The executive chef of dine by Peter Gordon at SkyCity answers your cuisine questions.
For special occasions we have often glazed and baked a small ham, what is described as a "Baby Bordeaux" ham. What does that mean? Pigs are much leaner these days. Up to a point that is a good thing, but these hams have very little fat, a serious disadvantage when it comes to baking one as that fat is needed (and indeed contributes to the flavour). I suspect that there is no complete answer to this, but have you any suggestions?
- Paul Berks
A Baby Bordeaux ham generally comes from the shoulder, while a regular ham comes from the legs. Because shoulders are much smaller than legs, it is therefore possible to have a manageable sized whole joint on the bone that looks like a ham, which of course it is, rather than have a gigantic Fred Flintstone-looking joint with so much meat on it that you're wondering how many more pasta bakes and bread rolls you'll need to eat in order to use up all the excess meat. However, because the shoulder is far more muscly than the legs, they can also be a little tougher, and also less fatty. They'll still be tasty, of course,but fat is flavour and we all want lots of that.
So, to answer your question, if you want more fat then you'll possibly need to head back to a champagne ham. You can buy half hams, some with the shank bone left in, so you could still have a lovely looking joint on your table to carve which may offer all the things you're after. You could also add some fat to the ham when you're cooking it by laying fatty unsmoked bacon across it before glazing, although of course it could look a little odd as the bacon shrinks and your glaze looks the worse for wear. In Italy they have the perfect solution and it's called, rather aptly, lardo. It's cured pork fatback flavoured with rosemary, fennel seeds and other spices (and we think rosemary is just for lamb). The most famous lardo comes from a small village in Tuscany called Colonnata which has been making this speciality since Roman times. Strange as it may seem, this cured fat is served thinly sliced as part of an antipasti, and while the thought of cured herb-infused fat may not make you feel particularly hungry, I can assure you it's quite delicious.
And then, what to do when you have a lot of ham left over? Some suggestions would be:
* For breakfast or brunch - cut into 1cm cubes and fry with lots of sliced garlic and flat parsley leaves till almost crispy. Tip into a bowl and add beaten eggs and snipped chives. Pour into a pan with a few millimetres of olive oil and cook like a Spanish tortilla. Add some grated cheddar type cheese and grill until golden and bubbling. Serve with buttered toast.
* For lunch - shred thinly sliced ham and toss with fettuccine, blanched peas and grated parmesan and top with basil pesto.
* For dinner - layer sliced ham with grilled eggplant, sliced boiled potatoes and lots of chopped parsley and spring onions. Pour on a spicy tomato sauce (chunky home-made is best) and then a thin layer of cheese bechamel sauce and bake till golden.
* For supper - pulse it in a food processor to a coarse crumb and mix into left-over mashed potatoes, beaten egg, breadcrumbs and grain mustard. Roll into patties and dust in flour then chill in the fridge for an hour or more to firm up, before frying in butter or olive oil and eating like "ham" burgers in toasted sesame buns with salad.
* To ask Peter a question, click on the Email Peter link below.