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Oh, heavenly Ham

Wed., April 20, 2011, 2:27 p.m.

With a little imagination and a few unlikely ingredients, the Easter ham can be so much more than heat and eat

The prepared ham has become so ubiquitous – honey baked and spiral cut, anyone? – at Easter, many cooks assume they can just heat and eat, leaving all their culinary creativity for the rest of the meal.

To be sure, cured and smoked pork legs are tasty as is, but there’s little reason not to give it an exotic treatment, as with this apricot-peach and gingersnap crusted baked ham.

Here, the bright flavors of apricot-peach jam spiked with some Dijon mustard and brown sugar provide the glue, if you will, for a spicy crust of gingersnap cookie crumbs, all of which combine to create a perfect balance to the salty ham.

This simple and versatile crusting technique comes courtesy of meat expert Bruce Aidells. If you like, passion fruit jam or guava jelly also work well in this recipe.

Apricot-Peach and Gingersnap Crusted Baked Ham

8- to 10-pound bone-in or boneless ham

1 1/2 cups apricot-peach jam (can substitute apricot or peach jam for the blend)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 15 cookies pulsed in a food processor)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons of water

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place an oven rack low enough in the oven so that the ham won’t touch the roof of the oven while baking.

Trim any skin from the ham, then trim the external fat to about 1/4-inch thickness. Place the ham, fat-side up, in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees at the center, about 10 minutes per pound. Remove from the oven and increase the heat to 425 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together the jam, brown sugar and mustard. Set aside. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the surface of the ham in a crisscross diamond pattern. Spoon about two-thirds of the jam mixture generously over the entire surface of the ham. Apply the gingersnap crumbs, pressing them on with your hands to form a thick layer. Return the ham to the oven and bake until the surface begins to brown and become crusty, about another 15 minutes.

Remove the ham from the oven and transfer to a cutting board to rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make a sauce for the ham, pour the liquid from the roasting pan, including any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, into a medium saucepan. Stir in the chicken broth and remaining jam mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and boil, stirring, until the sauce just thickens. Strain the sauce, if desired.

Serve the carved ham with the sauce on the side.

Yield: 14 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 506 calories, 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated, 25 percent fat calories), 56 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrate, 158 milligrams cholesterol, no dietary fiber, 496 milligrams sodium.


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