Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooking with Beer: Ham

Take any last of winter chills out of March by cooking meats in beer.  It is a simple technique.  Ham, chicken and even lamb benefit from a slow braise in full bodied or light beers.  You can even use non-alcoholic beer and there are some better ones on the market these days. 

This is a one dish meal of ham and vegetables oven-simmered in a tightly sealed package of beer and chicken broth.  The slightly salty broth is the secret ingredient in the special gravy made from the pan drippings.  You can toss in some new potatoes with the other vegetables or bake sweet potatoes alongside.  We’re loving the sweet potato option of late. 

Ham Dinner with a Beer Gravy

2 pound (cooked) ham or smaller
1 large cabbage, cut in sixths
6 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 celery ribs, cut in half
optional: 6-8 new potatoes
1 cup beer
1 cup chicken broth
(If your ham is very small (1 pound or less), use about 1/2 the liquid.)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
Broth from pan (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup cream or milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  2. Place ham, cabbage, carrots and celery in a roasting pan with high sides.  Pour on beer and broth.  
  3. Use a large sheet of aluminum foil to cover pan, making sure edges are sealed. Bake for 1 hour (some larger hams will need 1 1/2 hours). The ham is ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 140˚F.  
  4. If the vegetables are tender but the ham has not yet reached the ideal temperature, remove the vegetables and keep warm while the ham finishes. 

When the ham is ready, make the gravy.
  1.  In a medium skillet, melt the butter.  Sprinkly flour over the melted butter and stir to combine, creating a roux.  Cook 1-2 minutes.  
  2. Slowly pour a few tablespoons of broth into the roux and stir well to smooth out any lumps.  Add 1/2 cup more of broth, stirring mixture as liquid is added to create a thick gravy.  Stir in another 1/2 cup broth and taste.  
  3. At this point you may want to add either the remaining broth, or if a bit salty, some plain water.   
  4. Just before serving, stir in cream and parsley.  Serve over ham and cabbage.