Any leftover ham will do here, or you could use a smoked ham shank or ham hock in its place. Slices of thick-cut bacon are a good substitute for the slices of leftover ham.
- Ham bone, and stray bits of leftover ham
- 3 quarts water
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 pound green, black or brown lentils, about 2 cups (we used French green lentils which cook up a little on the firm side)
- 5 cups ham broth
- Slices of leftover ham
1 Make ham stock with ham bone: Put the ham bone and any stray bits of ham into a large, thick-bottomed pot and cover with the water. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining ham stock ingredients and simmer for at least another 30 minutes, preferably another hour.
Strain the ham stock through a fine-meshed sieve and set in a large bowl. Taste and add salt if needed.
2 Sauté onion, garlic, add lentils: Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the onions brown.
Add the garlic and cook another minute, then add the lentils and stir to combine. Cook the lentils, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
3 Add ham stock to lentils and simmer: Add 5 cups of ham stock and bring to a simmer. Cook very gently, you want the broth to barely be bubbling, until the lentils are done. That could be as little as 20 minutes, or as long as 1 hour, depending on how old your lentils are. Expect about 35 minutes.
Check and taste the lentils from time to time while they cook. You don't want them to be mushy. When they are done, strain them from the stock (reserve the stock to make soup like split pea soup or ham and white bean soup, or just another batch of these lentils) in a fine meshed sieve.
Toss with a little more olive oil and serve with chopped pieces or slices of leftover ham. Serve either hot or at room temperature.