Sunday, April 01, 2012

Fresh Ham with Cracklings and Pan Gravy (Page 496)

RECIPE #1290

  • Date: Saturday, December 31, 2011 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave, Karen H, Brad, Deniz, Wes, Lorna, Eddie, Evelyn, and Jinx
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I would have made this recipe long ago, as it sounded AWESOME, but I had some trouble finding fresh ham. Fresh ham is an uncured bone-in leg of pork. So it is the cut of meat that ham is made from, but unlike ham it is not cured. This recipe called for an 8-10 pound fresh ham (shank-end leg of pork with skin on). I started keeping my eyes open for this cut of meat a year or two ago, but I never came across one. And sadly the local butcher shop wouldn't order it for me. My usual online meat purveyor doesn't carry this cut either. Eventually I found a place online that sold them. The choices: an 11 pound ham, or a 22 pound ham. Clearly 11 pounds seemed like the way to go for this recipe. It arrived just before Christmas, and I put it in the freezer and then transported it frozen to my in-laws' house in Ohio. I planned to make this for dinner a few days after Christmas and I let it thaw in the refrigerator for an appropriate number of days to thaw an 11-pound piece of meat. It was only when I took it out of the fridge to cook it that I realized that although I had ordered an 11-pound piece of meat, and paid for an 11-pound piece of meat, they had sent me an 18-pound piece of meat. Probably I should have noticed that early (it did seem pretty heavy!) but I did not. So not only was it still partially frozen, but I didn't have nearly enough time before dinner to cook it. So I braised some beef for dinner that night instead, and this piece of meat got rescheduled for New Year's Eve dinner. By then the meat was thawed and I started cooking it early in the day!

On New Year's Eve, I started by pricking the skin and then scoring the skin down the entire length of the ham. I rubbed the ham with oil, salt, thyme, sage, pepper, and dry mustard. I roasted the ham for a while, then poured a half a bottle of beer over it. I roasted it some more, then poured more beer on it. I continued to roast it until it reached about 155 degrees. When I took it out of the oven it looked like this:

I pulled the crispy skin off the pork and cut it into pieces. Then I seasoned the cracklings with salt and baked them some more until they were super crispy! Meanwhile, I made gravy from the pan juices, using flour, beef stock, mustard, sage, thyme, sugar, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. I trimmed the fat off the ham and sliced it. I then served it with the gravy and the cracklings.

This pork was tasty. The meat was moist and flavorful, and the gravy complemented it very well. The cracklings were the star of the dish (or at least they were the aspect of the dish that my brother-in-law Wes went on and on about during dinner!). My special gentleman has a name for items like this: fatty, crispy, flavorful nuggets, often coming from the skin of some kind of animal. He calls them super bacon. This was super bacon to the extreme. The skin was extremely crispy and intensely flavorful. It was not a light snack, and I could only eat a few small pieces of it, but several people at the table were really chowing down on the cracklings. They were something pretty special. Overall this was a nice pork preparation, and a fun way to prepare and serve an unusual cut of pork.

The recipe is here.

Only 3 recipes left to go!

This was the last recipe in the Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb section of The Book! With 126 recipes in it, this was the second longest section. There were many amazing recipes in this section, so it is hard to narrow it down to just 5. But in no particular order, here are my 5 favorites:
  • Georgian Pork Stew -- I love braised meat (love it!) and braised pork may well be my favorite. So it's no surprise that I was completely taken by this stew, which melded braised pork with fantastic flavors from spices such as fenugreek, savory, turmeric, coriander, etc... Yum!!
  • Lamb Chops with Mustard Sauce and Fried Capers -- Just this afternoon I was at the butcher shop and the person in front of me was buying lamb chops. I thought longingly of this recipe and considered ditching my previous plans and buying some lamb chops for myself too! The lamb chops in this recipe were cooked perfectly and the sauce was crazy delicious. The fried capers added a perfect little crunch and brine.
  • Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans -- This recipe might well make my top 10 list for the entire book! These lamb shanks braised in red wine were absolutely perfect, and the white beans were incredibly tasty. I originally made this for just Chris and my special gentleman when we were living in Berkeley, but last Easter I used this recipe to braise lamb shanks for about 20 people and they were enjoyed by all.
  • Salt-Fried Rib-Eye Steak -- I have very fond memories of the first time we made this. It was when I lived in Bloomington, Indiana. The apartment completely filled with smoke and we feared that our dinner was ruined. But that's just the way it goes with this recipe. It produces an incredible amount of smoke and the steak comes out perfect! Totally worth it!
  • Chinese-Hawaiian "Barbequed" Ribs -- I made these ribs in Boston one summer evening, for dinner with Mike, Rach, and my special gentleman. The ribs came out tender and delicious and drenched in an incredibly tasty sauce. We sat around the table, laughing and licking our fingers. It was a lovely evening with tasty food!
I am sad to see this section go. It was so fun eating all of this meat! I was a vegetarian for 10 years and now I look back on it and wonder how I did it. I love meat! I was eating my lunch during my office hours one day last week and one of my students asked me if I am vegetarian (because my lunch had tofu in it). I laughed out loud (and then felt bad because she actually is vegetarian). But I truly can't imagine being a vegetarian again.

Well, this is the 19th section that I have finished from The Book. I only have 2 sections (3 recipes!) left to go! I am happy to announce that I now have a plan for finishing this project. It's true, I have been moving at a snail's pace on these last few recipes. Partly it has been because I have been busy. But much more than that, it was just not knowing the right way to mark the end of the project. It seemed sad just to finish it off by eating the last few recipes at home with only my special gentleman. In the end I decided to plan a celebration! So, I am cooking the last three recipes next weekend. Some special guests (including Chris, Mike, Paul, Dave, Karen, Brad, Deniz, Hannah, Mike M, Teresa, and Sami) are traveling to East Lansing to be a part of the festivities. We are going to smoke bacon and stuff turkey with turkey. Then on Easter we will eat the last three recipes (and a bunch of other food!) joined by some friends of ours from East Lansing. I am very excited! I am sure the weekend will be chaotic and fun, which seems like an appropriate way to finish off this project, which has been such a part of my life for so many years. I am so glad that some of our friends are able to travel to Michigan to be here for the end of the project. I am honored and delighted!


kingshearte said...

People have occasionally asked me if I'm vegetarian, and it always makes me laugh, because I am not a vegetarian, have never been a vegetarian, and short of some kind of meat-animal-obliterating disaster, don't expect to ever be a vegetarian. I guess I just give off a veggie vibe of something?

In any case, congrats on the approaching end of this project! I'm very happy for you, even though I'll be sad to see it go. I hope your Easter dinner goes smoothly and everything is delicious.

Teena said...

Thanks! Yes, I think I give off that veggie vibe too, but it may just be because I eat a lot tofu, which maybe isn't too common among meat-eaters!