Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Frugal Low Carber: One ham, six recipes

We're in the fall stretch, and with fall comes hams on sale at the grocery store.  I can get them as low as 77 cents a pound.  We're talking normal Kroger Cook's brand shank or butt portions, bone in (because I do not buy boneless or rolled or other sham ham).  I don't give a ham salad recipe because I don't like ham salad!

Recipe 1:  Basic Crockpot Ham

Start with one cheap bone-in ham that will fit in, but pretty snugly, your crockpot.  You also need one bottle or can of hard cider, such as Woodchuck or Strongbow or whatever.  Yes, the cider has some carbs.  Trust me, what you're going to consume will be negligible at any given time.

Wedge the ham into the crockpot.  Pour the cider around the ham.  Cover tightly.  Cook on low for anywhere from six to eight hours, depending on whether you want to be able to slice the ham or whether you like it to fall apart in chunks like I do.

Remove the ham from the crockpot and save the liquid.  This is the most incredible ham stock ever and we're going to use it.  Pour the stock hot into a bowl or Tupperware container and chill.  Use the ham stock for making greens (below) or in soups, stews, beans, etc.  The layer of fat that forms and hardens on top of the stock can be used just like bacon grease.  Don't waste it.  You can also freeze the stock (fat layer removed) for later use.

Pick over the ham.  If you have a use for the chunks of ham fat and/or skin, by all means, keep them.  You now have extremely tasty, tender ham that's ready to serve.

Note to pet owners:  Please don't give ham or any of its byproducts such as fat, skin, or cooked bones to your pets.  The bones will be brittle and easy to splinter.  The high fat content PLUS the sodium is a severe danger to your dogs or cats and can cause pancreatitis.  Please, please remember:  Animals are NOT geared to handle high sodium levels, particularly when coupled with fat.  Fat alone is fine for a healthy pet; fat plus sodium is very bad.  Please don't give your pets ham leftovers.

Recipe 2:  Heavenly Hammy Greens

You need:

2 bags collard, turnip or beet greens
1 onion, chopped
2T bacon grease or rendered fat from the ham stock bowl
1/3c ham stock
2T apple cider vinegar
1/4 - 1/2t crushed red pepper (optional)
1 packet Splenda (optional)
1/2t salt or to taste
Chopped ham to your preference

Melt the bacon grease or ham fat in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute until onions are translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.

Add greens in batches, tossing thoroughly with the bacon grease and adding more as they wilt down, until all are added.  Add ham stock, vinegar, red pepper, Splenda and salt. 

If using collard greens, add the ham to your desired degree of hamminess -- more for a main dish, less for a side, whatever.  Lower heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until greens are tender.  If using turnip, beet or other tender greens, add ham and simmer briefly, until greens are tender.  Remove from heat and pour off cooking liquid into a saucepan.  Place saucepan over medium high heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes.  Return to greens and ham.

Recipe 3:  Hammy Mac

You'll need:

4 packages shirataki macaroni (I use House Brand, but use the shirataki brand and shape of your choice, rinsed thoroughly and drained
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream plus more
2c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Additives of choice (see note)
2c or more chopped ham

Simmer shirataki in salted water for about 20 minutes to improve the texture (optional) and drain very thoroughly.  If possible, leave sitting in a colander for a half hour.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the cream cheese with 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream over medium low heat.  Add shredded cheddar cheese and whatever else you like in your mac and cheese -- I tend to add Old Bay seasoning or a little mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Let melt slowly, stirring occasionally, until cheese sauce is smooth.  Add ham and cheese sauce to macaroni, tossing to coat thoroughly, adding a little more cream if the sauce is too thick, but make this adjustment after adding shirataki in case they "sweat" liquid into your sauce.

If desired, this dish can be baked briefly with slivered almonds or pork rind crumbs on top.

Recipe 4:  Ham and Gruyere Crustless Quiche

This will make two quiches if you're using nonstick round cake pans like I do.  If you only want one, halve it.

You'll need:

1T bacon grease or rendered ham fat
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, thinly sliced
8 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
3c finely chopped ham
3c heavy cream
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste 

Melt the bacon grease or ham fat in a heavy skillet.  Saute the onions until they begin to brown.  Add leeks, saute briefly.  Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet tightly, and walk away from it for 20 minutes to let the leeks steam.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425.

Divide cheese and ham between two nonstick round cake pans (8 or 9-inch diameter doesn't really matter).  Whisk eggs and cream together in a bowl, adding salt and pepper, and divide egg mixture evenly between the two pans.  Divide the leek/onion mixture between the two pans.  Stir both pans to distribute ingredients evenly.

Bake the quiches at 425 for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300 and bake for 30 minutes, or until a a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with no liquid egg on it.  Let the quiches rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe 5:  Hammy Cabbage Skillet

You'll need:

1 head cabbage
3T bacon grease or ham grease
2T apple cider vinegar
1 packet Splenda
2c chopped ham
Salt and pepper to taste

Core the cabbage and cut it into bite-sized squares:  Cut into 1-inch-thick slabs, then cut the slabs into 1-inch pieces.

Melt the bacon grease over medium-high heat.  Add the cabbage and saute until the cabbage reaches the desired degree of crispness or tenderness (I like my cabbage with lots of crunch left).  Add remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly.  Serve hot with extra cider vinegar.

Recipe 6:  Open-Faced Hammy Melt Sandwiches

You'll need:

1 bun-sized Muffin In A Minute (see note), split and toasted
Ham, sliced or shredded
2 eggs
2 slices Swiss cheese
1c heavy whipping cream
4T mustard
1t Old Bay seasoning

Preheat the broiler.  Fry eggs separately, shaping the eggs as they fry so they will fit on the split muffin halves.  Place the toasted MIM halves on a small baking sheet.  Top each muffin half with sliced or shredded ham, a fried egg, and a slice of swiss cheese on top.

Make the sauce:  In a small saucepan, simmer the heavy whipping cream with the mustard and seasoning until it thickens slightly.

Put the pan with the muffin halves under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese to bubbling slightly.  Remove from oven and serve hot, spooning the mustard cream sauce over.

Note:  Muffin in a Minute recipes are many and varied.  The one I use for a sandwich bun is as follows:

1T butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/4c flaxmeal
1/2t baking powder
1/4t salt
1 packet Splenda

Mix in desired container -- I use a straight-sided bowl the size of a hamburger bun -- and microwave 1 minute on high.  Split and toast.

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