As Easter approaches, we repent. Late last year, The Complete Bocuse, a nearly 800-page tribute to Paul Bocuse's modern French cuisine, went straight from our desk to our permanent cookbook shelf without a weekly cookbook feature. Too many end-of-year cookbooks, too much holiday ham, too much wine.
And so this week, we bring you all three. The holy Trinity of consumption, one might argue. The Bocuse compendium is a must-have cookbook for anyone interested in tracing our (French) gastronomic roots. The authentic way to make fish à la Lyonnaise, à la crème, au buerre noisette, meunière, en croûte. You get the idea.
As Easter remains a classic ham sort of holiday, there are plenty of recipe options here beyond honey-glazed. Among them: Ham cooked in hay, which seems rather holiday appropriate, actually.
Which begs the question: what to pair with hay? Get that recipe, as well as a few ham and wine pairing tips, after the jump.
Flipping through The Complete Bocuse, the range of recipes that still have roots in (truly) modern cuisine is pretty astounding. Beet salads, tripe sausage, soufflés in countless inspired savory and sweet form. Most are true classics, such as leeks vinaigrette and au gratin, or those eggs Florentine, en cocotte, poached in Beaujolais and perched atop artichokes with Béarnaise sauce. That ubiquitous recipe for French onion soup? It still looks better than any we've made.
There are no recipes headers to give your tips or any hints as to what ham and hay taste like together (do let us know), and the instructions leave plenty to the how-much and how-to imagination ("When the ham is cooked, remove the rind.") A reminder in today's era of pot pie blog dissertations of how very little we really need to know about a recipe. Less actually adds to the culinary curiosity. Though the recipes are more classic than modern today, for the most part (cholesterol aside), they're still exactly what we crave most weeknights -- with a few extra farmers market greens.
As for Easter dinner ideas, there is a cold ham mousse (really pretty, petite aspics filled with delicate ham mousse), ham soufflés, country-style ham steaks with tomato cream sauce, and a dish of roasted endive with ham, Gruyere and crème fraîche that sounds better than any pork we've ever carved on Easter.
It's a (classic) recipe diversity that reminds us of one of our favorite ham and wine pairing analogies. As Bill Daley of The Chicago Tribune wrote a few years ago, "Ham is the Meryl Streep of the Easter table. Depending on the menu, it can alter appearances, switch flavor accents and even set a certain emotional mood at dinner."
Emotions, with Streep at the table or not, best mitigated with a diversity of wines. A wine tasting, as Daley suggests, might very well be in order over a single bottle. More, we might argue, if you follow the lead of Bocuse and make that ham cooked in hay (A good time to make friends with your local farmers? When you need "good fresh or dried hay").
Pinot Noir is good with many ham dishes, yes, but also Beaujolais, Alsatian Pinot Gris, Spanish Albariño, a French bubbly or rosé -- even a lightly oaked Chardonnay. Though of the latter, something minerally, not oaky, which means if you're of the semi-local (in lieu of French, etc) mentality at the family table this year, a Chard from Stony Hill, the St. Helena winery notorious for scoffing at that big oaky style, would fit the bill nicely.
And really, at Easter dinner, it's best to have the wine do the scoffing for you. You're trying to repent. You need to try that ham cooked in hay.
Jambon au Foin (Ham cooked in Hay)
From: The Complete Bocuse
Makes: 1 ham
1 lightly brined cured ham, about 6 ½ pounds (3 kg)
9 ounces (250 g) good fresh or dried hay
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
10 juniper berries
1. One day ahead, saw the shank bone and remove the haunch bone. Soak the ham in cold water overnight.
2. The next day, place it in a large pot and cover it completely with cold water. Add the hay and the aromatic ingredients.
3. Place the pot on the burner, ensuring that the water does not boil. The temperature should remain constant at approximately 175-195 F (80-80 C). Allow 30 minutes poaching time per 2 ¼ pounds (1 kg) ham.
4. When the ham is cooked, remove the rind.
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5. This dish may be serve either hot or cold.
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