I am a football mom. A New York City football mom, so football moms from, say, Texas or California might smirk at me a little. That’s OK. I recognize the difference.
But no matter how competitive the league, there is always food involved — for the kids before and after games, and at the game itself for parents and friends who show up no matter the weather.
And what could be more welcome in any of these situations than a robust, hot, rib-sticking soup?
This soup has tailgating or sidelines or post-game meal written all over it. It’s thick from the lentils, and fragrant with cumin and coriander. If you are familiar with Indian food, it might remind you of a soupy version of dal, with satisfying small cubes of chicken nestled throughout. And it’s made in a slow cooker, which means that if you are serving it after you come home, it’s right there waiting for you, like a warm hug.
Last year was the first time I made this soup, lugging it in the slow cooker to the game. My family thought I had gone one step too far — that setting up a vat of soup on the sidelines was going to seem pretty weird. They were pretty wrong. The ladle was passed from person to person, heavy-duty paper cups were filled, and not a drop was left.
The soup thickens upon sitting, and if you refrigerate it and heat it up the next day, you may want to add more broth or water.
And I would definitely add the fresh parsley at the end.
The football game is purely optional.
Red lentil, fennel and chicken slow-cooker soup
Start to finish: 4 1/2 hours
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 pound dried red lentils
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced small
5 cups less-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley, plus more to serve if desired
In a large (5-quart or more) slow cooker, combine the onion, garlic, fennel, carrots, lentils, cumin, coriander, chicken, broth and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook on high for 4 hours. Stir in another cup or two of broth toward the end if it’s thicker than you want it to be. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Stir in the parsley and serve. Sprinkle servings with additional parsley if desired.