What’s Cooking

It seems that now matter the size of the ham or the size of the crowd around the table there are always leftovers. And there are always lots of recipes for left over ham besides thick cut sandwiches. I found this one from the leftovers from our New Year’s Day dinner. A warming soup just right for a grey, cold, and dismal day.

Ham and Potato Soup
From Chef John at Food Wishes
Servings: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 cups smoked ham, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth (preferably unsalted)
2 cups of water
1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped chives (optional)

Melt butter over medium high heat in a stockpot or dutch oven.
When it becomes golden brown stir in the carrot, onion, celery, ham and garlic; cook and stir for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables are soften and the onions are translucent
Stir in flour; cook for about 3 minutes to get rid of the raw taste.
Stir in the chicken stock 1 cup at a time stirring well after each addition.
Add water and stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer on high heat; Simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Taste the soup for salt and add more if necessary.*
Stir in potatoes; cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
With a potato masher, mash the soup seven or eight times to break up a few of the potatoes and release the starch. This will thicken the soup.
Season with salt and pepper to taste; add the cayenne if using.
Add the cream and stir to combine.
Serve garnished with chives if using.

*Notice that salt is not added until this point as ham can be very salty so it is best to wait to see if it is needed.

Though I am still not eating solids Laurent has been my official taster for spicing etc as well as the guinea pig for new recipes. He assures me that without bias it is very good.

The word for January 3rd is:
Bias bī′əs: [noun]
1.1 A line going diagonally across the grain of fabric.
1.2 preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.
1.3 An unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice.
French biais, slant, from Provençal, perhaps ultimately from Greek epikarsios, slanted.

Porcine Pleasure – For Dora

Some of you may recall that last year when I went to Parma my friend Dora was mildly obsessed with one on the town’s most famous products: Ham. And frankly there’s no way of getting away from it when you hit town. Specialty shops display it proudly in windows and restaurants, trattorias and Osterias feature it on menus – in fact Saturday night I had prosciutto and melon as an antipasti followed by ham and Parmesan crepes. But then if you have a good thing I suppose the thing to do is flaunt it.Hanging HamsAnd of course the best of the best is culatello – that king of cured hams that I found so irresistible last year.

Once the skin and bone have been removed, the top part of the hind leg (with the lower part “Fiochetto” is produced) is salted still “warm”, that is, right after slaughtering, and trussed with a spiral of string to give it the characteristic pear shape. Stored away, the Culatello is then massaged a few days later to aid salt penetration. It is given another period of rest in a cool room, and then the Culatello, until now still “naked”, is enveloped in a pig bladder, which has been washed and dried, and tightly bound with string.

After all this manipulation, the Culatello is given needed rest in cellars with constant temperature and humidity for not less than 12 months; then it is “kept” in cool, humid underground rooms. Once matured, it can weigh from 3 to 5 kilos* with its
typical solid pear shape.

From G. TRANI: Elogio del Culatello. Il salume dei re tra storia,
letteratura e gastronomia. Bologna, Grafis, 1992.

A plate of porcine heavenNot more than an hour after arriving in Parma I headed over to a small piazza off Strada Garibaldi to see if they had set up the VerdiTaste tent this year. It was there but on a smaller scale and though the atmosphere was not as welcoming as last year the goodies on offer where. I just had to order a plate of the good stuff with some nicely aged Parmesan cheese, a few chunks of rustic bread and a glass of slightly effervescent Malvasia white. And I just want Dora to know I did it for her! That’s what good friends do.Salami arbour

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this young lady and her mother as they enjoyed their plates of ham and cheese surrounded by an arbour of porcine products.

* A 4 kilo culatello is selling for approximately Euro 315.00 (CAD 479.00 USD 403.00)- cheap at half the price!!!!!

08 novembre – Santi Quattro coronati

Here’s the Damned Ham!

Pig ProductsIn that gentile lady-like manner of hers, Doralong (What Would Jackie Wear) has been asking about Parma Ham. Myself I find this obsession with porcine flesh a trifle… well unnatural but who am I to judge. But she’s right you can’t go to Parma and not think of ham.

The centre of Parma is an area for pedestrians and bicyclists and after a long walk around the historic centre I was building up an appetite. I contemplated one of the ristorante in the Piazza in front of the Town Hall but it just seemed so “touristy” – I can be a real snob that way. I headed down a small alley and in a piazza off the Strada Garibaldi came across a tent offering “VerdiTaste.” I’d noticed that, unlike their counterparts in Salzburg with Mozart, merchants in Parma were marketing the Verdi Festival in a tasteful way – posters, costumes from previous productions, books, scores. There wasn’t a single “‘Joe Green Reigns In Parma” t-shirt in sight.A Taste of Verdi And here was this place offering things like the “Aida” or “Otello” platter however the displays of ham, sausage, cheese wheels and chestnuts (its chestnut season here) were so damned appealing – and the guy slicing the meat (you should excuse the expression) was cute – hey I’m old and married not dead and buried!

So I ordered the “Aida” (culatello, dried garlic sausage, a large piece of well-aged Parmesan and fresh bread) and a glass of a local red, grabbed a stool at a bar style round table and tucked in.

Let me tell you about culatello or rather click on the link where it is better explained than I every could. But what I will tell you is that it is the best ham I have ever eaten in my life. It seemed to literally melt away with a lovely salty-sweet after taste. With the aged cheese, garlicy sausage and rough but pleasant local wine it was a more than satisfying lunch.

Nonna at the BarThe tent (turns out its a family run operation in town – they set up there for the Festival) started to fill up with both tourists and locals – a few taking away orders of culatello at EU 54 a kilo. I ordered a second glass of wine from the striking looking Nonna of the family – one of those woman who has gotten more beautiful as she’s aged. I noticed as well as waiting on tables and tending bar Nonna was not beyond having a little nip every once and a while just to make sure the bottle she had just opened was a good one.
The whole atmosphere was festive (Nabucco playing in the background), rustic (the tent, wooden floor, bar seating) and sophisticated (products beautifully displayed, greenery and the Teatro Reggio backdrop.) It was completely in the spirit of Parma celebrating Verdi. And it totally spoiled me for any other type of ham!

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