Ahh, the days after Christmas, a time marked with the peace of a well-celebrated holiday, reflections of a year nearly spent, visions of a year about-to-be —and ham aplenty (if such is possible).
Here are a couple of ideas for enjoying the leftover holiday ham.
Back bean and ham soup
Don’t throw away that bone! Or if you did already, go steal your neighbor’s. No matter how meticulous you are, meat is left on the ham bone every Christmas. This soup makes use of the ham-bone and saves you from spending more time picking at the bone —or worse wasting good ham! –and don’t forget the sacrifice that a certain convivial creature made to provide that ham!
Left-over meaty ham-bone (mine this year was a peppered ham)
Black beans (I used a one pound package. The beans need to either soak overnight or follow instructions for fast-soaking)
Olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pot)
One onion (I used yellow, diced)
Garlic (I used about five cloves, diced)
One red bell pepper (diced)
Tomato paste (I used about three tablespoons)
One dark beer (I used a winter lager)
Bay leaves (I used two, and discarded before serving)
Dark chocolate (I used four 70% cocoa morsels)
Coat the bottom of a large, heavy-duty pot (I used the insert from my slow cooker) with olive oil and heat the pot on medium-high. Saute the onion, garlic and red bell pepper until soft (ten to fifteen minutes). Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate with vegetables —allow the vegetables and tomato paste to brown for another five to ten minutes.
Deglaze the pot with the bottle of dark beer allowing it to come to a boil and cook off the alcohol. This takes five to ten minutes –and presents an excellent opportunity to season yourself with a nice winter lager).
Add the pre-soaked beans to the pot and enough water to cover. Add the bay leaves. Allow beans to come to a boil. Next add the ham-bone to the pot (you may have to trim for it to fit). If needed adjust water level.
Cover the pot and cook for at least four hours (I actually cooked mine for more than twenty hours on low in my slow cooker). When the beans are tender, remove the ham-bone.
Bring the beans back to a boil uncovered (note if using slow cooker, place insert on stove top for this step). Allow the liquid to reduce until it is thick and dark (I allowed mine to reduce for about 30 minutes). Add dark chocolate and allow to simmer a few minutes more to incorporate the chocolate.
Meanwhile pull all of the meat from the bone (most all of it falls off after that long cooking). Dice the meat into very small pieces.
Once the liquid is reduced to your liking, remove the bay leaves and add the diced ham back to the pot.
Allow to simmer on low for at least another 30 minutes (I let mine sit for a spell longer, presenting another self-seasoning opportunity).
Just before serving, I garnished the soup with grated parmesan cheese, avocado and black truffle oil.
Ham, artichoke and cranberry salad
Ham (diced, I had about six cups)
Red onion (diced, I used one medium sized)
Red bell pepper (diced)
Celery (diced, two stalks)
Marinated artichoke hearts (diced, I used approximately fifteen hearts)
Dried cranberries (diced, I added about a cup)
Zest of an orange
Dijon mustard (about two tablespoons)
Juice from an orange
Oil (I used a french walnut oil but a good olive oil will also work)
To assemble the salad mix the ham and vegetables together. Whisk the Dijon mustard, orange zest, orange juice, honey and oil together –tasting until you like the flavor (my goal was for a light citrus note followed by the sweetness of the honey). Pour the dressing over the ham and vegetables. Mix everything together well, and then gently fold the dried cranberries into the salad (I’ve found that adding them earlier causes their color to run all over everything else).
Serve the ham salad as sandwiches, with crackers, or as part of a green salad.
Enjoy the peace (and the ham), my friend.