Truffled Lentils with Spanish Ham

I fell in love with lentils when I was cooking in Spain, but here I'm going to cook them like a risotto. There are lots of tasty flavors, like aromatic truffles and Iberico ham (the best ham in the world), that add depth to this creamy and hearty meal.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 40 min
  • Active: 10 min
  • Yield: 2 servings
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Ingredients

2 cups dried Spanish pardina or French green lentils

1 rib celery

1 carrot, peeled

2 cloves garlic

2 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

1 quart chicken stock

8 ounces smoked slab bacon, divided

1 shallot

4 ounces Idiazabal or Manchego cheese

2 large eggs

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, more or less, depending on size of saucepan

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

kosher salt

1 tablespoon truffle paste, or a fresh black truffle to shave

6 slices Spanish ham, preferably Iberico

Directions

  1. Use the fine-mesh strainer to rinse the lentils under running water; remove pebbles or debris. Place rinsed lentils into a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Chop the celery and carrot into large chunks and add to the pot. Peel and lightly smash 2 cloves of garlic before adding to the pot. Finally, add thyme, bay leaves, chicken stock, and half the chunk of slab bacon. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until the lentils are very tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, dice the remaining bacon into ¼-inch cubes; set aside. Peel and finely dice the shallot; set aside. Use a Microplane or rasp to finely grate the cheese; set aside.
  3. About 5 minutes before the lentils are finished, prepare the eggs for poaching: Crack one egg into a small ramekin or bowl and set aside. Fill a small nonstick skillet with ½ inch of olive oil and place over low heat, and slowly bringing the oil to 130 degrees F. While the oil is warming, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Add the remaining diced bacon to the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is browned and crispy.Once the oil has come to temperature, slowly slide the egg from the ramekin into the oil. Repeat with second egg. While the eggs are poaching, add the shallots to the bacon. Sauté the shallots for a minute; then add the sherry vinegar, scraping the browned bits (or "fond") from the bottom of the pan.
  4. When the egg whites are set, turn off the heat.Use a slotted spoon to add 2 generous portions of the cooked lentils to the bacon and shallots. (Reserve remaining lentils for a future use.) Stir gently, then fold in the butter; season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the grated cheese; stir to melt the cheese and combine all the ingredients.
  5. Spoon half of the lentils into a bowl. Gently slide a poached egg on top; curl 3 slices of ham over the lentils, and finish with a generous grating of fresh truffle or a dollop of truffle paste. Repeat for the second serving of lentils. Serve immediately.