Today’s meal reminded me what a good stock maker Suzette is. Part of that goodness is the desire to waste nothing by making stocks with things that would otherwise be thrown out, such as the leftover bones from a baked ham. On Christmas Day she started a stock with all the leftover bones from the four ham halves I had baked for Christmas. I cut up one medium onion, three stalks of celery, and four carrots (a mirepoix) and Suzette threw in the mirepoix and the ham bones into a large pot with three or four gallons of water and cooked them for hours until the ingredients yielded a velvety smooth clear broth.Today when I returned home at 5:00 from an afternoon appointment, I brought the stock in from the garage and removed all the congealed fat floating on the top and then all of the bones and added 1 cup of French small green lentils (lentilles du Puy, the French green lentils from the Auvergne, are not called ‘the caviar of lentils’ for nothing, Wikipedia); bought at La Montanita Coop, to the pot holding about 2 to 3 gallons of stock. After cooking the lentils for about one hour I added about 1 lb. of diced ham from the burned ham, being careful to not include any of the hardened burned surfaces. In another ½ hour I tried the lentils and they were tender and the ham integrated into the soup. I toasted a dinner roll and buttered it and ate two bowls of the soup while Suzette was trying to book airfare to Marrakesh for Easter.
The soup was a complete success. The lentils were delicate, yet tender. The ham was tasty and fresh tasting. This reminds me of my mother’s recipe for chicken soup. You boil a chicken with a mirepoix for hours, until they give up all their flavor to the broth. Then you remove the cooked chicken and vegetables and throw them away and add fresh vegetables and fresh chicken meat and finish cooking the soup with fresh meat and vegetables (and matzo balls or dumplings, if you wish), so that the soup has a flavorful freshness to it and also has a fully enriched broth. Two simple steps but both very important steps. I did not remove the vegetables and add fresh vegetables, but the result was delicious because of the fresh ham and lentils, which was the desired result (to highlight the ham and lentils).
I could not resist eating the soup when I thought the lentils were completely cooked so ladled up a bowl of it and poured glasses of the PPI Le Ferme Julien (The farm Julien, 2012 Appelation Ventoux Contrôlée) rosé for Suzette and me. This is my favorite inexpensive rosé (Trader Joe’s $5.99).
We greatly enjoyed our simple but nutritionally complete dinner.Bon Appétit