Friday, December 30, 2011

Hat-trick ham

Pop quiz: What’s the best thing about Christmas ham? Post-Christmas ham. I’m talking about deja food: leftover ham, the versatile ingredient that has sustained our household this week. We have been all but intubated with ham, and yet never over-hammed as our consumption had many forms. The first incarnation:
Open-faced ham, cheddar, and mustard sandwiches. I’ve been thinking a lot about our time in Vienna, mostly because it was over NYE in 2008 and two friends have recently visited the old-world city. This salty, perfectly textured sandwich is an homage to that Austrian adventure—and an easier nod to accomplish than homemade doner kebab.
When separated from my broiler, I had ham straight up, salad style. Paired with marinated white beans, cubed cheese, and fresh greens, the ham provided a fantastic, filling lunch at work.

I know it seems like I’m writing a blog about how to use leftover ham in SHOCK! sandwiches and WOW! salads, but I’m not. I’m writing about how to use leftover ham in soup. I couldn’t get my hands on the coveted hambone, but I was still dying to make some soup. (Those of you wondering why my “I’m trying to like soup” attitude has changed to “Yeah! Soup!” should know: I got an immersion blender last week.)
Chicago is under heavy fog and drizzle today, and soup seemed to be the best course of action. This sweet potato and leek soup with ham smells as good as it tastes. The rich orange broth studded with chunks of meat is sweet and peppery, with a little kick from fresh dill. And it is so satisfying to blend with the handheld. Like cutting through butter with a light-saber... or whatever.

It’s like living in the future. Next stop: jetpacks.

Sweet potato leek soup with ham

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups cooked ham
2 cups leeks (from two short leeks)
2 ½ cups sweet potato (one real big sweet potato)
6 cups water
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill

In a heavy pan or Dutch oven, brown ham in olive oil. Remove to a plate and add rinsed sliced leeks. Deglaze with water and put on the lid so the leeks don’t burn. When the leeks are wilty and tender add cubed sweet potato, a few cranks of black pepper, and water. (I threw in some of the fattier ham pieces so they’d melt into the soup and flavor the broth.) Bring soup to a boil then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until sweet potatoes are cooked through and soft. Turn off heat and blend using your new immersion blender(!). Season to taste with salt (½ teaspoon-ish), pepper then add the ham back in along with chopped fresh dill. Turn the heat back on and simmer for a few more minutes while you make cheddar toasts for dipping (bread, cheese, broiler). 

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