Tag Archives: ham

Operation Still Too Much Ham: Four-Cheese Potatoes au Gratin with Ham

16 Mar

Slowly but surely, 12 pounds of ham have been whittled down to 3 or 4.  It hasn’t been easy, but damn if it hasn’t been tasty.  I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but that doesn’t mean I’m stuck with sirloin and steak fries – we both know I’m classier than that.  Flush with a pretty decent spread of cheeses in the ice box, I decided that some gooey comfort food was in order following a long weekend that included viewing the region’s best baristas grinding, tamping and pulling at the Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition and putting my body through a gauntlet of court burns and and hipster beer.  Au gratin potatoes sounded like a perfect application and thankfully, my trusty Dean & DeLuca Cookbook provided me with a great starting point for my first attempt at the dish.

Four-cheese Potatoes au Gratin with Ham

(Based on “Gratin Dauphinois” from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook)

Ingredient rundown:

  • 1 quart milk
  • 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 8 medium low-starch potatoes (I used about 6: half Russet and half Yukon Gold)
  • unsalted butter for buttering the gratin dish
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese (this is where I went with a blend of grated sharp cheddar, provolone, parmesan and ricotta cheeses)
  • 1 1/2 pints heavy cream (I used about a pint due to smaller batch)
  • ~1 cup of cooked ham, sliced thin
  • Breadcrumbs for topping (optional)

How it’s done:

  1. Place the milk and garlic in a large, heavy saucepan. Season with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. Peel the potatoes, and slice thinly on a mandoline or plastic vegetable slicer (I had neither and used a nice, sharp santoku. Place potato slices in hot simmering milk, and cook very gently for 10 minutes or so, or just until the potatoes begin to soften.
  4. Immediately drain the potatoes in a colander (reserve milk for another use, if desired). Butter a gratin dish that measures about 12 inch x 10 inch.
  5. Place half the potato slices in the dish, neatly arranged, making sure to sprinkle every single layer of potatoes with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg. When half the potatoes are placed, cover with half of the grated cheese and a layer of  ham. Place the second half of the potato slices, again seasoning with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Top with the remaining ham and other half of the cheese, evenly spread out. Pour the cream over and around the potatoes. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (again, optional, but I love that extra crunch)
  6. Cover the gratin loosely (with a lid or with aluminum foil). Place in the oven, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the cream has cooked away. Remove the lid, and place the gratin briefly under the broiler until it’s brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

The simple goodness of ham and cheese with silky sliced potatoes and a bubbly, caramelized, crispy top is pretty hard to beat.  Main dish and/or vegetables entirely optional.  A fork will help.  (ed. note – one night later and the entire dish is gone.  Remember, 43n/89w is a judgement free zone.  At least when it comes to yours truly pigging out.)

Operation Too Much Ham: Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Ham

10 Mar

OK, so there really is no such thing as too much ham, but 11 pounds of ham don’t eat themselves.  And they take up half of my fridge.  In my quest to find new ways of putting lipstick on this pig, I found a pretty delicious-looking recipe in my boy Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano.  I am often convinced that I was Italian in another life because I always come back to Italian food for its flavorful simplicity.  While I’m jumping the gun on “Easter” food again, this pasticcio di maccheroni or “pasta pie” is the kind of comforting goodness that needs no special occasion.

Dish: Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Ham

recipe courtesy of Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano

Ingredient rundown:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian cooked ham, preferably parmacotto, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • (I also tossed in a few diced mushrooms)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds ziti
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta
  • 8 ounces caciotta or hard provolone, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • (I also sprinkled some breadcrumbs on top for a little crunch.  Entirely optional of course)

*I ended up making roughly 2/3 of a batch and adjusted my measurements accordingly

How it’s done:

  1. In a Dutch oven (I used my trusty cast iron skillet), heat the oil over high heat until smoking. Add the ham cubes and brown for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook until the vegetables are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the meat is just about falling apart, about 50 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large bowl. Keep the sauce warm.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.
  4. Cook the ziti in the boiling water for 1 minutes less than the package directions, until still very al dente. While the pasta is cooking, place the ricotta in a small bowl and stir in a ladle of the pasta cooking water to “melt” it.
  5. Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the meat. Add the ricotta and caciotta and stir to combine.
  6. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with extra-virgin olive oil. Place a ladleful of sauce in the bottom of the casserole, followed by a layer of the pasta and meat mixture. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the parmigiano-reggiano over, then repeat with another layer of sauce, then pasta and meat, and parmigiano. Continue until all ingredients are used up.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbling and heated through. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.

Is turning 1 pound of ham into 3 or 4 pounds of pasta productive from a fridge-clearing standpoint?  Perhaps not, but hot damn if it wasn’t tasty.  Hard to go wrong with ham, Italian cheeses and wine.  Mario knows things, despite his affinity for tech vests and orange foam footwear.

It’s so watery – and yet there’s a smack of ham to it – Baked Ham with Coffee and Brown Sugar Glaze

8 Mar

Somewhere between Christmas and Easter, I found myself with a second-hand ham taking up half of my freezer.  Sometimes a lazy Sunday is reason enough to cook 11 pounds of meat and watch some basketball (always a pleasure seeing Bruce Weber stymied by Bo and the boys).  Oh and the Oscars (The Dude wins!).  I guess today was a holiday after all.

A quick scanning of my modest cookbook library yielded an interest-piquing recipe from my Dean & DeLuca Cookbook for a poached/baked ham with a coffee and brown sugar glaze.  The severe lack of coffee and coffee-related food items in my life right now made this one a no-brainer.  Coffee and pork – together at last.

Baked Ham with Coffee and Brown Sugar Glaze

(courtesy of The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook)

Though it does sound a little unusual, the glaze in the recipe lends a lovely color and flavor to the exterior of the ham; after all, ham with red-eye gravy (made with coffee) is a Southern classic. And there’s another creative element in this dish: though this is baked ham, it spends most of its cooking time poaching in water on top of the stove. This keeps the ham very moist (it heats to the center more quickly than in a dry oven). Additionally, the water method draws out the salt in the ham, rather than concentrating it. Just make sure that you keep the water below the boiling point—say, 180° to 190°F. Also make sure, of course, that the ham you choose is the best ham you can find. Serves at least 20

Ingredient rundown:

  • 12 to 14-pound smoked, ready-to-eat Ham
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup strong black brewed coffee (some potently French-pressed Alterra Love Supreme worked quite nicely)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • (I added a teaspoon or so of molasses to the glaze as well.  You know I’m never satisfied following a recipe to the letter)

I ended up making a half recipe so I cut my 11-12 lb ham in half and halved the measurements for all of the glaze fixins.

How I did it:

  1. Place ham in a very large pot and fill with water until it covers ham. Cook over high heat on top of stove until water begins to boil. Reduce heat to low, and let ham poach for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. While the ham is cooking, prepare the glaze: Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, and black coffee in a bowl, and stir with a fork until the sugar is dissolved. Add the breadcrumbs and blend. (The glaze will become pasty.)
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Remove the ham from the pot of water and place in a large baking pan. Carve away the excess fat, and some of the rind. Spread the glaze evenly over the ham. Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees and bake the ham for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is hot and dark brown. Allow the ham to cool for at least 15 minutes before carving.

My housemate was kind enough to put together some Hooks 3-Year Cheddar risotto (which can be made in much the same manner as my Mushroom risotto, only with the red wine swapped for white and a cup or so of grated cheddar instead of, or in addition to, the parmesan at the end)  that paired pretty damn well with the ham.  The glaze provided a nice hit of sweet/roasty/malty depth of flavor that was a welcome change of pace from your standard pineapple and clove accoutrement.  Now how long is it going to take for me to eat 10ish pounds of baked ham?  I have some ideas, don’t worry.

Hot Ham Water. Better thirst-quencher or BEST thirst-quencher?

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