If you’ve ever been in a discussion about where the best beef barbecue is made (Texas) or where you can find the best shrimp and grits (South Carolina), you understand how food can passionately link to a geographical area. In our area, folks in St. Mary's County sing the praises of the southern Maryland stuffed ham—a tradition that dates back to 17th century.
There are variations in the preparation, but the constant is ham and locally grown greens. This delicious, easy-to-prepare main course is a fitting addition to any Easter menu.
8 lb. smoked cooked ham
2 large onions, julienned
1 ½ lbs. fresh kale, rough chopped
1 cup fresh or stewed apples (Chef’s note: I recommend Honey Crisp, Jonah Gold or Granny Smith. If you are using fresh apples, peel, core and slice them.)
¼ stick of butter
1 cup of apple juice
A large sauté pan
An aluminum baking pan
Melt butter into extra large sauté pan. I used a large pan over two burners on my cooktop. Once the butter is melted, sauté the onions, kale and apples. Add apple juice during this process to soften the kale. Sauté until kale wilts and apple juice is reduced, approximately three to five minutes. You’ll notice the kale growing more brilliantly green. Remove from heat.
Cut ham into equal halves, width wise. Using a boning knife, hollow out a pocket for the stuffing in the middle of each half of your ham. Do not make the pocket so deep that you pierce the outside of the ham, which would cause the stuffing to leak. Spoon sauté mixture into each half and pack well.
Instead of tying the ham back together or wrapping it with elastic netting, use a long strip of aluminum foil wound around the bottom of an aluminum baking pan to make a pedestal, or perch, to secure ham. Put the ham halves back together and set them inside the aluminum pedestal.
Your ham is already cooked, so all you need to do is warm the ham with the stuffing inside to create the flavors and presentation. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 300-degree oven for 45 minutes.
Once your ham and stuffing are thoroughly heated, remove from the oven and allow the ham some time to rest. After 10 to 15 minutes of rest time, separate the halves and place them flat (cut) side down on your cutting board.
Using a sharp knife, begin to gently slice your ham about a 1/2-inch thick using long, unforced sweeps of the knife. As you cut the pieces, leave them in place until you have finished slicing your entire ham half. Carefully move your cut half to your serving platter and gently fan your slices out.
This preparation should serve 10 people. Green beans and a potato medley are traditional accompaniments. Happy Easter!
Zachary Pope is an award-winning chef and owner of Roundz Catering. He and his family live in Crofton. If you have questions about this recipe or suggestions for future columns, we'd love to hear from you!