For years I nagged my husband about his book collections. When we were first married he had a library of books that would make a librarian’s knees buckle, by our 10th wedding anniversary he had a stack of books that he held on to for dear life (no doubt some went unnoticed, hidden under beds to keep them safe from my cruel tendency to donate anything that gathered dust in our home). As his books dwindled to a precious few, my books multiplied like bunnies on a spring day….I have stacks of cooking and home books stored around the house, slowly seeping from the kitchen bookshelf, onto my desk, my bedside table and into the family book shelf. The tables have turned, the nagging is his for the taking, but instead he keeps his silence as he slowly adjusts to to life surrounded by cookbooks while he gradually rebuilds his lost library on his iPad.
The latest book was My Family Table by John Besh, a book that makes me forget my crush on Nigela Lawson and gaze longingly at the images, recipes and kitchen life that bursts from each page. I find myself cheering for Jon’s modern yet traditional approach to food and family life. It is full of recipes that build a confidence in the kitchen for new home cooks, to recipes that you remember from your childhood, destined to be family classics…. like Pecan Baked Ham.
Pecan Baked Ham by John Besh, Serves 12
Chances are you won’t find a really good cooked or smoked ham in the supermarket. It’s hard to determine quality by looks alone. All I can say is never use canned ham, and search out a good Italian butcher or ask at your farmers’ market for the best local cooked ham. In the South, we pretty much have pecans coming out of our ears. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing our pigs like more than pecans. We like to coat our hams with pralines, those sweet candies made in New Orleans. But brown sugar and butter will work almost as well if you’re careful to use soft butter and make sure to mix all the ingredients well before you slather the mixture on the ham.
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 5-pound good quality cooked ham
- 2 medium onions, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚. In a small bowl, mix the pecans, sugar, and five-spice powder with the butter until you have a fine, crumbly mixture. Rub generously over the ham, patting the crust with your hands.
2. Scatter the onions in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan and add about 2 cups water. Place the ham on the bed of onions. Slide the pan into the oven and roast for about 2 hours, checking to make sure there’s still liquid in the pan. As the water evaporates, add a bit more. The ham is done when a nice glaze forms on the outside.
3. The pecan mixture and the water in the pan will create their own sauce to pour over the ham after you’ve sliced it into beautiful pink rounds. If the sauce seems too thin, just pour into a saucepan and reduce it.
Meet Chef John Besh | ChefJohnBesh.com
My Family Table | ChefJohnBesh.com