder (or more to taste)

1 cup cooked ham, chopped into chunks

1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

32oz vegetable or chicken stock

Place the lentils, celery, carrots and onion in the slow cooker. Pour in the stock, add the cascabel chile and chipotle chile powder. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, until the lentils are almost cooked. Add the ham and the canned tomatoes, taste and add more chipotle chile powder and salt, if needed. Cook for another hour and serve warm. Note: Don’t worry about removing the casabel from the finished dish– it will have lovingly melted into the soup.

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