Easter ham, downsized
The holiday's traditional dish can be enjoyed in small households
Holiday ham options: A ham steak is one solution to the Easter dinner problem. A compact boneless ham is another. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)
What to do? Think small and come up with clever uses for leftovers.
A ham steak is one solution to the Easter dinner problem. A compact boneless ham is another. Or go to the deli counter of the supermarket and ask for a 11/2-inch-thick slab of their finest cooked ham.
Just be prepared to pay a certain price for the convenience of the smaller size. Pamela Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Pork Board, noted that you might miss the centerpiece appeal and festive aspect of having a big ham preening on the dinner table. Some people also think a boneless ham lacks the texture or taste of its bone-in counterpart.
But if it comes down to small ham or no ham, what do you choose?
For Judith Jones, the legendary cookbook editor and author of "The Pleasures of Cooking for One," the choice is obvious: a small slice of ham. She bakes it in milk, with a healthy dollop of mustard, fresh sage leaves and brown sugar on top.
And if there are leftovers, all the better for her.
"My strategy is to have one little dinner. I cut the ham into a round using a saucer as a guide. Then I have all these trimmings to throw into an omelet or have as a sandwich,'' she says. "I use ham as a seasoning. I like to have it on hand."
So should you, but only as much as you can reasonably use. Toss that leftover ham into a stir-fry or fried rice dish. Let ham give a flavor lift to a souffle, a quiche, soup or salad.
"It's something to play with," Jones said of ham. "Season it with what you like, with whatever you have in the refrigerator."
What is a ham? "The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion" defines it as a "cut of meat from a hog's hind leg, generally from the middle of the shank bone to the aitchbone (hip bone)."
Hams are sold fresh, cured, or cured and smoked, according to a ham and food safety fact sheet prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Ready-to-eat hams can be eaten out of the package. Hams that require cooking should be labeled as such; packaging must contain cooking instructions and safe-handling procedures.
How much ham to buy? The USDA suggests 1/4 to 1/3 pound per serving for boneless ham and 1/3 to 1/2 pound per serving for bone-in ham.
When is it done? Fully cooked hams that are ready-to-eat may be served cold or warmed in the oven. The USDA suggests a temperature of 140 degrees. Cook that ham to 165 degrees if it's been repacked outside of the processing plant or if you are reheating leftovers, the USDA adds. Uncooked ham should reach an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, followed by at least a 3-minute rest time.
Storage. Timing depends on the ham you buy. A fresh uncooked ham may be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen for six months, the USDA reports, while an unopened shelf-stable canned ham may be stored at room temperature for two years. Factor on three to five days of refrigeration for most ham products, especially those wrapped at a store, already opened or left over. Check also for a "use by" date on various branded ham products.
Ham in port and raisin sauce
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes