A Ham in the Kitchen

Ham and Scallop Potatoes. A universal favorite

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” — Martina Navratilova

When we live solo or in pairs ham is, as Martina indicates, a commitment. Ham doesn’t go on sale very often but when it does we need to take advantage of the opportunity. Still, how do we use up 6 lbs of ham? The answer is, of course, to vacuum seal and freeze. The better question might be, is it worth the fuss? Yes. With a little effort when ham is on sale we can capitalize on one of the most versatile “performers” in our kitchen.

Looking for Ham

Ham by the slice is expensive. Pre-cubed ham served in those almost impossible to open plastic wrappings is more than expensive. Even getting 8-12 ounces of deli ham, which is often delicious, is

Precut and packaged ham. Expensive and not very good
Precut and packaged ham. Expensive and not very good

expensive. A whole or half ham from the meat counter is, on average, half to two thirds LESS expensive than any of its packaged alternatives

So why don’t we buy them? Well, anyone living in our size households would be intimidated by 6-8 pounds of anything. Even with freezing that seems like a large mass of solid meat to deal with. And the bone in hams, unless you are a soup lover, seem even more imposing. So, the question remains, why would a single person ever buy a whole ham?

The Case for Ham

Frankly, a whole or half ham, even at the 2-3 dollar a pound range, is one of the most versatile proteins in our kitchen. In fact, if we are living in a smaller household, ham is one of the few meats that we can spread across several meals and not feel the “leftover hangover” that a roast or turkey will bring into our lives. Consider its advantages:

  • Most boneless hams START at about 95% lean. Think about that in terms of ground beef!
  • Even at the high end of $4 per pound a whole hame is still 20% or better less expensive than any deli meat, protein other than chicken, and rivals (or beats) almost any breakfast meat (sausage or bacon) available in the butcher shop.
  • Hams are precooked. Think about other pre-cooked meats available at the mega-mart (like boneless grilled chicken “salad toppers” or pre cooked bacon. Ham looks more and more like they are giving it away.
  • The meat counter will slice it for you. They will. We promise. Just take the whole or half ham to the meat counter and ask. Instant sandwiches.
  • Nothing…NOTHING, freezes better than ham. Just vacuum seal or freezer pack. In fact, the meat counter butcher will probably package it any way you ask them to.
  • Because of the curing process, ham lasts a really really long time. For the record, this is why we have been curing meats since we formed civilizations. It preserves food. Add refrigeration and ham stores amazingly well. If you don’t want to eat too much ham at once, see freezing or vacuum sealing.

Ham as Kitchen Utility Player

In sports the “utility player” is the player on a team which can take on several roles with competency but not, necessarily, star quality. Ham is like that. It is good, it is lean, it is quick, it is nimble as an ingredient, but basic ham is just that…ham. It is what we can do with it that makes it so valuable as a kitchen player. Without a doubt ham is versatile. From ham and eggs, ham on salads or for that matter ham salad, ham and any number of potatoes, ham in stir fry, or the basic ham sandwich. Ham is a great thing to have around the kitchen. Below are two of our favorite ways to use ham.


The Frittata for One

One of the best egg dishes in the world.  All the charm of an omelette without all the fuss and technique necessary for omelette making.  There are a couple of things to remember.  First, if you are a bigger eater just add an egg and add a bit of bake time.  Don’t add too many more ingredients, however.  Like an omelette a frittata can only take so much stuff.  Second, if you want to scale it up to two or three just scale up the pan, bake time, and quantities.  A 10 or 12 inch pan will do just fine.  Remember to make sure it is non stick and oven ready.  These pans are invaluable in our smaller kitchens and completely worth the investment in a quality pan.  Finally, experiment.  Like an omelette, there is no end to what can go into a frittata.  I am particularly fond of “vegetarian” ones including things like roasted asparagus, caramelized onion, broccoli, and a good cheddar cheese.

Ham and olive frittata with mixed vegetables.
Ham and olive frittata with mixed vegetables.
Basic Frittata for One
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
A Frittata is just a baked omelette. In fact, many people like them better because they are never "wet" and are so much easier. Just remember you will need an small non stick (8 inch is common) oven ready pan.
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 4-6 oz cubed ham
  • 1 green onion (or 1 tbs) minced green onion
  • 2-4 tbs freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped olives (optional)
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. In 8 inch, oven ready non stick pan sauté ham until slightly browned
  3. Add green onion, olives, and dried basil and sauté for 1 minute
  4. Add beaten eggs, staring slightly then cook until eggs are set on the bottom (about 1-2 minutes)
  5. Sprinkle the top with cheese then place entire pan in the oven
  6. Bake at 350 F for 4-6 minutes until eggs are cooked through.
  7. Let set for one minute then cut into wedges.


Rustic Scallop Potatoes with Ham For Two

The “rustic” comes from not peeling the potatoes and only slicing the onions.  It also comes from layering the dish rather than making a sauce.  Note that this isn’t an “Au Gratin” potatoes.  Just a basic onion and cream potato dish that, once you learn to make, you will never go back.  The casserole dish pictured is a 2.75 quart dish.  A three quart casserole is fine.  It is also fine if the dish is round rather than square.

Rustic Scallop Potatoes and Ham
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
An absolute favorite this recipe, scaled for 2, reheats well and is great with a basic vegetable or salad.
  • 2 Medium Baking Potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 12-14 oz. cubed Ham (about 2 - 3 cups)
  • 3 tbs butter
  • ½ small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3-4 tbs flour
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Smoked Paprika to top (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease the bottom and sides of a 3 quart baking dish with a teaspoon of butter
  2. Layer the ingredients, in order, potatoes, ham, onions and dot with ½ the butter. Salt and pepper the top and sprinkle half the flour. Moisten the the flour with milk.
  3. Repeat the layer for a 2nd time. Two layers should be enough but depending on your baking dish you might get 3 layers.
  4. The last layer is just what is left of the sliced potatoes. Salt and pepper the top and add mild until it comes ½ way the way the height of the dish (about 2 cups depending on your baking dish).
  5. Cover and place casserole on the foil lined pan and bake for 1 hour.
  6. Remove foil, cover with paprika if desired and bake another ½ to 1 hour until the moisture is mostly gone and potatoes are soft. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.