Autumn’s holiday of gratitude focuses on turkey for the big feast, and in spring, menus often turn to savory sweet ham for celebrations. Whether or not you celebrate Easter, ham is delicious not only as an easy main course for dinner, but also as a great addition to breakfast and lunch—and any leftovers come in quite handy.
For the feast: Since most ham is precooked and cured, you are merely heating it up, so it is super easy to prepare. Fully cooked, as noted on the label, can be served cold or after warming in the oven, which takes about 15 to 18 minutes per pound.
How much will you need? When buying ham to serve as the main course, plan on 8 to 12 ounces per serving for bone-in and 7 to 10 ounces for boneless. A whole bone-in ham should typically feed at least 20 people and a half ham should feed 10 people. If you want to have leftovers—to add to egg dishes, sandwiches or pasta—you could plan on a bit more per person, perhaps up to a pound.
The meat is as beneficial to your health as it is easy to prepare. Ham is rich in protein and contains essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, and riboflavin—and it is generally low in fat, too.
Whether you have leftovers from dinner or pick up ham from the deli, a Croque Madame is a great way to use it. Imagine the perfect, over-the-top grilled cheese sandwich, and you have the Croque Madame, says Twin Cities chef and cooking instructor Jason Ross, whose following recipe appeared Real Food. Use béchamel to hold the sandwich together along with the best alpine-style cheese you can find. Add a few slices of ham. And top it all off with a golden fried egg for the ultimate brunch indulgence. C’est magnifique!
Makes 6 servings
4 tablespoons butter
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
small pinch nutmeg
salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
12 slices white bread
11⁄4 to 11⁄2 pounds grated Gruyère or other melting cheese
6 slices ham large enough to cover bread
1. For the béchamel: Melt butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add flour and whisk 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth but not browned. Slowly whisk in milk.
2. Cook 15 to 30 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sauce is thickened and coats a spoon well, taking care not to let it scorch.
3. Add nutmeg as well as salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. Cool and refrigerate up to 1 week.
4. Preheat oven to 425°F. In warming oven, lightly toast bread to dry out without browning, flipping to dry both sides. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Spread béchamel onto both sides of bread. Sprinkle roughly 1⁄3 of cheese on top. Place ham on top and sprinkle on another 1⁄3 of cheese. Top with remaining bread. Coat top of sandwich with béchamel again. Sprinkle on last of cheese. Sandwiches can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
6. Transfer to a tray lined with parchment or wax paper and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until cheese and béchamel are fully melted, hot, and dark golden brown.
7. When nearly done, heat a sauté pan with butter and cook 6 sunny-side-up eggs seasoned with salt and black pepper. Top finished sandwiches with eggs. Serve with a fork and steak knife as this hot sandwich is not easy to handle.
Nutrition info Croque Madame (per serving): Calories 863 (490 from fat); Fat 55g (sat. 30g); Chol 350mg; Sodium 1303mg; Carb 38g; Fiber 2g; Protein 51g
Hungry for More? Check out these other recipes perfect for leftover ham:
Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, Ham, and Cheese
Ham and Parsley Risotto
Grilled Ham, Onion and Cheddar Sandwiches
Ham and Swiss Dutch Pancake
Grilled Ham and Gruyère with Sautéed Mushrooms Sandwich
Thirsty for More? Click here for tips on ham and wine pairing.