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Ham and potatoes dish perfect for football viewing

By Jeff Wilkin
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

People in the spiral ham business must love autumn and winter.

The precut hams often show up on holiday buffet tables. Although Christmas and New Year’s have passed, hams still come out of ovens — complete with spicy and sweet glazes. There will be gatherings to celebrate the National Football League’s championship games. Ski parties, the March college basketball tournament and Easter will be other times for spiral situations.

I don’t believe in throwing out food — I’m an advocate for leftovers — although the forgotten liverwurst recently discovered in the back of my refrigerator did have to go. But the spiral ham cooked for this past weekend’s football games will be seen and tasted in a variety of meals this week.

The ham specials are really simple things to do, and I’m much more comfortable working with spirals than I am with turkey. My grandfather used to be an expert with turkey leftovers, and removed just about everything edible in the white and dark varieties.

I’m not that good — and I always feel terrible when I see a relative’s hacked-up turkey just go into the garbage because turkey soup, salad and stews are not being considered. I would never cook a full turkey myself.

For leftover ham, all I need is a cutting board and a sharp knife. The custom-cut pieces are used for my stir-fry potato recipe, which is as simple as it gets. I use a Dutch oven, coat the bottom with olive oil, and chop up about 10 potatoes. I try to keep most of the skins on — food experts tell me most of the spuds’ nutrition is in the skin.

After 20 minutes in the Dutch on high heat, chopped green and red peppers, onions and celery go into the mix. I’m always moving the goods around with a wooden spatula, so nothing sticks or burns. And after about 10 or 12 minutes, the ham goes in — about 2 cups, diced. So do liberal splashes of herbs and spices. I turn the heat way down and let the foods and flavors merge for about 30 minutes. I’ve also cooked this in a deep-dish frying pan.

It’s a great side dish with scrambled eggs in the morning, but I’ve eaten this ham-and-taters special as a main dinner entree.

Warning — it can come out a little mushy in the Dutch oven. If I want the dish a bit less moist, I’ll spread spoonfuls onto a cookie tray and put the tray under the broiler for 10 minutes or so.

You can even dice ham and heat it up inside scrambled eggs, but I had better stay away from that one. An editor here thought I was trying to kill readers last March with my recipe for cooked and chopped bacon heated up inside a dozen scrambled eggs.

If the potato recipe sounds like too much time, I’ve got simpler ways to slice up spiral leftovers. One of our local supermarkets often relegates bowls of precooked macaroni and cheese to the clearance rack — I love those $1- and $2-off stick-on coupons — and microwaved macaroni teams up with leftover ham.

I’m a maniac for ham salad, but have given up on my homemade variety. It’s just not as good as the ham salad I buy at my favorite Rotterdam delicatessen. If I’m using leftover ham with any salad, I’m tossing my lettuce, tomatoes, onions and chickpeas, and topping the vegetables with small doses of ham and cheese.

I’ve tried spaghetti with light sauce and small-cut pieces of leftover ham, onions and peppers. If I’ve ordered pizza from my neighborhood bakery, and I’ve got ham in the cooler, a few pieces keep sausage and mushrooms company.

I’m going to try ham and potato casserole one of these days. And homemade split pea with ham soup — which seems like one of the best winter comfort foods — is also on my bucket list. Bucket list might be the right words here. A steady diet of ham, potatoes and pasta would never be recommended by any doctor, so I only go for the spiral pass a few times a year.

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