Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 3, 2012

Easter Ham: the essential brunch centerpiece

Lee Ward
Associated Press

ASHLAND — This year, the National Pork Board brings a dose of sophistication to the must-have ham with surprisingly simple recipes and tips.

 “Thanks to its versatility and ease of preparation, ham is a perfect canvas for experimenting with flavorful twists for a truly memorable brunch or any occasion,” Pamela Johnson, director of consumer communications for the National Pork Boar. said. “To impress your guests, think past basic recipes. Try a new rub or glaze to enjoy your Easter ham in delicious new ways. Or, enjoy ham in a rustic tart or as a savory addition to veggie-based sides.”

Build a better ham sandwich

According to National Pork Board trend data, ham is America’s most popular lunchmeat, amounting to 16 percent of all sandwiches eaten at home. For Easter leftovers, think beyond the classic ham and cheese with these delicious takes:

‰Ham and Brie Baguettes: For a French-inspired lunch, cut open a baguette and fill it with sliced ham, creamy Brie, mixed greens, and a mixture of honey and Dijon mustard.

‰Ham Reuben: Make your ham sandwich corner-deli style! Combine sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on rye bread.  Try grilling it for a flavorful twist on this classic.

‰Ham, Cheddar, and Chutney Quesadillas: For a new take on ham and cheese, fill a quesadilla with sliced ham, shredded Cheddar, and store-bought chutney and heat through until cheddar is melted.

Ham-A-Day Giveaway

For a chance to win an Easter ham for this year’s celebration, visit PorkBeInspired.com or Facebook.com/PorkBeInspired before April 6 and share how you will be enjoying ham this Easter.

HAM AND PEAS WITH MINT AND TARRAGON

4 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 cups peas, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 4 to 6 pieces

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, plus sprigs for garnish

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon, plus sprigs for garnish

Salt and pepper

Bring a medium saucepan of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook until tender, 3 to 8 minutes depending on the size of the peas.

Drain the peas, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the peas and cooking water to the saucepan. Add the ham, butter, mint, and tarragon, stirring until the butter melts. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a bowl, garnish with the mint and tarragon sprigs, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Serving suggestions: Try this light, bright, distinctively spring-y dish alongside your Easter ham, a festive pork roast, or pan-sautéed pork chops. You can vary the recipe by using chopped crisped bacon instead of the ham, or by adding orange or lemon zest to the mix. It’s also nice with other, similarly light and delicate herbs — try cilantro, parsley, chives, or a combination.

HAM, BACON AND CATAMELIZED ONION TART

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

4 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

One 9-inch deep-dish pie shell, homemade or store-bought, chilled

1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 asparagus spears, trimmed (optional)

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisped, 10 to 12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a large bowl. Add the ham and heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 3 or 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the bowl with the bacon. Add the onion, salt, and pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 or 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown and very tender, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer the onion to the bowl with the bacon and ham and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the pastry is pale gold along the rim, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the cream, eggs, and nutmeg to the bowl with the bacon, ham, and onion, whisking to combine.

Remove the shell from the oven (leave the oven on). Pour the cream mixture into the shell and arrange the asparagus on top, if using. Bake until the tart is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serving suggestions: This versatile tart, depending on the portion size, can be either a main dish, perhaps with a green salad on the side, or a side dish, perhaps next to a holiday ham. You can serve it hot or room temperature, making it ideal for a buffet lunch or brunch. And you can change it to suit your tastes — try using all bacon, all ham, or swapping some of the caramelized onions for sautéed leeks, roasted red peppers, or steamed asparagus spears. To dress up the presentation, make the tart in an 11-inch fluted tart pan.

THYME-BASTED HAM WITH ROASTED GRAPES

6 to 8 pound cooked bone-in ham, trimmed

Pepper

1/2 cup grape jelly

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 4 to 6 pieces

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

3 cups whole grapes, red, green, or a combination

4 shallots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position rack in lower third of oven.

Place the ham flat side down in a large shallow roasting pan and score a diamond pattern about 1/8-inch deep into any fat. Season with pepper and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the jelly, butter, and thyme, whisking occasionally until the jelly and butter melt together and the mixture comes to a gentle boil, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the grapes and shallots. Set aside.

Baste the ham with the jelly mixture. Continue baking, basting with the jelly mixture and/or pan juices about every 15 minutes. When the internal ham temperature reaches 120 degrees F, add the grapes and shallots to the roasting pan, stirring to coat with the pan juices. Continue baking and basting until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F, 15 to 18 minutes per pound total cooking time. Remove the ham from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, and let rest 15 to 30 minutes. (If the grapes and shallots aren’t tender yet, return the roasting pan to the oven.)

Slice enough ham to serve and arrange on plates or a platter. Season the roasted grape, shallot, and pan juice mixture with pepper and spoon some on top of the ham. Serve the remaining grape mixture on the side.

Serving suggestions: Enjoy this amazingly delicious — and amazingly easy — ham with roasted potatoes, fresh peas, or steamed asparagus. Vary the recipe by using currant or apple jelly or orange marmalade instead of the grape jelly, and chopped fresh rosemary or sage instead of the thyme. You can also use 2 teaspoons dried thyme instead of fresh. If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, adapt the recipe using ham steaks, brushed with a smaller amount of the jelly basting mixture, and heated in the oven with grapes and shallots.

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While I don’t claim to be an expert cook, I do like to cook and love to eat. Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking; I’ll try to find the answers. Also, if you’re looking for a specific recipe, send your request, or if you can offer a recipe to someone looking for something specific, please send e-mail to lward@dailyindependent.