How great are the multitude of tasty meat dishes that come from the humble pig? In particular the cured meats. Okay, so bacon is our all-time favorite naturally. But a good ham meal is a delight and lends itself to so many complimentary side dishes. And then you get the leftovers! From scalloped potatoes to bean soup to ham and cheese sandos, the list is tasty and impressive.
Like so many ways of using cured pork, they blend beautifully into sweet and savory combinations. That is exactly what we are going to do here. The protein portion of this meal are thick slices of ham broiled with a schmear of apricot jam. The flavors blend very well with the apricot giving a heavier fruit component than your oft used applesauce.
This is also a good meal to accompany with a nice crusty bread, and a glass of chilled rose wine. Starch ideas include rice or couscous, lighter items that will go well with this meal, also lighter fare.
Green beans are one of the great bounties of summer vegetables, though now we can often get them fresh year around. They do freeze well, but are unquestionably better fresh. We are also going to steam the beans which retains the flavor and keeps great color. Be cautious when cooking the beans, they can overcook with relative ease so keep a close eye on them. Then we perk it up with some lemon, and of course a couple Tablespoons of butter. Everything is better with butter, trust us.
Food is also more enjoyable with contrasting textures and flavors. In this case, walnuts. The key on this dish is to get a nice toastiness to the nuts. Walnut halves are somewhat spendy, and frankly you will want them smaller anyway to blend with the dish. Coarsely chopped will get more surface area to contact the skillet surface for better toasting, and somewhat easier to eat with the beans. If you are using walnuts that you may have frozen, especially those tasty home grown ones we occasionally get, give them a little extra tine to get toasty.
Tips and Techniques
Continuing thoughts about the walnuts, this is your process for toasting them in a skillet. Pushing the temperature to medium high means they can scorch if neglected overly long. All you have to do is keep them in motion every few seconds, so it is not a big challenge to avoid scorching, just requires attentiveness. This is a process that you will find easiest to smell the toasty aromas to determine when they are finished. Waiting for a very noticeable color change also risks scorching them.
The ham will give you better results from the broiling process if it is 3/8 to ½ inch thick or more. Any thinner and it can cook to toughness very quickly. Broiling itself is also a quick process. When we use the term, it typically means a high heat source above the food, especially in home cooking. You want the food to be as close as possible, and oven broilers do better if you give them a few minutes to preheat. As a radiant heat source, it is more effective with the area already brought up to temp.
A quick side note about jam versus preserves. Although nearly identical, they have one difference. Jam is made from pureed fruit, preserves use whole or lightly mashed fruit. This makes preserves lumpier and chunkier.
We tend to prefer jam for this dish because it will spread so evenly. But if you would prefer larger fruit bits on your dish, go for it. You may need a larger amount to get even coverage because of the pieces.
Many of us do not have a lemon zester. Or, you do but may not know it. Most graters have a small grade size that you could use for hard cheeses like parmesan. This is great for getting lemon zest quickly.
You need to handle it differently than the hard cheese by using a more delicate touch. The goal is very thin small strips of the peel with as little of the pith, the white part, as possible. If you use to much pressure, you get deeply into the pith which can add bitterness to your food. Don’t forget to brush off the backside of your grater surface, it will still have as much as half your zest adhering to it. Zesting before juicing makes both processes easier. Lastly, squeeze the lemon juice through your fingers or a small strainer to catch any seeds.
Green Beans, Walnuts and Lemon with Grilled Ham
- Green bean dish
- 1 Pound Fresh green beans
- 1 Lemon, juiced and zested
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 4 Ounces Walnuts
- Ham dish
- 24 Ounces Thickly sliced ham of your choice
- 1 Cup Apricot preserves
- Put the walnuts in a skillet over medium high heat
- Toast the walnuts for 5-6 minutes, moving constantly
- Remove the walnuts from the heat
- Put the apricot jam in a small pot over low heat, stirring occasionally
- Put covered pot with steamer insert and a few inches of water on medium heat
- Pare the beans trimming both ends, and rinse
- Cut the beans into 2-inch long pieces.
- Just barely melt the 3 Tablespoons butter in a glass bowl
- Zest the lemon, add to the bowl
- Juice the lemon into the bowl
- Put the ham slices on a sheet pan
- Preheat your broiler
- The apricot jam should be warm enough to spread easily in an even coat on your ham slices
- Assuming you water has reached a strong boil, place the beans in the steamer
- Steam the beans 5-6 minutes while you cook the ham
- Put the ham slices under the broiler for 4-5 minutes until browned and bubbly.
- Remove the ham from the broiler
- Move the beans from the steamer into the bowl with the butter and lemon
- Add the walnuts, toss together well
- Place the ham on the plates for service
- Toss the beans again a couple times and add to the plates
- Serve and enjoy!