Ham it up

It’s Benjamin Franklin who is often credited with the phase, “The definition of eternity is two people and a ham.” For many cooks, eternity has started as leftover holiday ham takes up residence in their refrigerators.

But leftover ham can be a reason to rejoice, not something to dread. Ham will keep for months in the freezer and adds flavor to any dish.

Ham is the basis for numerous soups and casseroles, a stuffing for omelets and sandwiches and a flavorful extra in salads and appetizers.

In their new book, “Ham: An Obsession With the Hindquarter” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010), authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough dedicate a chapter to “glorious leftovers.”

They state that when they cook a ham for dinner, they “conceptualize a set of recipes for the inevitable leftovers.”

One recipe worth thinking about is their mac and ham and cheese, which the authors describe as a “crazy, overthe-top rendition of the classic.”

Over-the-top for sure.

The recipe calls for 12 ounces of Gruyere cheese, which is hardly budget-friendly. The Gruyere we purchased to test this recipe cost about $12 for those 12 ounces at a local grocery store. It also calls for mango chutney, which sells for about $5 or $6 per jar. Because the recipe called for only one tablespoon, we opted to leave it out. The dish didn’t suffer. It was rich and creamy like the mac and cheese we all love, but extra flavorful thanks to the ham and Gruyere.

The addition of frozen artichoke hearts also makes this comfort food casserole fancy enough for company.

If you want to try a more budgetfriendly version, opt for white cheddar cheese or a combination of sharp Swiss and aged cheddar instead of the Gruyere.

Many cooks purposely purchase larger hams than they need because they want leftovers. Ham is versatile and can be used in many dishes, including the classic bean soup, as well as a substitute for other meats like chicken in dishes like fried rice or quesadillas.

Leftover ham will keep in the freezer for three to four months. It is safe to eat if it has been frozen longer than four months, but the flavor and texture will begin to show signs of age.

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

1/4 cup grated Swiss, Monterey Jack or part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/4cup chopped ham

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 lbs. total)

1 egg white

1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a baking sheet with sides and lightly coat it with cooking spray. Mix cheese, ham, mustard and pepper in a small bowl.

Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up the breast and place one-fourth of the filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and filling.

Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Hold each chicken breast half together and dip in egg white, then dredge in breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170 degrees, about 20 minutes.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/07/10

Ham and Swiss Rosti

1 large egg

1 cup diced ham

1 cup shredded part-skim Jarlsberg, or Swiss cheese, divided

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups frozen hash brown potatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Beat egg in a large bowl. Stir in ham, 1/2cup cheese, shallot, rosemary, pepper and salt. Add frozen potatoes and stir to combine. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pat the potato mixture into an even round in the pan. Cover and cook until browned and crispy on the bottom, 4 to 6 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Place a rimless baking sheet on top. Wearing oven mitts, grasp the pan and baking sheet together and carefully invert, unmolding the ro(uml)sti onto the baking sheet. Wipe out any browned bits from the pan. Return it to the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Slide the rosti back into the pan. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, cover and cook the second side until crispy and browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Slide onto a platter, cut into wedges and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 262 calories; 13 g fat (3 g sat, 8 g mono); 94 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 21 g protein; 2 g fiber; 276 mg sodium; 174 mg potassium.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/07/10

Mac and Ham and Cheese

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups milk (whole or low-fat, not fat-free)

12 oz. Gruyere, finely grated

1 lb. ham, chopped (smoked, wet-cured)

1 (9-oz.) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and squeezed for any excess moisture

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon mango chutney

1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon

12 oz. dried ziti, cooked and drained according to package directions

1 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Position the rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, then whisk occasionally over the heat just until the mixture is bubbling and a very pale beige, about 2 minutes.

Whisk in the milk and continue whisking over the heat until thickened, about 4 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the Gruyere, ham, artichoke hearts, mustard, chutney and tarragon. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cooked ziti.

Pour the contents of the pan into a 3-quart casserole dish (greased or prepared with nonstick spray), or even a 9-by-13-inch baking dish if you like more of the top exposed to the heat and many more crunchy bits as a result.

Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the casserole and bake until brown and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from "Ham: An Obsession With the Hindquarter," Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/07/10

Crockery Cooker Calico Ham and Bean Soup

1 lb. bean mix for soup 6 cups water

2 cups ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrot

1 to 2 teaspoons Italian herbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 bay leaves

Rinse beans in colander under running water. Sort out any dirt or small pebbles. Drain.

In a large slow cooker combine all ingredients. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Discard bay leaves before serving. Makes 8 servings.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/07/10

Ham Balls in Barbecue Sauce

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs (2 slices of bread)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons dry mustard, divided

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

12 oz. ground cooked ham

12 oz. ground pork

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. In a large bowl, combine eggs, bread crumbs, onion, milk, 1 teaspoon of the dry mustard and the pepper. Add ground ham and ground pork; mix well.

Using about 1/3cup of the ham mixture for each ball, shape ham mixture into 12 balls. Place ham balls in the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar and the remaining teaspoon of dry mustard. Pour mixture over ham balls.

Bake, uncovered, about 45 minutes, or until ham balls are done and reach 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Makes 6 servings.

From Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/07/10