Curried lentil sweet potato stew with chicken & cilantro

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1 tsp.   olive oil
1 thick slice  bacon, (about 2oz) cut into ¼ inch strips
1 small  onion (10oz), small dice
3 stalks  celery, small dice
1 ea.   carrot, small dice
3 cloves  garlic
1 ea.  sweet potato (1lb), small dice
1 (generous) tsp. curry powder (we prefer “Sun” brand)
To taste  kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups   chicken broth
3/4 cup   red lentils (available in bulk at Whole Foods)
1 ea.   bay leaf
1 Tbsp.  fresh thyme
2 cups   cooked chicken, diced or “pulled”
2 Tbsp.  red wine vinegar
2 cups  spinach, roughly chopped
¼ cup   cilantro leaves

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Add the onion, celery and carrot; sauté a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, sweet potato and curry powder. Sauté a few minutes longer to cook the garlic and toast the spice. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken broth to the soup pot and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and bay leaf; cover and simmer five minutes until lentils are tender.
Add thyme, chicken, and vinegar. Simmer a few minutes until the flavors meld; check seasoning.
Place a 1/3 cup or so of the spinach in the bottom of a serving bowl. Ladle the hot stew over and garnish with the reserved bacon and cilantro leaves.

Yield: 4-6 servings (about 2 quarts)