How to ham it up

Leftovers: Using what remains of your holiday meat, you can slice, dice, even mince your way to some terrific dishes.

April 18, 2001|By Marlene Parrish | Marlene Parrish,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Humorist Dorothy Parker defined eternity as two people and a ham. And unless you dispatched your entire Easter ham at the dinner table or sent doggie bags home with guests, you'll be working on the leftovers from ham to eternity.

At our house, the reason for baking a ham in the first place is so that we'll have a good stash for leftovers. The best slices are assigned to sandwich duty or cooked in a skillet for breakfast. But that gets old after a couple of meals. There are so many other ways to use leftovers that you might run out of ham long before you run out of recycling ideas.

Remember that a little bit of strong-flavored, salty ham goes a long way. It needs a strong balance of opposing flavors. Natural partners are sweet (coffeecake, pancakes, fruit) or tangy (pickles, coleslaw). The edge of bitterness in a cup of coffee can pull it all together.

The first step is to trim the ham from the bone. Sort it into slices, chunks, bits, fat and, that very best part, the wonderful bone.

Dem bones

Senate Bean Soup is famous. But you don't have to be a politician to enjoy this version. Combine navy pea beans that have been soaked overnight and then cook with the hambone and some chopped onion. To eliminate watching the pot, make the soup in a slow-cooker or bake it in the oven.

Bury the bone in the cooking liquid at the start of any bean or legume dish. Before serving, add more chopped ham to taste. Pea soup, yellow or green, is a must. But try black beans, red pintos or limas for a change. Serve with a huge salad and crusty dinner rolls.

Bits and pieces

Make ham salad for sandwiches or deviled ham for a spread. For appetizer or cocktail canapM-is, use the same added ingredients but chop the ham mixture finer and season with a heavier hand. Ham spreads taste great on cheese bread, even better on dilly bread. (You probably have a recipe for that somewhere in your collection.) For every 2 cups of chopped cooked ham, add one of the following:

1/3 cup mayonnaise and some chopped sweet-pickle relish

2 tablespoons ketchup and a good dash of Tabasco

1/2 cup finely chopped chutney

1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickle and mayonnaise to bind

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and mayonnaise to bind

Make corn fritters or even pancakes, adding a few tablespoons of minced ham to the batter. Serve with maple syrup and a side dish of fried apple rings.

Add ham slivers to almost any sauteed breast of chicken recipe to give it some oomph and color.

A long time ago, everybody loved chicken a la king. Dust off that recipe and make it again, but this time add ham slivers and serve it over store-bought puff-pastry shells.

Add minced ham and chopped green chilies to a corn-muffin batter. Add minced ham and shredded cheese to a biscuit recipe. Both look pretty, taste zippy.

Use odd-size pieces of the fattier ham parts as a seasoning. Drop a chunk or two into the water when cooking green beans or cabbage for a nostalgic Southern flavor.

Ham and eggs

Make a Denver omelet by folding sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms, ham and Cheddar cheese down the center of the eggs. Top with a light tomato sauce.

But why go to the trouble of rolling the omelet? Scatter the Denver omelet goodies over an open-face omelet and call it a frittata. In that case, add the cheese last and pop the omelet under the broiler to set the eggs and melt the cheese.

For a Rio Grande breakfast, combine eggs, ham and chopped tomato, season with salt, pepper and a little chili powder. Scramble and cook. Serve with guacamole, salsa or sour cream. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve soft flour tortillas instead of toast.

Eggs Benedict is always delicious. Top toasted English muffins with a slice of ham, a poached egg and spoon over hollandaise sauce.

For Fast Hollandaise, melt 1/2 cup butter until it bubbles and set aside. In blender container, combine 3 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and dash of cayenne. Cover container and turn motor on low speed. Immediately remove cover and add butter in a steady stream. Makes 3/4 cup.

Eggs Jose is easier on the arteries. Top a corn or flour tortilla with fried ham, a poached egg and a good measure of peppery hot salsa. For a genuine Mexican touch, serve with hot chocolate.

Add minced ham to deviled-egg filling.

Main dishes

Macaroni pie. Kids absolutely love this. Make macaroni and cheese, your own or a mix and add 1/2 cup chopped ham. Transfer the mixture to an unbaked pie shell. Top with a generous amount of additional shredded Cheddar cheese and dot with butter. Bake at 425 degrees about 30 minutes or until both the pie crust and the topping are browned. Baked or stewed tomatoes are a good match, along with a big green salad.

Ham kebabs. Thread big ham chunks onto skewers, alternating with fresh pineapple chunks and squares of sweet red pepper. Brush kebabs with butter and grill until nicely browned. Serve with rice and fresh asparagus.

For the lunch box, make a mini-version of kebabs on toothpicks. Skewer ham with cubes of cheese, sweet melon, pineapple or grapes.

For a classic chef's salad bowl, make piles of julienne ham, chicken and American cheese and combine with chopped hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, lettuce and any other salad fixings you have on hand.

Take advantage of the rainbow colors in the markets and stuff peppers this way for a change. Blanch yellow, red or orange peppers. Fill with a mixture of diced ham mixed with soft bread crumbs, dry mustard, chopped onion and parsley and bind with an egg. Bake until cooked through. Top with a little shredded cheese. Serve with green beans, citrus salad and crusty rolls.

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