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What ham!

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I prepare certain foods just once a year. Corned beef and cabbage find their way to our table on St. Patrick’s Day. Roast duck is a delicious and necessary comfort each December, especially enjoyed by a roaring fire.

I always make a ham during the depths of winter. The price is right and you have all those marvelous leftovers. What to do with the leftovers is sometimes mind-boggling; there are just so many ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches and chef salads we can bear.

For the past few years, I have purchased a spiral sliced ham because it makes for easy carving. Smithfield and Hatfield are the brands I like best but, several weeks ago when the urge to bake a ham came over me, I visited two Pathmark stores and could not find them. While shopping at the Oregon Avenue Pathmark, a woman in the meat department advised I try Pathmark-brand spiral sliced ham. An 8-pound ham went into my shopping cart.

I served it with buttered cabbage and old-fashioned saut�ed potatoes. The ham was delicious and not a bit salty. Because it was spiral-sliced, I ended up with a big meaty bone ready for the soup pot. The next morning, Edward and I enjoyed ham and eggs for breakfast.

Split-pea soup tastes better when a smoky ham bone is added to the pot. Just follow the directions on the 1-pound bag of split peas and you will end up with a hearty soup. Keep frozen pie shells in the freezer and you can whip up a ham quiche in about 45 minutes. Invite friends in for brunch and serve them saut�ed crabmeat on warm slices of ham.

Tiny squares of cooked ham can be added to scrambled eggs and take on a delicious combination of flavors when used in preparing braised leeks. Leftover ham is always good in casseroles such as macaroni and cheese and layered dishes.

Some friends of ours have difficulty making fluffy scrambled eggs. This may sound simple, but there are a few tricks in making perfect scrambled eggs. I always use jumbo brown eggs, two to a person. If using large or extra-large eggs, count at least three to a person.

Here are some of my favorite leftover-ham recipes.

Split-Pea Soup

Ingredients:

1 meaty ham bone
1 (16-ounce) package green split peas
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the ham bone, split peas and stock in a large, deep soup pot. Stir to blend the peas evenly in the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally and pulling the ham from the bone from time to time as the soup cooks.

Check to see if the peas have melted. If not, simmer for another 15-30 minutes. Sometimes split peas do not melt to a creamy consistency. The solution is to carefully puree the beans in a blender or food processor. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste when ready to serve.

Serves four to six.

Ham and Cheese Quiche

Ingredients:

1 frozen pie shell, thawed according to package directions
1 good-sized slice cooked ham, cut into small dice
6 large eggs
2 cups shredded Swiss, cheddar, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
2 cups cream or half-and-half

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the thawed pie shell on a cookie sheet. Scatter the diced ham evenly on the bottom of the pie shell. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a wire whip. Add the cheese and cream or half-and-half and whip the mixture.

Pour the mixture carefully into the pie shell. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the custard is set. Allow quiche to stand for five-10 minutes before slicing.

Serves four to six.

Ham and Potatoes au Gratin

Ingredients:

1 quart heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 slices cooked ham, cut into small chunks
2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the cream with the salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce has been reduced by about one-third. This should take about 10 minutes.

Spray a 2-1/2-quart casserole with vegetable spray. Layer half of the ham cubes in the baking dish. Place half of the potato slices on top of the ham. Pour half of the heavy cream evenly over the potatoes. Repeat the layers one more time. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the potatoes.

Place the casserole in the oven and bake for one hour, or until the potatoes are fork-tender and the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Serves six.

Braised Leeks with Ham

Ingredients:

8 large leeks
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or enough to cover just the leeks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 thin slices cooked ham
1 cup grated cheddar
4 tablespoons sweet butter, cut into pieces

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Trim the leeks and slice off the stiff green leaves. Slice the leeks lengthwise and run under cold water to rid them of any dirt.

Place the leeks in a pan wide enough to hold them flat in layers. Pour on the stock and add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the stock to a boil, lower the heat to medium-high and cook for 20 minutes.

Spray a baking dish large enough to hold the leeks with vegetable spray. Place the leeks in the pan and pour the stock over them. Arrange the ham slices on the leeks. Sprinkle on the grated cheese and dot with butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until the leeks are slightly golden-brown and the sauce has nearly evaporated.

Serves four to six.

Scrambled Eggs with Ham

Ingredients:

4 jumbo eggs
1-1/2 tablespoons sweet butter
About 3/4 cup ham cut into tiny dice, at room temperature

Directions:

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whip them very well, until almost frothy, with a wire whip. Melt the butter over high heat in a heavy non-stick 10-inch frying pan. Pour in the eggs. Once they set a little around the edges, scatter the ham evenly over the eggs.

Reduce the heat to medium and, using a plastic spoon or spatula, move the eggs to the center of the pan. Keep scrambling them around until the eggs are fluffy. Serve immediately.

Serves two.

Note from Phyllis: It took a friend of mine several tries before she got the eggs scrambled just right. Every stove is different. An electric burner retains heat once it is lowered or even turned off. It is essential to really whip the Dickens out of the eggs to get them to fluff up. It is also essential to melt the butter to almost sizzling, being careful not to burn it. The eggs must go into a really hot pan. My husband came up with the idea of warming the plates in the microwave so the eggs stayed hot. I forgot to bring the ham to room temperature, so I set the diced ham on a plate and microwaved them for about 15-30 seconds.

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