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. Oh, and biscuits seasoned with sharp cheddar and dill.
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. (Edwards Virginia Smokehouse sells delicious uncooked country hams totally worth the shipping fees; they also sell a sweet ham that is popular for Easter.)
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. However, read labels carefully as some pre-sliced hams are awfully sweet and injected with ingredients I prefer to avoid.
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. Just be sure you don't overheat the lean meat -- this is not the place for a slow-cooker or pressure cooker. 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. If you choose to use the grill for heating a ham, be sure to set it in a foil-covered pan with liquid; arrange the coals or adjust the gas burners so they are not directly under the ham.
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
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Makes: 8 to 12 servings
1 cooked, bone-in butt end ham, about 8 pounds
1/2 cup beer or apple cider
Triple cherry bourbon chutney, see recipe
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place ham, cut side down in a large baking pan. Pour the beer and 1/2 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.
2. Bake ham 12 to 15 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from oven.
3. Let ham rest 10 minutes. Then transfer it to carving board. Serve ham in thin slices. Garnish with parsley. Pass the chutney.
Nutrition information 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
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
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
1/2 cup (about 5 ounces) cherry preserves or cherry jam
2 tablespoons each: bourbon, fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, optional
1. In a small saucepan, stir together cherries, preserves, bourbon, orange juice, mustard, pepper and salt. Add 1/2 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.
2. Stir in dissolved cornstarch. Heat to a boil until mixture thickens. Cool. Stir in vinegar to taste, if using. Serve at room temperature.
Nutrition information 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
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Any smoked, fully cooked ham or turkey will work here; if you purchase it from the deli, ask them to leave it in a thick piece so it makes a nice dice. I prefer to use the crispy cheddar biscuit recipe included here for the best-tasting dish. However, a buttermilk biscuit mix will save some prep time. To serve a larger crowd, double the creamy ham filling (but not the biscuits). Assemble everything in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and bake 10 minutes longer.
Creamy ham filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small skinny carrots (3 ounces total), peeled, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 cup thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced fennel bulb or celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
1/4 cup flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 cups (1 pound) 1/2-inch dice cooked smoked ham or smoked turkey
1/2 cup defrosted frozen shelled edamame or peas
2 small green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 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 (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
Hot red pepper sauce for serving
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a deep 9-by-9-inch metal, ceramic or glass baking dish.
2. 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.
3. Stir in cream; simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in ham, edamame, green onions, parsley, tarragon and thyme. Season to taste with hot pepper sauce and black pepper. Remove from heat.
4. 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 even lumps; use floured hands to gently shape into hockey pucks about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Heat the ham mixture to a boil; scrape it into the prepared baking dish. Arrange the biscuits over the hot ham mixture, spacing them 1/2 inch apart.
6. 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.
Note: If buttermilk biscuit mix is unavailable, use the crispy cheddar biscuit dough recipe. Or, use 2 1/4 cups Original Bisquick Mix, the cheese and 2/3 cup milk (no need for the butter).
Nutrition information 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
CRISPY CHEDDAR BISCUITS
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Makes: 12 medium-size biscuits
You can substitute 1 1/2 cups buttermilk for the yogurt and skim milk. I love fresh dill in these biscuits.
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups (about 5 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dill seed, optional
1 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, cheese, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Spoon the dill (if using), yogurt, milk and melted butter over the dry ingredients. Gently fold until everything is moistened and the mixture gathers into a soft dough. Do not overmix.
2. Use a floured 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out 12 portions of the dough. Use floured hands to gently shape each portion into hockey pucks about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart.
3. Bake (middle rack), rotating the pan once, until biscuits are puffy and beautifully golden brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm.
Nutrition information per biscuit: 229 calories, 12 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 22 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 8 g protein, 311 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
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