Winner, winner, chicken — well, ham — dinner

August 7, 2015

Similar to above illustration, which I stole from the web.

Similar to above illustration, which I stole from the web.

Well, I’m excited.

My recipe for ham croquettes has won a spot in the Petit Jean 7-Day Ham Plan. More importantly, it has won me a half-ham, spiral sliced, which will be arriving next week.

Yay, me!

I think it likely that baby will go in the freezer until Christmas. Maybe instead of Christmas dinner, we’ll do a Christmas brunch this year. I swore I wouldn’t bother buying a cheap ham again after my last experience, and now I’m spared the potential of forgetting that.

I entered the contest on a lark; saw it in an email from Petit Jean, and figured I’d give it a whirl. So I sent in the ham croquettes recipe, as well as the recipe for deviled ham and egg salad. That one didn’t make the cut, but this one did.

I’ve actually had fairly good luck in winning recipe contests. I’ve won collections of kitchen gadgetry from Food 52 on two or three separate occasions — once for French toast, once for fig and olive tapenade, and I think once more, but I can’t remember what for; and a couple of nice baking dishes from Whole Foods when they were having their regular contests. Once of those is a super nice Le Creuset baker, and I use it a good deal.

I’ve also won stuff from PJM before, but just from having my response come up in a random drawing. Doesn’t matter to me how I win; I’ll take anything those people want to send me, because it’s ALL good.

For those of you who are not Arkansans or who may not be familiar with Petit Jean Meats, they’re a small, local packing company in Morrilton, Arkansas, specializing in hams, bacon, sausage and the like. They also do a mean pastrami, turkey, the best bologna going, and sell all sorts of accompaniments to the meat. Their products are uniformly excellent, and I encourage any of you who have not, to try them. You can order through their website, here. They’re a little on the pricy side; they’re worth it. Their bacon is better than anyone else’s on the market today, with the possible exception of Benton’s and Wright’s. Their ham is just pretty spectacular — not filled with water like so many packing house hams. Get you some.

I ran a quick search through my blog and it appears I never blogged the ham croquettes; I guess they came during one of the periods I was on sabbatical. The basic recipe comes from the “Two Guys From Miami” website for Cuban food, but I’ve adapted it for my tastes. It makes a boatload of croquettes; the good news is, they freeze well, and you can pull two or three or four at a time from the freezer and cook them as you want them.

Ham Croquettes

  • 1 pound cooked Petit Jean ham
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry

In the butter in a saucepan, saute the onion until it’s translucent. Whisk in the flour, and when it starts to smell nutty, add the milk, whisking until smooth. Cook until the white sauce is thick, and whisk in the nutmeg, oregano and cayenne. Remove from heat and add the ham, bread crumbs and sherry. Mix thoroughly, taste to see if it needs salt or pepper, and refrigerate until cold.

While it’s chilling, make up the coating:

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper

In another bowl, mix 1 egg with 1/4 cup milk.

When ham mixture is cold, form croquettes. Mixture needs to stay cold, so work with just half of it at a time. The traditional shape is sort of oval, or cigar shaped, about 2-3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I prefer mine in patties. Your mileage may vary; shape ’em how you like ’em. Dip the formed croquette in the egg wash and dredge in the crumbs; repeat. Set them on a waxed-paper-lined plate and return to the refrigerator.

This is the point at which the croquettes can be frozen. I put them on waxed paper, stacked about three wide by three deep by two high, waxed paper on the bottom, between the layers, and on top, and put them in a gallon plastic bag. As long as they’re separated, they’re fine. If you’re going to keep them frozen for very long (more than three months), I’d take the frozen ones out after a day or two, rewrap in waxed paper and then vacuum seal in meal-sized portions.

To fry, either fresh or from frozen, heat about 1/4 inch of canola or other neutral oil in a skillet. Fry croquettes about 4-5 minutes on a side, until golden brown. Drain on a rack covered with paper towels and serve immediately.

This is a particularly good way to use up the ham that’s out of the reach of the spiral slicer, and is more than you want to leave on the bone for use in beans. You can also use some of the smaller slices from down toward the shank end of the ham. A Cuban dinner with these would feature black beans and rice, with fried plantains, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, but I like them with some kind of tart/sweet salad and maybe a creamy starch of some description.

You can serve them with any sauce you like, although I’m partial to Comeback Sauce. They’d be good with a dab of jam or preserves for breakfast, particularly with an over-easy egg and a biscuit alongside. You could make them smaller and thinner and they’d make a good sandwich on a biscuit, in fact. H’mm. Have to try that.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get on the interwebs and order you some Petit Jean ham (or go to the grocery and buy it, if you live within its distribution area). And after you’re through enjoying baked ham and ham ‘n eggs and ham biscuits,  make you a bunch of these little sweethearts and stick them in your freezer. You’ll thank me when you need a quick meal.


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