Friday, May 7, 2010

How do you like your Ham?

(Photo taken from the Isador's Fan page - Justin, I hope that's ok? :) )

Over ten years ago (God, I’m old! ;) ), I had the wonderful opportunity to be an exchange student in Spain, where I was introduced to the first ham I actually liked. (Mind you, growing up, “ham” was that square, watery mess in cans). The ham I had in Spain was Jamón Serrano, sliced thin right off the dry-cured back leg of a pig. It melted like butter with just a hint of salt and a rich meat flavor. I loved it! Unfortunately, it was not one of the things I could bring home with me… nor was it readily available in the United States. Until now. :D

Most people who play with food are familiar with the Italian brother of Jamón Serrano, Prosciutto, particularly Prosciutto di Parma (from the Parma region) or Prosciutto di San Danielle (guess what region ;) ). Now, if you ask a Spaniard or a Spanish ham dealer/fan, Jamón Serrano predates Prosciutto; it was brought to the Roman emperors upon one of the many conquests of Spain and Italians learned how the Spanish made it, and created their own version. Feel free to do your own food research though… J

In any case, I was terribly excited when my favorite deli, Isador's in Oxford, started carrying it! In fact, I pitched a version of the below recipe to Justin, the owner, and he made it and posted it on the Isador's Facebook page!

While the price tag for Jamón Serrano is high - Isador's has it for the best price I've seen Stateside at $14.99 per lb - it's totally worth it to me. It’s a taste of heaven and the unforgettable Spanish trip. If you want a treat, definitely pick it up. As a comparison, it’s a little less salty than Prosciutto, with a milder, sweeter flavor and more buttery texture. To give you more incentive to try it, here’s some easy, informal recipes:

Appetizer: Easy Jamón Serrano & Basil Wrapped Peaches

(Summer Peaches from California were on sale during the same shopping trip & inspiration struck. This would make a really impressive app, too.)

Like Prosciutto, Serrano is easy to tear into long strips. You can make a little go a long way by tearing each slice into 2-3 strips.

Cut a ripe, juicy peach into ¼ inch wedges. Wrap each with a strip of Jamón Serrano and a basil leaf. For an extra presentation & flavor kick, serve on a bed of baby greens and drizzle with good balsamic vinegar. Some of the Facebook fans of Isador's also suggested serving it with Sherry - which I totally support!

Eat & enjoy.

Jamón Serrano & Peach Wraps

(for one wrap)

1 slice Jamón Serrano
5-7 slices peach (1/4 inch or thinner)
1 slice Manchego cheese (or 1 tablespoon of grated Manchego, give or take)
1 thin slice Vidalia (or other sweet - Isador's has organic ones!) onion
Handful of baby greens
Basil leaves
Good balsamic vinegar
1 organic, whole grain wrap (or any wrap, but if you're going to visit Isador's, that's what they have. :) ).

Layer meat, peaches, onion, greens & cheese on wrap, roll, eat & enjoy.

You could also stick through with toothpicks and slice it up as an appetizer and sprinkle a plate with a few tablespoons of the manchego.

Buena Comida!


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