By Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers
March 27, 2013
Easter ham may conjure up cozy memories of family feasts past, but for today's smaller households the traditional bone-in ham can be a challenge. Often as big as a jack-o'-lantern, a ham is a holiday treat that keeps giving, practically to Pentecost, or so it might seem to any cook overwhelmed by all the leavings.
What to do? Think small and come up with clever uses for leftovers.
A ham steak is one solution to the Easter dinner problem. A compact boneless ham is another. Or go to the deli counter of the supermarket and ask for a 11/2-inch-thick slab of their finest cooked ham.
Just be prepared to pay a certain price for the convenience of the smaller size. Pamela Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Pork Board, noted that you might miss the centerpiece appeal and festive aspect of having a big ham preening on the dinner table. Some people also think a boneless ham lacks the texture or taste of its bone-in counterpart.
But if it comes down to small ham or no ham, what do you choose?
For Judith Jones, the legendary cookbook editor and author of "The Pleasures of Cooking for One," the choice is obvious: a small slice of ham. She bakes it in milk, with a healthy dollop of mustard, fresh sage leaves and brown sugar on top.
And if there are leftovers, all the better for her.
"My strategy is to have one little dinner. I cut the ham into a round using a saucer as a guide. Then I have all these trimmings to throw into an omelet or have as a sandwich,'' she says. "I use ham as a seasoning. I like to have it on hand."
So should you, but only as much as you can reasonably use. Toss that leftover ham into a stir-fry or fried rice dish. Let ham give a flavor lift to a souffle, a quiche, soup or salad.
"It's something to play with," Jones said of ham. "Season it with what you like, with whatever you have in the refrigerator."
What is a ham? "The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion" defines it as a "cut of meat from a hog's hind leg, generally from the middle of the shank bone to the aitchbone (hip bone)."
Hams are sold fresh, cured, or cured and smoked, according to a ham and food safety fact sheet prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Ready-to-eat hams can be eaten out of the package. Hams that require cooking should be labeled as such; packaging must contain cooking instructions and safe-handling procedures.
How much ham to buy? The USDA suggests 1/4 to 1/3 pound per serving for boneless ham and 1/3 to 1/2 pound per serving for bone-in ham.
When is it done? Fully cooked hams that are ready-to-eat may be served cold or warmed in the oven. The USDA suggests a temperature of 140 degrees. Cook that ham to 165 degrees if it's been repacked outside of the processing plant or if you are reheating leftovers, the USDA adds. Uncooked ham should reach an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, followed by at least a 3-minute rest time.
Storage. Timing depends on the ham you buy. A fresh uncooked ham may be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen for six months, the USDA reports, while an unopened shelf-stable canned ham may be stored at room temperature for two years. Factor on three to five days of refrigeration for most ham products, especially those wrapped at a store, already opened or left over. Check also for a "use by" date on various branded ham products.
Ham in port and raisin sauce
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Note: Adapted from "The Great Meat Cookbook" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40).
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pound ham steak, or 1 1/2 pounds leftover ham slices or 4 smoked pork chops
1 cup finely chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups raisins
1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup port
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ham steak; cook, 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter. (If using sliced ham, cook in batches, 1 minute per side. For smoked pork chops, saute 3 minutes per side.)
2. Add the onion to the skillet; season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium; cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and begins to color, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the mustard, then the raisins and broth. Heat to a boil; cook, stirring, until the mustard is dissolved. Stir in the port and 2 tablespoons vinegar or to taste; boil until the sauce is just syrupy. Whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the ham, cover and cook to rewarm the meat thoroughly, 1 minute. Transfer the ham to a serving platter; spoon the sauce and raisins over the ham.
Per serving: 538 calories, 13 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 92 mg cholesterol, 71 g carbohydrates, 37 g protein, 2,279 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.
Ham steak with apples and Brussels sprouts
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Note: Adapted from Joe Yonan's "Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One," the original called for a 4-ounce bone-in pork chop and made as a single serving. This version serves two and can easily be doubled for four. Mirin and rice vinegar may be found in Asian markets and some supermarkets.
1 ham steak, 7 ounces
Freshly ground pepper
1 Granny Smith apple
6 to 8 Brussels sprouts
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 piece ginger (2 inches long), peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mirin or sherry
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1. Pat dry the ham steak with a paper towel; season generously with freshly ground pepper on both sides. Cut the apple in half, core, and cut into 16 wedges. Thinly slice the wedges crosswise. Remove and discard the tough outer layer of leaves from the Brussels sprouts, cut them in halves, and cut out and discard the tough core. Thinly slice lengthwise.
2. Pour the oil into a large, cold cast-iron skillet; press the ham steak into the cold pan. Turn on the heat to medium. When the ham steak sizzles, after 1 to 2 minutes, scatter the shallot and ginger around it. Stir the shallot and ginger occasionally to keep them from burning, but leave the ham steak undisturbed, cooking until very lightly browned on one side, about 2 minutes.
3. Turn the ham steak over; add the apples and Brussels sprouts to the pan. Season lightly with salt. Stir to combine the apples and sprouts with the shallot and ginger, while leaving the pork undisturbed. Sprinkle the mirin and rice vinegar over the vegetables. Decrease the heat to medium low, cover the pan and cook until the sprouts have wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Transfer the ham to a serving plate; let it rest for a few minutes. Spoon the apple mixture on top.
Per serving: 320 calories, 18 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 19 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 1,516 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.
A slice of baked ham
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Servings: 3 to 4
Note: Judith Jones includes this family recipe in "The Pleasures of Cooking for One." The preparation "gets rid of the usual watery, oversalted taste that most of our commercial hams have today and gives the meat a wonderful flavor,'' she writes. Jones likes to serve the ham with a puree of root vegetables, like parsnips, and potatoes.
1 slice ham, about 1 pound
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Milk, up to 1 cup
3 to 4 fresh sage leaves or three dried, or a sprinkling of dried rosemary
2 to 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the ham in a shallow baking dish that will just accommodate the slice; smear the mustard on top. Pour milk all around, enough to almost cover the surface. Lay the sage leaves on top; sprinkle the sugar over it. Bake, occasionally opening the oven and spooning some of the curdling milk over the top, 1 hour.
Per serving: 184 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 1,136 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Even the teeniest canned ham can pack big flavor if you glaze it with assertive and, often, sweet flavors. Experiment with these recipes. The plum glaze is adapted from a recipe in "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" (Clarkson Potter, $35) by Matt and Ted Lee. Their original glaze made enough to coat a 15- to 17-pound bone-in ham; proportions are reduced here by three-quarters. The mustard and sugar glaze recipe comes from "The Mustard Book" by Rosamond Man and Robin Weir. If you end up with extra glaze from either recipe, refrigerate to brush on chicken breasts, chicken wings, pork tenderloins or spare ribs later.
Plum glaze: Melt 1 teaspoon unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until frothy. Add 1/2 shallot, chopped; 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until shallot is soft and fragrant, but not brown, 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 2 ounces pitted, quartered prunes. Heat to a boil. Turn off heat; cover. Let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add 2 teaspoons each Dijon mustard and vinegar. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Brush glaze on ham as it bakes.
Mustard brown sugar glaze: Mix 1/4 cup cream with 2 tablespoons each Dijon mustard and brown sugar. Smear over ham; bake.
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