Recipe adapted from food52.com
4 thick cut slices of bacon
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups water, plus more as necessary to wilt the escarole
1 cup green lentils
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
2 peels of orange zest (about 1″ x 3″, each)
1 small bulb fennel, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium head of escarole, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp best quality balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place chicken stock, water, bay leaves and lentils in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until lentils are al dente (on the softer side) – about 40 minutes; add more water, as necessary, to keep the lentils from drying out.
In the meantime, fry the bacon until crisp in a dutch oven; remove with tongs to drain on paper towels and set aside, reserving about 2 Tablespoons of the bacon fat in the dutch oven.
Add oil to the bacon fat in the dutch oven; add the leeks and orange zest strips and saute over medium heat until leeks are just beginning to soften; add the fennel, carrots and a good dose of black pepper, and saute until the vegetable are crisp tender; remove from heat until lentils are cooked.
When the lentils are finished cooking, stir them, with 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (add more water, if necessary), into the vegetables in the dutch oven; bring to a simmer, add escarole and cook until the escarole is withered.
Remove from heat; stir in vinegar; stir in cream, adjust salt and pepper to taste; transfer to favorite serving bowl; top with crumbled bacon and serve.