A delicious D’Artagnan Heritage ham, from a pig raised organically at the foothills of the Ozark mountains, has been feeding my family since New Years Day, when it generously served twelve, including a few very tall men. Since then our ham has been the inspiration for at least four – if not five – family meals. Today I made a ham version of hoirino me selino, a Greek pork and celery stew finished with the egg and lemon mixture that makes Avgolemono so lemony and luxurious.
I didn’t think I liked ham; I stopped eating the grocery store stuff long ago because is seemed to be nothing more than a fleshy load of calories, just a benign but fattening platform for mayonnaise in a sandwich or pineapple in a glaze.
Our ham is different. To include even a modest amount of our D’Artagnan ham in a dish means to almost dangerously ramp up the flavor, adding a woodsy, nutty, sweet taste so bold it could use a leash.
Our ham’s palette ranges from pale pink to ruby red, meaning the pig moved in its life; it walked, rummaged, rolled, and rooted, therefore producing myoglobin in its muscles, which makes meat dark. Experts stake happy nutritional claims on organically raised, additive-free pigs, claims like the meat is as good as olive oil at raising good cholesterol levels and lowering bad. Like humanely raised, well-fed pork has plenty of omega 3‘s. Like pigs that can move freely have leaner meat. (My ham is lean; there’s almost no fat to trim, and there’s no almost fat left in the pan after it’s browned.)
My daughter said the other day, finishing a dinner of ham sauteed with broccoli over quinoa, “I love our pig.”
A well raised Heritage breed ham, although a little pricey, is still a great economic and nutritional purchase for a family. It promises many quick, healthy dinners, flavor unleashed.
For a great book about everything pig, read “Pig Perfect, encounters with remarkable swine and some great ways to cook them,” by Peter Kaminsky.
For another great dish to make with your ham try this.
Hoirino me Selino
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 – 3 cups chopped ham
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 leeks, quartered and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt (to taste, but be careful; you’re ham may be salty enough)
pepper (be generous)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat a large skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and butter. Let heat, and add ham. Cook and toss until ham is browned. Remove from pan to a bowl or plate.
Add onion and leeks to pan, adding more butter if the pan is too dry. Lower heat to medium, and saute onion and leek until soft, about five minutes. Sprinkle in flour, and stir well. Add chicken broth and celery, and simmer for ten minutes.
Stir ham back into dish, and simmer for another 3-5 minutes.
Beat eggs in a small bowl, and add lemon juice. Pour a small amount of egg mixture into the ham, and stir in quickly. On low heat, add the remaining egg, and stir well.
Add parsley, red pepper flakes and taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot over white or brown rice.