I cherish my friends – they happily venture to new restaurants with me, try my recipe creations and gift my family with food. Our Dallas friends took us to their favorite spot for hearty barbecue and incredibly delicate biscuits. Recently, they sent us a hickory smoked ham from New Braunfels Smokehouse outside San Antonio, Texas. Their gift makes a great meal for a crowd, with plenty of leftovers.
I generally prefer all the dishes I can make from bits and pieces of ham, but first, let’s start with serving a beautiful roast ham for Easter dinner. To accompany the ham, a cherry chutney, spiked with a glug of bourbon, will please my cocktail-loving crowd.
A ham comes from the upper hip portion and rear legs of a pig. A whole ham means it’s both the shank end, which narrows near the foot, and the wide butt end. A fresh ham is just that – pork with no cure, no smoke. Season a fresh ham as you would a pork roast and cook it to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Southern-style country hams, dry-cured from the outside, smoked (or not) and aged, tend to be denser in texture with a saltier flavor. Uncooked country hams require soaking to temper the saltiness before cooking. I enjoy cooked country ham as I do prosciutto – in super thin slices and as a flavoring nugget in many dishes.
Our pink and juicy Texas gift ham, and indeed most hams sold in supermarkets and butcher shops across the United States, falls into the category of city ham. These are hams that are injected with a wet cure before hot-smoking, which fully cooks them. They typically weigh up to 20 pounds. These fully cooked hams take center stage at many holiday meals because they are lean, moist and relatively inexpensive per serving. Most supermarkets sell butt end (tender, but more tricky to carve) and shank end (easier to carve, but often drier) portions of fully cooked ham weighing about 8 pounds – plenty for a gathering of 10 to 12 guests.
Spiral sliced hams are fully cooked city hams that have been sliced on a special machine; they are easy to serve as the carving is done for you.
Serving a whole, or portion of, a city ham proves simple – you only need to gently warm the lean meat. Most fully cooked hams simply require a low oven with something added to the pan to provide a moist environment. Calculate 12 to 15 minutes per pound in a 325-degree oven to sufficiently heat a fully cooked ham. I like to wrap the ham in heavy duty foil and add 1 cup of water (or half water and half beer) to the pan to keep things moist when heating.
I’m not a big fan of sweet glazes and pineapple slices covering up the delicious flavor of the smoked meat. Instead, I offer tangy, bold mustards, pickles, relishes and chutneys on the side to complement the meat.
This triple cherry chutney boasts a bit of bourbon and mustard to counter the fruits’ sweet nature. It tastes great with a smoky ham as well as roast duck, grilled chicken and pork chops. Try it on top of toast spread with goat cheese or mascarpone.
Leftover ham is a beautiful thing. Thin slices on a warm cheddar biscuit with a fried egg might just be the best sandwich in the world.
The savory cobbler that follows combines ham and vegetables with a light gravy and a topping of cheesy biscuits. Double the cobbler recipe and invite your friends. They’ll be yours for life.
EASTER HAM WITH CHERRY CHUTNEY
Makes: 8 to 12 servings
1 cooked, bone-in butt end ham, about 8 pounds
½ cup beer or apple cider
Triple cherry bourbon chutney, see recipe
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place ham, cut side down in a large baking pan. Pour the beer and ½ cup water around the ham. Cover the ham completely with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil; seal the foil to the edges of the baking pan.
Bake ham 12 to 15 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees, 1½ to 2 hours. Remove from oven.
Let ham rest 10 minutes. Then transfer it to carving board. Serve ham in thin slices. Garnish with parsley. Pass the chutney.
PER SERVING (for 12 servings, without chutney): 217 calories, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 76 mg cholesterol, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 35 g protein, 1,836 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
TRIPLE CHERRY BOURBON CHUTNEY
Makes: 2 generous cups
1 package (12 ounces) frozen, pitted, dark sweet cherries, about 3 cups
1 package (5 ounces) dried tart red cherries, about 1 cup
½ cup (about 5 ounces) cherry preserves or cherry jam
2 tablespoons each: bourbon, fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1½ to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, optional
In a small saucepan, stir together cherries, preserves, bourbon, orange juice, mustard, pepper and salt. Add ½ cup water; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to very low. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, until thickened and cherries have collapsed and liquid has thickened a bit, about 15 minutes.
Stir in dissolved cornstarch. Heat to a boil until mixture thickens. Cool. Stir in vinegar to taste, if using. Serve at room temperature.
PER TABLESPOON: 34 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 0 g protein, 3 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
SMOKED HAM AND CHEDDAR BISCUIT COBBLER
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
CREAMY HAM FILLING:
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small carrots, peeled, thinly sliced, about ½ cup
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1 cup thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
¼ cup finely diced fennel bulb or celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup dry white wine or white vermouth
¼ cup flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
4 cups (1 pound) ½-inch dice cooked smoked ham or smoked turkey
½ cup defrosted frozen shelled edamame or peas
2 small green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon or rosemary
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
Hot red pepper sauce
Freshly ground pepper
1 box (11 ounces) buttermilk biscuit mix, such as Zatarain’s
2 cups (5 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup milk
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
Hot red pepper sauce for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a deep 9-by-9-inch baking dish.
For creamy ham filling, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots and onion; cook and stir until nearly tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, fennel and garlic, cook 2 minutes. Stir in wine and boil hard, 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over everything; cook, stirring constantly, 1 or 2 minutes to cook the flour. Slowly whisk in the broth. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and boils, about 2 minutes.
Stir in cream; simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in ham, edamame, green onions, parsley, tarragon and thyme. Season with hot pepper sauce and black pepper.
For biscuits, put the biscuit mix and cheese into a large bowl; stir to combine. Stir in milk and melted butter just enough to moisten everything and form a rough dough. Divide into 8 pieces; use floured hands to gently shape into biscuits about ½ inch thick.
Heat the ham mixture to a boil; scrape it into the prepared baking dish. Arrange the biscuits over the hot ham mixture, spacing them ½ inch apart.
Bake (middle rack), turning the pan once for even browning, until the biscuits are golden and crisp, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Use a large spoon to scoop a biscuit and some of the creamy ham mixture into bowls. Pass extra hot sauce.
PER SERVING (for 8 servings): 505 calories, 31 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 34 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugar, 22 g protein, 1,156 mg sodium, 2 g fiber