Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fast Fettucini with Ham and Jarlsburg

Printable Recipe
What to do with that left over spiral cut ham? Turn it into this quick and creamy luscious treat and you'll be wishing for left over ham more often. After the holidays, finding myself with the end bits of the ham that will no longer give up a decent slice for sandwiching, I thought about this dish we had in Florence, Italy a few years ago and how quickly the chef made it up in his small open kitchen where everyone in the place could watch. This is my replica. Not many ingredients here so it's essential that each one is of best quality.
And here ya go: you'll need 1 Tbs each of butter and flour and about 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. The cheeses are Jarlsburg and Parmigiano Reggiano, a cup of the first and just a spoonful or so of the second.
Ham, of course. For the photo I had to throw some Boar's head ham slices from the butcher on here because, why? I forgot to photograph the ingredients when I actually made the dish and that won't do for my faithful readers. Sigh, that meant recreating the ingredient plate after the fact. This is going to be a photo-intensive post because I want you to see exactly what the sauce needs to look like every minute along the way so it will turn out perfect for you.

And start some fettuccini or spaghetti cooking with a good tablespoon or more of salt. For four servings you'll need less than half a pound of dry noodles. Whatever time the box lists, set your timer for 2 minutes less so you can test it and be sure to get out of the bath while it's truly al dente and not soft and mushy.

We're getting everything ready before starting the sauce which will go really fast and has to be stirred continuously, no leaving the stove to grate cheese after the fact. You'll need about a cup of the Jarlsburg (or Gruyere would be really good here too, also nutty and richly flavored) and the ham should be chopped up to equal about a cupful also.

Put the 1 cup of cream into the microwave for 1 minute only to warm it. And yes I have written a message on the turntable of my microwave. A demand (or plea) for my lovely twins girls to PLEASE COVER IT! so I will not have crusty stallagtites on the ceiling of my oven from exploded dinnersnacks.

 And now we are ready to commence saucing! Melt the butter over medium low heat until it just begins to foam. Sprinkle in the spoon of flour and immediately stir it in with a whisk. It will really foam up at first; keep it moving quickly to blend and lean in for the fragance to tell you when to add the hot cream, usually within just a minute or so, when the scent changes from a raw floury smell to slightly nutty but it has not browned at all (toss it and start again on lower heat if it browns).

Add the liquid in a steady stream, whisking all the while. The butter/flour mixture will still look thin before the liquid comes in but will quickly thicken as you keep whisking.

As it bubbles along add the red pepper flakes and cheese and finally the ham.

The pasta should be ready now. Before you drain it dip out about a cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce. This will not thin the sauce as much you'd think, just enough to make it coat the noodles better. This also adds some seasoning and starch to the sauce to make it better.

Add this in gradually, still whisking of course. The heat should be high enough for the sauce to bubble steadily and easily incorporate the pasta water completely. If it seems too thin, bubble it just another minute or two to rethicken. All in all, this sauce is ready in less than 10 minutes from start to finish.  And it's ready for the pasta.

I start by adding 2 cups and folding it in with a rubber spatula to see if more is needed. 3 cups at most is all you'll need.  (You can serve the left over pasta tomorrow with a little browned butter and a sprinkle of toasted almonds or pine nuts.)

 Powerful shake or two or three of black pepper.
 Finally, the last touch is that perfect parmigianno. Mmmmm. This one is hardly more than a rind which I saved to add some marvelous flavor to a soup. But that's another blog for another day when I make use of that spiral cut hambone. Don't throw it out! Freeze it if you have to. Stay tuned and we'll make soup in a few days!

Back to our Fettucini - gild it with a hearty spoonful of finely grated parm and serve it up! Give it a taste first to be sure you're willing to share.

1/2 lb Spaghetti
8 oz heavy cream
8 oz jarlsburg cheese
8 oz honeybaked ham or similar good ham
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour

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