Smoked Ham and White Bean Soup

Does it seem that that big chunk of leftover Easter ham might remain in your refrigerator for weeks, even if you have a large family?  Fear not.  Here is an idea of how to turn that succulent, savory meat and ham bone into an invigorating soup.

Ingredients

3 T olive oil

2 cups small diced onions

1 cup small diced celery

1 cup small diced carrots

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 Mediterranean bay leaf

1 T fresh thyme, minced or 1 t dried

½ t freshly ground black pepper

2-3 lbs. ham shanks or hocks

6 cups chicken stock (water can be substituted or added if more is needed)

1/4 cup dried lentils

1 large potato, diced

3 cans white beans, such as cannellini, drained

1 t hot sauce, such as sriracha, or to taste

Leftover ham, diced

Procedure

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, add oil. When oil is hot, add onions, celery and carrots.  Sauté until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme and pepper.  Cook a few more minutes until spices begin to release their flavors.

Add 2-3 lbs. of ham shanks or hocks and stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add more stock or water if needed.  Add lentils and potato and cook for 20 minutes..  Remove shanks or hocks and bay leaf.  Add beans and sriracha sauce.  Stir.

To thicken soup, pulse very briefly with a stick blender or take out 2 cups, puree in a food processor and add back to pot.  Remove the meat from the bones and return to pot along with any other leftover ham.  Heat through, taste for seasoning* and ladle into individual serving bowls.  Serve with a crusty bread.  Serves 8-10.

*Not knowing how salty your ham might be, I have omitted salt.  Add to taste if needed.

(photo by Bill Brady)

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