Tuesday, December 28, 2010

101 Things to Do with Leftover Christmas Ham

Okay, so I may not know of exactly 101 things to do with the 3 pounds of Virginia ham I have leftover from the holidays, but I'm on a mission to use every salty scrap - and no one in this family is going to eat another ham biscuit or ham roll to make it happen (especially not me since I'm back to wheat-free living after a gluten-ous holiday). So I'm still basking in the glow of what I threw together tonight: Risotto Milanese southern style. Heavenly, IMO.

What I love about risotto is that it is like a blank canvas - like pizza, when you use this method of cooking you can add whatever herbs, vegetables, meats, and cheeses you have on hand and it will probably be good as long as you don't add too many. And you can make it with whatever grain you have on hand. I have successfully made risotto with bulgar wheat, brown rice and the standard Arborio rice. The one challenge is that it demands attention, so having a two-year old running around is not always optimal... but slightly older kids can easily participate by stirring the rice constantly.

While the traditional Italian risotto Milanese is made with prosciutto, I made it using country ham. For those of you who haven't experienced a Virginia ham, this salt-cured specialty is a tradition dating back to early American colonialists. It's very salty and, unlike a honey-baked ham or others, I look at this ham as an accompaniment, not a main dish - a little goes a long way - very much like Italian prosciutto which is dry-cured. That's why it's perfect for this dish. Additionally, I threw in some peas to make this a complete meal, but it would make a rich side-dish for just about any meat.

Risotto Milanese Southern Style

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Large pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup chopped ham
1 cup Aborio or other short- or medium-grain rice
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups hot stock
1 T butter 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
1/2 cup cooked fresh peas

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high in a nonstick skillet. When oil is hot, add onion, ham and saffron, cooking until the onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Add the rice and cook until it's glossy and coated with oil, about a minute or two.
  3. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and let the liquid cook off.
  4. Add stock (I prefer chicken but you can use vegetable or beef) 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more stirring frequently. Be careful to keep the rice moist enough that it does not stick to the pan.
  5. Taste after about 20 minutes. When the rice is tender but is still slightly al dente, after 20-30 minutes, add peas with last 1/2 cup of stock and season with salt as needed. After most of the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and add one tablespoon of butter, pepper and cheese to taste. Serve immediately.

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