Monte's Ham

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


If you were to look up photos of me on Facebook, you'd come up with a shot of a severely cooked ham, and you might wonder to yourself why I left a photo of a ham tagged as me. Well, it wasn't just any ham: It was Monte's Ham. After requesting the recipe, my friend Nathaniel had tagged the ham as me in tribute to my sharing of this fine, fine ham recipe.

I first had Monte's Ham at the home of a food writer in Queens at a house warming party. Afterwards, I begged my friend who'd brought me to the party to find out about the ham, and in turn, she introduced me to the recipe for Monte's Ham. Nearly, every year since I've made the ham at Christmas parties. It is perhaps the most well-loved thing I cook (Marcella Hazan's bolognese lasagna is a close contender). Monte's Ham has become a holiday tradition.

When I went to look up the recipe on Saveur's website (it was originally published in the magazine's pages), I was greatly dismayed to see that the text from the Saveur Cooks Authentic American cookbook was absent, so I'll share it with you here. Monte's explanation of the ham is a good part of why I love this recipe so much—because really aren't all recipes better with a story behind them?

Note: New Yorkers, can anyone tell me where I can find a cheap 15 lb. ham? I've had to resort to much smaller specimens because I haven't been able to find one as big as Monte suggests?
"When I first moved to New York City," advertising copywriter Monte Mathews told us [Saveur], "a friend gave me two pieces of advice: First, if you wear an expensive watch, you can wear anything else you want; second, when you have a lot of people over, buy a cheap ham. I already had the watch, but the cheap-ham tip threw me, and my friend did not elaborate. Not long afterward, at one of my first big-city parties, what should I see center-stage on the buffet table but a giant ham, bone intact, brown as could be. And what a ham! The mingled flavors of brown sugar and orange permeated every bite, and there was a faint hint of spice in the aftertaste. Guests hovered over it, and as the evening wore on, it became unrecognizable – thoroughly picked over. My hostess, flush with the triumph of having entertained so well, was effervescent, and I, feeling particularly close to her that night, offered to stay behind and help clean up. As she washed and I dried, I begged, ‘Please talk to me about your ham’ Almost conspiratorially, she instructed me to buy the cheapest ham I could find, glaze the hell out of it, and cook it for a long time. ‘You can feed 30 people for $6.99!’ she exclaimed. I admit that I’ve never been able to find a bargain quite like that, - but 20 years later, I still swear by cheap ham and a great glaze. I trot one out several times a year, and it’s always the hit of the party."

Monte's Ham
From Saveur Cooks Authentic American
Serves about 30

15-lb. smoked ham on the bone

1 1/2 cups orange marmalade

1 cup dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 tbsp. whole cloves

1. Preheat oven to 300°. Trim tough outer skin and excess fat from ham. Place ham, meat side down, in a large roasting pan and score, making crosshatch incisions with a sharp knife. Roast for 2 hours.
2. Remove ham from oven and increase heat to 350°. For glaze, combine orange marmalade, mustard, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stud ham with whole cloves (stick one clove at the intersection of each crosshatch), then brush with glaze and return to oven.
3. Cook ham another 1 1/2  hours, brushing with glaze at least 3 times. Transfer to a cutting board or platter and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. Carve and serve warm or at room temperature.

Photo: André Baranowski

2 comments:

Lulu said...

This is my go to recipe for our family get together for the last few years. Found the recipe on the said cookbook. I love the story that goes with it and try to honor the tradition by stocking up on ham after the holidays as that is when the "cheap" really gets cheap.

Laura Fenton said...

Thanks for the kind words, Lulu. I also miss the Little Brown Pen blog. I'll keep the recipes coming for you--promise!

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