18 Creative Ways To Upgrade Ham

creative ways to use ham
creative ways to use ham - Static Media / Shutterstock

Behold the many wonders of ham. There are many innovative options for how to eat ham. If you find yourself looking for pasta recipes, soup ideas, or ways to use leftover jam, you can utilize ham for just about everything. Not only are the cuts particularly diverse but so are the ways that you can make them, reheat them, and finish off any leftovers. Ham contains protein, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and other nutrients, so it acts as a protein source for your meal.

Some people marinate ham in soda to give it a tenderness. Others pair it with fruit for a sweet and salty fusion. Go back in time with classic recipes as you make tortellini alla panna or dig out the Cumberland sauce to accompany your ham dish. Go around the globe with a Cuban sandwich or chicken cordon bleu. No matter how much ham you want to make or how much you have left later, there are seemingly endless ways you can give it an upgrade, all of which are incredibly tasty.

Read more: Your Guide To The Different Cuts Of Steak

Add A Bit Of Alcohol

ham dinner with white wine
ham dinner with white wine - Mphillips007/Getty Images

Cheers to ham. There are many ham recipes out there that include some type of alcohol, whether it's wine, beer, or bourbon. No matter which recipe you choose, the alcohol provides unique ways to cook and flavor your ham. Try a wine-based braise for ham with Muscadet and herby crème fraîche. It's herby and sophisticated for a holiday dinner but approachable enough to serve on any old weekend too.

Ham with bourbon might pique your interest, especially with a delightful bourbon brown sugar glaze that'll crackle perfectly when you cut into it. When in doubt, make an easy ham glaze with apple cider and mustard, and an alcohol such as cognac or brandy. Each alcohol can completely change the flavor profile of the ham, tenderize the meat, or enhance your dish.

Pair It With Fruit

ham with pineapple and cranberreis
ham with pineapple and cranberreis - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

From smoked pineapple ham to a Granny Smith apple ham sandwich, you might want to add some fruit to your next ham dish. Adding apple slices to your ham sandwich delivers for a nice crunch and tartness with each bite. This makes a particularly tasty combination if you have a honey-baked or slightly sweet ham. The sweet and slightly sour are irresistible.

Pineapple and ham are a classic combo. The pineapple on ham not only helps to tenderize the meat but also revs up the flavor. You can use canned pineapple with its juices or fresh pineapple since both will achieve similar results. The canned one will offer more liquid and thus additional moisture. Roast your ham with not-so-sweet fruits like fresh figs or cranberries. The cranberries will burst and provide juice for your ham to cook in.

Turn It Into A Grilled Sandwich

croque monsieur on a plate
croque monsieur on a plate - Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

Forget about regular sandwiches; stay warm with some grilled, gooey goodness. There are numerous types of grilled sandwiches you can make with ham. Feel as though you transported to France or Cuba with a croque monsieur or Cuban sandwich. When in doubt, go for a classic croque monsieur made with ham, cheese, bread, and béchamel. It's not your average ham and cheese sandy.

Seeking something on the simple side? Open your fridge or cabinet to see what you can use. When it comes to grilled sandwiches, lean toward picking items that taste good warmed up, such as cheese, leafy greens like spinach, and even other meats, including bacon or turkey. Spread butter or mayonnaise on your bread before grilling to give it a tasty crunch. You can make nearly anything into a grilled sandwich. Pick your bread, a cheese, something to spread on the bread, like mustard, mayo, or pesto, and maybe a veggie, but it's not required.

Make A Cozy Soup

Pea and ham soup on counter
Pea and ham soup on counter - Madele/Shutterstock

There's truly nothing quite like a soothing hot soup to offer comfort and joy on a frigid day. Split pea soup is certainly essential when it comes to ham in soup. It has everything you need to feel satiated and the color is pretty cool too. Go for ham and bean soup with herbs for something hearty and filling.

However, you don't have to follow a particular recipe. You can chuck in whatever you have in the fridge to make a soup. Include your ham, a carbohydrate like pasta, rice, or bulgur, and veggies like carrots, celery, spinach, corn, and then season to your liking. Make it spicy with cayenne, chilis, or jalapeño, or go creamy with half-and-half or a dollop of sour cream. If you do find a soup recipe you want to try, feel free to just add ham.

Don't Forget The Cumberland Sauce

Cumberland Sauce with brie
Cumberland Sauce with brie - Nikodem Nijaki/Shutterstock

Have you heard of Cumberland sauce? Well, it's the semi-sweet addition that every ham needs. This condiment has been around for a long time, serving as a way to cut through gamier meats. The tarty and fruit-based old-school British essential is made with red currant jelly, citrus like oranges and lemons, port, mustard, cayenne pepper, and ginger. While there might be some alternative add-ins like red wine or sherry instead of port, the star of the show is the red currant jelly.

The jelly provides both a sweetness and tanginess, which can be complemented by the citrus and enhanced by the port. It's traditionally served with ham, so give this a shot with your next ham dish in place of cranberry sauce.

Eat It With Pasta

ham and tortellini pasta
ham and tortellini pasta - Rudisill/Getty Images

Pasta, much like soup, is a forgiving food. You can wing it and still craft something exceptional. However, if you're someone who prefers to follow a recipe, there are a variety of ham-based pasta dishes that you can assemble without having to pick up specialty products. You may want to try recreating tortellini alla panna, a forgotten but fantastic creamy tortellini and ham dish from the 1940s. Dice up your ham and pop it in your boiled tortellini and some freshly grated Parmesan and you're ready to serve. You could add peas or heavy cream for additional sauciness.

You can also consider whipping up ham and cheese penne, or just use any pasta shape you have on hand. Pasta sauce or Alfredo rounds out the dish, which is filling and enjoyable no matter what you end up pulling from the pantry.

Mix Up The Way You Cut It

thickly sliced ham steaks
thickly sliced ham steaks - Josef Mohyla/Getty Images

Chop it, slice it, dice it. You can get creative with the way that you cut ham: thin slices, deli slices, ham steaks, cut into strips, cubed, etc. There are so many options, depending on how you want to eat it. Do you need small, bite-sized pieces to add to a soup or are you seeking sliced ham for your sandwich? What you choose to make can help you determine how to cut your ham.

You can always get inspiration by considering some meat-slicing tips, particularly when it comes to using a sharp knife. This will not only help you cut your meat with ease but can lower the chance of possible accidents. When cutting frozen meat, it's ideal to use a dual-bladed electric kitchen knife but a serrated knife could do the trick.

Consider The Texture

glazed ham in slices
glazed ham in slices - 4kodiak/Getty Images

Ham has a particular texture that might not be pleasant for everyone, however, you can enhance it by utilizing various cooking methods. Adding a glaze can give the outside of your ham a crispy bite. But you can also consider a few tips you need when cooking with ham, like scoring the ham to allow the glaze and juices to seep through. It will give the outside of the ham more surface area to cook, which can provide a slight crunch and leave you with a tender, soft inside.

You might want to cover your ham with aluminum foil to give it a partial steam. It'll help foster a juicy and moist texture rather than a dry one. If you have a lot of liquid, try basting the ham with the juices as it cooks.

Put Something Fizzy In Your Marinade

soda bottles in supermarket
soda bottles in supermarket - Hitra/Shutterstock

From soda to ginger beer, the fizziness of a carbonated soda can elevate the marinade for your ham. Phosphoric acid is the main reason why soda works so well as a meat marinade. The acid offers a tang but also helps to break down the protein and connective tissue of meat to tenderize it. We love a multi-functional ingredient.

Try a citrus soda like orange, lemon-lime, or grapefruit for a fruity yet tart marinade that'll add zest to your ham, or pour in some ginger beer for a punch. Make sure to double-check that it's ginger beer and not ginger ale since ginger beer is a bit more potent. Don't worry, ginger beer isn't beer and doesn't contain alcohol. Complement the taste by adding fresh ginger as well.

Add Another Protein

crispy baked chicken Cordon bleu
crispy baked chicken Cordon bleu - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Adding more protein never hurts, right? Pair ham with other pork-based foods like bacon or prosciutto. You'll see this combination quite often in, for example, a ham and prosciutto sandwich. Ham also goes particularly well with poultry such as chicken. Chicken Cordon Bleu is chicken breasts stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese, which are then breaded and fried. You can pair this dish with mashed potatoes and a side of vegetables like steamed broccoli or green beans. Even though it looks fancy, and like it has a lot of steps, the prep and cook time is under 30 minutes.

Guinea fowl potpie uses guinea fowl and smoked ham. Should you have trouble locating guinea fowl locally, substitute it for chicken or turkey. For ease, combine ham with canned meat like Spam or Vienna sausage.

Make Your Ham Into Breakfast

Ham cheese and scallion scones
Ham cheese and scallion scones - Katie Rosenhouse/Tasting Table

Integrate ham for breakfast in a variety of ways. Have you ever had a ham scone? These ham, cheese, and scallion scones might be an underrated method to include ham in breakfast but it's incredible nonetheless. They're savory, flaky, and unexpected. Eat them for breakfast or elevate your brunch. Prep them ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. That way you can pop a couple in the microwave or toaster oven to reheat for a quick, non-sweet, on-the-go breakfast.

Impress the family with a croissant breakfast casserole, which looks elegant but doesn't require too much time to create. It only takes about 20 minutes to prep and then you place it in the oven. You won't have to worry about constantly stirring or keeping your eye on something, allowing you more time to enjoy with your family. Plus, it saves room in your fridge since you're using up day-old croissants and any ham leftovers.

Transform It Into A Salad

ham salad with lettuce and dressing
ham salad with lettuce and dressing - Juanmonino/Getty Images

Try ham in a salad. It can be a mayonnaise-based salad, kind of like a chicken or tuna salad, or you can make a literal salad with greens, such as Romain lettuce, iceberg lettuce, arugula, or spinach. If you opt for a mayo salad, make a classic ham salad with ham, mayo, celery, mustard, onion, and pickles. You probably have all these ingredients in your fridge and pantry. This ham salad tastes delicious on some fresh sourdough bread or on its own.

Make a green salad with your leaves of choice, throw in chopped ham, and any add-ins you'd like, such as slivered almonds, croutons, or shredded cheese. You can clear out some items from your fridge that are about to reach the best-by date. Got some kale that's on its last leg? Add it in. Have some bacon that you need to use? Cook it, chop it, and add it to your ham.

Integrate Some Veggies

collard greens with ham
collard greens with ham - Julie Bowman/Shutterstock

Ham goes with any vegetable. You can pick from peas, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, or any vegetable. Heighten your ham with a rouxed peas and tasso recipe by Isaac Toups. At its core, this dish is ham and peas in gravy, but it looks like something from a multi-star restaurant. This meal boasts a bunch of other veggies, among them mushrooms, bell peppers, celery, and onion. Serve in a cozy bowl and dig in.

When in doubt, make a staple like Southern collard greens. Gather your collard greens, smoked ham hock, and any other ham leftovers. These collard greens will melt in your mouth and they're packed with smoky flavor in every bite. There is no shortage of options when it comes to veggies with ham.

Layer On The Jam

ham with cranberry jam
ham with cranberry jam - Ryzhkov Photography/Shutterstock

From fig to cranberry to strawberry jam, you can use any fruit-based jam, jelly, or preserve with your ham. It's the same reason why applesauce goes so well with ham. The texture of the soft jam or sauce goes nicely with the firmness of a ham. Swap applesauce with apple butter or apple jam. You can place some directly on your ham.

A cranberry chia jam pairs nicely with ham thanks to the tartness of the cranberries and orange. The chia thickens it up so you can easily spread it onto a piece of bread or on a ham steak. Cranberry chia jam would go well with smoked ham so you get a blend of smoky and tart. For a savory and sweet combination, you might want to give a Monte Cristo sandwich a chance, which uses fig jam.

Bring Out The Puff Pastry

Ham cheese asparagus puff pastry
Ham cheese asparagus puff pastry - nelea33/Shutterstock

Puff pastry leaves room for mistakes without getting completely ruined. It's also ready to go, so you don't have to do any mixing or kneading. Just take it out of the freezer when it's time to whip something up. You may simply add your desired items and pop them in the oven. Try it with green asparagus, ham, and cheese with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Make cream cheese and prosciutto pinwheels by adding ham into the mix. These are perfect to serve at a party or the day after a holiday gathering to use leftover ham. Mix up your toppings for flammkuchen, a puff pastry pizza, or keep it simple with ham and cheese puff pastry rolls made from leftover ham. Let's give thanks for puff pastry, a freezer essential.

When In Doubt, Add Eggs

ham and cheese strata
ham and cheese strata - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Add ham to just about any egg dish. Scramble some eggs and toss in the cubed ham, along with some chopped veggies, like onions, bell peppers, or broccoli. Make fried eggs with ham by cracking a couple of eggs into a hot frying pan and sprinkling on diced ham. The kids will love fun green eggs and ham without dyes. This version involves made pesto, which you can prepare at home or buy pre-made.

Add ham to egg white breakfast cups. These are perfect to prepare ahead of time and then store in your refrigerator for quick brekkie. Go for something baked like a ham and cheese strata. This dish uses ham, cheese, eggs, white bread, and cornflakes as the main ingredients. It has all the fixings of a classic breakfast but in a different vessel, and it's great to serve on a weekend for a not-so-average brunch.

Use It As A Pizza Topping

ham on pizza
ham on pizza - Ac_bnphotos/Getty Images

Pizza toppings allow plenty of room for creativity. You can buy store-bought pizza and then top it with whatever you have on hand. Try diced ham, red onion, and barbeque sauce for a BBQ-inspired pizza. Pair the ham with any vegetable or make a meat lover's pizza with ham, bacon, pepperoni, and chicken. Hawaiian pizza contains pineapple and Canadian bacon which is ham. For an easy dinner, top your frozen pizza with canned pineapples and ham leftovers. Shake red pepper flakes at the end for a sweet, spicy, salty combination that'll hit every taste bud.

Make an Italian salad pizza with ham, prosciutto, peaches, and arugula. While we are used to seeing sliced pieces on pizza, you can also add cubed ham. The ham pieces don't have to be uniform. If you have leftover bits and pieces from dinner, chop them up and chuck them on a pizza.

Elevate Your Ham With Rice

ham and egg green risotto
ham and egg green risotto - Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Ham makes a great addition to any rice dish, from quick fried rice to sophisticated risotto. The inclusion of ham turns a side dish into the main course thanks to the protein. Use up day-old rice for ham fried rice. Cut your ham into large chunks and allow them to brown on a pan. Then integrate your fried rice ingredients like sesame oil, ginger, shallots carrots, peas, and oyster sauce.

Concoct a mouthwatering gourmet meal at home with pea risotto with fried quail eggs and ham. Risotto can be a bit difficult, so attempt this recipe when you have ample time to pay attention as you stir. This hearty meal will keep you satiated with protein and fat from the ham and eggs and contains veggies thanks to the peas and spinach.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.