Monday, March 22, 2010

HAM: An Obsession with the Hindquarter

Featured on Warren Bobrow's Wild Table in the Wild River Review

I'm drawn to books like some women are drawn to shoes. Even with the internet, and all the information I have at my fingertips, I still love my hardcopy books. Just think how much money women could save if they were satisfied looking at shoes online rather than stockpiling them in their closets.

You won't be surprised to know that food related books take up most of the room on my shelves. I play a game with myself when book shopping: Which Book Grabs My Attention First, and Why? Sometimes it's the color or shape, or the font on the spine. Next I peruse titles. Finally, I get a book in hand and thumb through. I love food pictures and since I've started trying to take a few myself, I realize just how hard it is to make some foods look as good as they taste. I save the best 'til last: the recipes. If one recipe catches my eye, makes me want to taste, prepare, serve it—the book is probably going home with me. Often, just one good recipe will seal the deal—and it's worth it if the recipe turns out to be all that I expected.

I have a book in hand right now that has far exceeded all my expectations! It's spring, and I'm thinking about the Easter dinner we share in our family. When we have large gatherings, I begin thinking 'large' food, which leads me to HAM, especially fresh ham for spring. And here we have the perfect book: HAM: An Obsession with the Hindquarter by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.

The very first recipe, Roasted Fresh Ham with a Maple-Spice Glaze sounds perfect, but wait, there's Moroccan-Style Roasted Fresh Ham, Tuscan Roasted Fresh Ham, Oven-Barbecued Fresh Ham. And that's just naming a few of the recipes in the first section. This luscious volume covers four types of ham: Fresh Ham, including recipes for a Ham Tagine and Steamed Ham Buns; Dry-Cured Ham in the Old World, with recipes for Chilled Honeydew Soup with Frizzled Ham and Prosciutto-Wrapped Meatloaf in a Vinegary Tomato Sauce, as well as a menu for a European ham party; Dry-Cured Ham in the New World, offering Jerk-Style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales and a Glazed and Roasted Country Ham; and Wet-Cured Ham, featuring an Iberian-Inspired Frittata and an over-the top Mac and Ham and Cheese. The recipes cover the globe and range from cooking an entire ham, to appetizers using bits, pieces, or slices. They're all quite doable and very enticing.

Bruce, a “New Yorker from Torah scribes and Kosher butchers”, and Mark, a “Southerner from sharecroppers and Civil War soldiers”, are a most unlikely pair to be writing about ham, but they cover the subject thoroughly with tempting recipes for all cooks. Trust me, if there's anything you want to know about preparing the hindquarter of a pig, you can find it in this very humorous, well written and informative book.

Here are two of my favorite recipes from Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter, the afore mentioned Roasted Fresh Ham with a Maple-Spice Glaze, and a show-stopping Jambon Persillé (terrine). Hope you enjoy!

Hindquarter being sliced and served at 'Gustos in Rome. They don't fool around!

Roasted Fresh Ham

with a Maple-Spice Glaze

feeds 6 teenage boys, 16 adults, or 26 twentysomething models

One 8- to 10-pound bone-in fresh

ham, preferably from the shank

end, any rind removed

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1. Put the Dickensian joint in a large roasting pan, preferably one that’s

shiny enough to reflect lots of ambient heat and not so flimsy that it tips

willy-nilly when you pick it up. Set the oven rack as high as it can go and

still afford the ham at least 2 inches of head space. Leave the roast in its

pan out on the counter and fire the oven up to 325 F.

2. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a small

bowl. Wash and dry your hands, then smooth the spice mixture all over

the ham’s external surface. Work it down into some of the crevices, but

be careful to avoid any deep-tissue massage. A ham is a complex structure

of muscle groups—too much massage and they can come apart like

Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her.

3. Cover the whole kit and caboodle with aluminum foil, shove it in the

oven, and leave it alone for 31/2 hours, while you go do whatever it is you

do when a big, sweating hunk of meat is roasting in your oven.

4. Peel off the aluminum foil. Baste the ham with about half the maple

syrup, preferably using a basting brush. Take it easy so you don’t knock

off the spice coating. Use small strokes—think Impressionism, not

Abstract Expressionism. (Or just dribble the syrup off a spoon.)

5. Continue roasting the ham, uncovered this time, basting every 15

minutes or so with more maple syrup as well as any pan drippings, until

an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the

meat without touching bone registers 170 F, about 11/4 hours. If it starts

to singe or turn too dark, tent it loosely with foil, uncovering it just at the

last to get it back to crunchy-crisp.

Jambon Persillé

from Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter by Weinstein and Scarbrough

Traditional preparations often include garlic with the parsley. However, we feel its spike can be excessive, so we've used only a little bit as well as some shallots here, a softer hint with the ham and parsley. Be sure to mince that garlic into very fine bits so no one takes an unexpected hit.

4 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, plus a little more if necessary

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons stemmed thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about one and a half l/4 oz. Packets)

2 T water

1 ½ cups packed parsley leaves, minced

3 medium shallots, minced

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1 ½ pounds not-smoked, wet-cured ham, such as jambon de Paris, diced

  1. Bring the broth, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, cloves, and bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook very slowly for 35 minutes.

  2. Uncover and continue cooking over a very low temperature for 10 minutes.

  3. While the broth cooks, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and set aside to soften for 5 minutes.

  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cool for a few minutes, and then strain the broth into a medium bowl, discarding all those solids. You should end up with 3 cups of liquid. If not, add a little more broth, just until you have the right amount.

  5. Stir the softened gelatin and any residual water into the broth until the gelatin dissolves, then set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the parsley, shallots, and garlic in a small bowl.

  6. Make alternating layers of the ham pieces and the parsley mixture in a 6-cup loaf or paté pan.

  7. Gently pour the broth mixture over the ham pieces. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, until the gelatin has set up the broth—but cover after a couple hours, once the mixture is chilled. If there's extra gelatinized broth left over, save it back in the freezer, adding it in dribs and drabs for extra richness to your next pots of soup.

  8. To unmold, fill a large bowl with warm (not hot) water. Run a thin knife around the inner perimeter of the terrine or pan, then very briefly dip the mold into the hot water, just so it comes about three-quarters of the way up the side. Don't dip longer than a few seconds or the gelatin will start to melt! Turn upside down onto a serving platter, unmold (shake free if necessary), and serve slices with grainy, spicy mustard on the side.


  1. Wow. I'm so glad you like the book. It was a labor of love. And I'm still walking off the recipe testing.

  2. THANKS, MARK! I have really enjoyed this book...Thank you both for putting such a great effort into something we can all enjoy!
    I have a feeling I'm going to have to do more than walk off these ham pounds! I'm packing quite a hindquarter on both sides!

  3. Wow, looks so perfect. I've only recently been into cooking and I'm just learning. Maybe I should get myself a good set of books about food and cooking huh? :)

  4. Hey Amy...between the great books and all the wonderful food related TV shows, it's been a lot easier for me to learn how to do some of these things! Nothing takes the place of just jumping in and doing! Good luck!