Many meals ago, in a kitchen not so far away, an experienced cook, who shall remain nameless, made a novice mistake.
The Easter guest list had grown to a number that exceeded what she thought possible to feed from half a ham. So, fearing that someone would go hungry at her table (and probably report her to the food police), she bought a second half ham, the smallest she could find but still a hefty 8-pounder, that she intended to bake in the oven.
The predictable conundrum occurred: Her oven overfloweth with too much to bake properly. So she pleaded with a neighbor, two houses away, for the use of another oven (and thanked her good fortune that the neighbor always traveled on holidays). And then, for several hours, she ran back and forth between houses to assure that the extra ham would be properly cooked to feed those famished guests at her table.
You know what happened, of course. (And no, she did not drop the hot ham that she had to carry back to her kitchen.)
No one ate much ham. Maybe the cook had too many side dishes. Maybe the first ham was way too big. Maybe the family guest list, once filled with ravenous teens, had matured into daintier diners.
Whatever the reason (and it was very good ham, so that wasn’t to blame, this unnamed cook would be quick to clarify), she had 8 full pounds of leftovers, which by anyone’s standards is a lot.
So she did what she always does in the kitchen. She improvised. Chunks of ham were dropped into the mac-and-cheese, added to scrambled eggs, folded into hot dishes and baked into egg pies. She tossed Cobb salads, grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches and scalloped potatoes with you-know-what.
And, when the ham bone finally showed signs of becoming bare, she made soup — lots of it — thus concluding her unexpected road trip through the land of ham.
So do you have too much meat? This unnamed cook really doubts it. But if you need inspiration, we offer several twists on traditional recipes here.
And we also offer a bit of well-earned culinary wisdom:
An 8-pound bone-in ham feeds 16 people (½ pound per person). Good to know.
Note: Adapted from “The Farmette Cookbook,” by Imen McDonnell.
• 8 (1/2-in. thick) slices crusty bread
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp. flour
• 1/4 c. whole milk
• 1 1/2 tbsp. ale
• 1 c. grated white Cheddar
• Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
• 1 egg, beaten
• 8 slices ham (see Note)
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toast the bread until lightly golden on both sides; set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add flour and stir briskly for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy. Return to the heat, bring back to a boil, then stir in the ale, cheese, lemon zest and juice, and mustard. Stir in the egg, whisking, for a minute or two.
Lay a slice of ham on each bread slice, then top with a spoonful of the cheese mixture. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until melted and golden. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Note: This is from a British author, so the term “popover” isn’t what we usually expect. These are more like potato pancakes; they look messy but taste great. If you don’t have a nonstick pan, melt a bit of butter to cook the “popovers” in. From “Everyday Super Food,” by Jamie Oliver.
• 1 heaping tbsp. flour (self-rising preferred)
• 1 egg
• 2 heaping tbsp. cottage cheese
• 1 slice smoked ham
• 1 ripe plum tomato
• 2 cremini mushrooms
• Sea salt and black pepper
• 1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
• Hot chile sauce
• 2 tbsp. plain yogurt
• 2 handfuls of arugula
• 1/2 lemon
Place flour in a bowl and beat well with the egg and cottage cheese. Finely chop the ham, tomato and mushrooms, and stir through the mixture with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Put a large nonstick frying pan on a medium-low heat. Once hot, put heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan to give you 6 “popovers.” Let them get nicely golden for a few minutes, then flip over and gently flatten with a spatula to 1/2 inch thick.
Once they are golden on both sides, remove them from the pan for a moment, then turn the heat off.
Sprinkle Parmesan onto the pan to melt. Place the “popovers” on top, wait for the Parmesan to sizzle and go golden from the residual heat of the pan, then use your spatula to gently push the cheese toward each popover. Once the crispy “popovers” can be easily pried away from the pan with your spatula, put them on a plate.
Swirl some chile sauce through the yogurt, toss the arugula in a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve both on the side of the “popovers.”
Makes about 2 cups.
Note: Adapted from “Country Cooking From a Redneck Kitchen,” by Francine Bryson.
• About 1 1/2 c. (1/2 lb.) chopped, cooked ham (about 1-in. pieces)
• 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
• 1 1/2 tbsp. prepared horseradish
• 1 tbsp. grated onion
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• Pinch of black pepper
• Toasted bread or crackers, for serving
With an electric mixer, beat together ham, cream cheese, mayo, horseradish, onion, garlic powder and pepper until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
Serve on toasted bread or butter crackers as a dip, or as a sandwich spread.
Variations: Adjust the flavors by adding dill pickle relish, Dijon mustard, Tabasco or cayenne pepper. If you don’t want to use cream cheese, increase the mayo as a binder.
Split Pea Soup
Note: Dry split peas come in either yellow or green. The yellow ones are milder in flavor, though sometimes hard to find; the green will taste, well, greener. Either works well for the soup. Check through the split peas and rinse them before adding to the soup. When you’re dicing the vegetables for the soup (which is different from when you are cutting them up for the stock), make sure that all of the vegetables are cut the same size. My preference is for them to be diced very small, but if you like larger chunks in your soup, by all means cut them that way. The bigger the pieces of vegetables are, the longer it will take for them to soften. This is a versatile recipe, so if you prefer more or fewer vegetables in the soup, add them accordingly. You’re the cook! From Lee Svitak Dean.
For the stock:
• Ham bone
• 3 carrots, cut in chunks
• 3 or 4 ribs of celery, with leaves, cut in several pieces
• 1 large onion, cut in quarters
• 1 to 2 tsp. peppercorns
• 2 bay leaves
For the soup:
• 3 carrots, diced
• 1 large onion, diced
• 4 ribs of celery, diced
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 (16-oz.) bag split peas (see Note), picked over and rinsed
• 2 c. chopped or diced ham
Fill a large pot with 20 cups water and add the ham bone, carrot chunks, celery and onion. Add the peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer, uncovered, for at least an hour and up to 2 hours, watching the level of water, adding more water if the level drops too much. (The liquid will reduce by about half if you simmer it for 2 hours.)
Remove the soup pot from the heat and carefully strain the solid ingredients, discarding them. Refrigerate the stock to cool. (To protect the refrigerator shelf, I always put a potholder under the bowl when I put the hot liquid into the cold refrigerator.)
The next day (or once the stock is cool), skim off the fat that has solidified on top of the soup and discard it. Begin to warm the stock over medium heat.
Meanwhile, sauté the diced carrots, onion and celery in oil for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the cooked vegetables to the stock, along with the split peas, and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup for about 35 minutes, or until the peas are soft. Add the ham in the last 10 minutes or so.
If you prefer the soup puréed, use a blender to do so (if using a counter blender, do a few cups at a time). If you would like a little texture to the soup, skip that step.
Variation: Instead of split peas, use cooked beans (Great Northern or pintos are good), or add diced potatoes and cooked bacon, along with some greens and the usual carrot-celery-onion medley, to the prepared stock.