Monday, February 13, 2023

Lamb Charcuterie - Sponsored Post

I grew up eating ham. My maternal grandfather worked for Esskay, a Baltimore-area company that produced hot dogs, sausages, and various other meat products. Even after he retired, the company continued to send us a ham for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas until Grandpa's death in 1979. Ham deli meat (imported, please, chipped into the thinnest shards) between slices of rye bread with iceberg lettuce and Thousand Island dressing was my regular childhood lunch (with a side of Funyuns). By the time I was a teenager, I was honestly sick. of. ham. 

Now that I'm firmly into adulthood---tbh, on the slippery slope to old age--ham is very rarely on the menu. Certainly not for the holidays. A ham has never been in my oven (not a euphemism). 

Sure, I buy fancy ham sometimes, the raw stuff like prosciutto or Serrano. It's nothing like the flabby, water-logged, ham of my youth. I figured if I never ate pre-cooked ham again, I'd be ok. 

And then I discovered Lamb Ham. Aussie Select's Agave Rosemary and Tikka Masala hams, to be specific. This woman-owned business, based in Marietta, Georgia, was kind enough to send me samples of both products, and I have to admit I was blown away. I honestly had no idea that tender and lean Australian lamb could be turned into a ham-like product. It tastes very much like pork ham, but it's also unmistakably lamb. Unlike most sliced pork ham products, Aussie Select's hams have what I would call gentle flavor. In other words, they're not salt bombs. I used slices of the Agave Rosemary(my favorite) on both a charcuterie plate and in a grilled cheese sandwich, and was pleased at the way it stood out against the various saltier elements.

I thought I'd use the Tikka Masala ham in a completely different way: as a wrap for fresh asparagus. Typically, a dish like that would use a stickier and stretchier ham product like prosciutto, or one that is overall sturdier, like a deli ham (which is more of a Franken-meat, made of patched-together pork pieces). Lamb is a more delicate meat than pork, so my slices fell apart during the process of wrapping the asparagus. No worries (mate!), I simply did not turn the asparagus in the oven to prevent the ham from falling off. Eventually, the ham shrank to fit, and I had no problems getting the asparagus off the baking sheet and onto a plate.

I wanted to emphasize the Indian-inspired flavor of the ham by using a little bit of a sweet glaze, but opted instead to make a post-oven drizzle of mango chutney and mayo. And because I enjoy ALL the textures, I made a nut topping. This dish had it all--sweet and juicy fat asparagus, a lovely cured lamb with intriguing spices, a sweet and creamy touch, and something to crunch. I think this would make an elegant appetizer, but we Minxes enjoyed it as a main course.

Lamb Ham-wrapped Asparagus

For the asparagus
6 slices of Aussie Select Tikka Masala Lamb Ham
12 fat asparagus spears, tough ends snapped or cut off 
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Kosher salt

For the sauce
2 T mango chutney
1 T mayonnaise
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For crunchy topping
3 T chopped toasted nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews - I used hazelnuts)
1 T hemp seeds
1/4 t nigella seeds (also known as kalonji, charnushka, or black cumin, a tiny, vaguely oniony-tasting, seed and one of my favorite seasonings--optional)

To make the asparagus: Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Carefully tease apart the slices of ham; they will tear. Divide the slices in half as best you can--not only will they tear, they'll tear unevenly. Wrap each half slice around an asparagus spear and carefully place them on the baking sheet. Make sure the spears aren't touching. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the asparagus and ham, and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on just the asparagus. 

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. You will not be able to turn the spears, as the ham will fall off. But after 20 minutes, the ham will shrink and cling somewhat to the asparagus. If the asparagus still seems too crunchy, and the ham isn't too brown, you can leave it in the oven for an additional 5 or so minutes (I like tender asparagus).

To make the sauce: While the asparagus is cooking, combine the chutney and mayo in a small bowl or ramekin. Add a bit of lemon juice to taste. You want to be able to drizzle the sauce, so thin it out with a little bit of water...a couple teaspoons-ish. Taste again to make sure it still tastes like chutney. Add the barest pinch of salt and taste again. It should still seem sweet, with a hint of lemon. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the topping: Combine the nuts and seeds in a small dish. Set aside.

To serve: Using tongs, remove the spears to a serving dish. Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with nuts. 

Serves 2-3 as a side or appetizer.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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