I don’t know about you, but I expect my ham to have some texture to it. There should be a noticeable grain in the meat. Otherwise, well, it just isn’t right. The “ham” that you get at the deli counter is a poor substitute for the real thing. For some reason, here in the US, deli ham seems to be all that’s ever available. I have fond memories of amazing ham sandwiches abroad. There was the amazing ham with butter on a baguette in London. My (then new) wife and I picked up amazing ham at a deli counter before we headed to Governor’s Beach on Saint Barts (after a long boat ride from St. Martins — mental note; fly next time). But here in the US, ham is almost always pressed and tasteless.
The simple answer would be to keep a ham around and grab a slice when you need it. Except, that there’s only two and a half of us here at the house, and a ten pound ham is, well, overkill. I finally found a compromise yesterday, when I noticed some rather nice looking “boneless” hams that were quartered in the case a the store. They weren’t the pressed ham of the deli, and they weren’t so huge that they’d go rancid before we got to eat them. So, I bought one.
Truth be told, I was hesitant, because shrink-wrap is so often one the hallmarks of being over processed food, but I gave in. Happily, I was not disappointed today when it was time for lunch. The first slice revealed a real grain in the meat, and the first taste was “hammy,” which is to say salty and sweet with a touch of smoke but not overpowering in any of these respects.
I decided to make a tartine on grilled french bread, with coarse Dijon mustard and a melty slice of provolone, pared with a spinach salad dressed with crumbled gorgonzola and shallot vinaigrette. I’d have preferred swiss or gruyère to top the ham but both, sadly, had become science experiments in my deli drawer.
1 french bread slice
1 ham slice
1 slice provolone
2 tsp course Dijon mustard
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place the bread directly on the skillet and grill for a 2 minutes being mindful not to burn the bread. Remove the bread and spread the mustard on the grilled side. Quickly heat the sliced ham before placing the bread on the skillet with the dry side down. Stack the ham on top of the mustard and grill for and additional 2 minutes. At the same time, place the provolone into the pan to partially melt it. This only takes a second, so be quick and pick it up with tongs, placing it atop the ham.
Remove from the skillet and enjoy. As I mentioned above, I paired with a simple spinach salad dressed lightly with a shallot vinaigrette and some crumbled gorgonzola.