Food: When life gives you ham, make an omelet

A German-style omelet is one way to whittle down reserves of leftover Easter ham. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
A German-style omelet is one way to whittle down reserves of leftover Easter ham. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo

I think I am going to make a ham this week.

Those seemingly innocuous words would fall from my mother’s mouth once every three months or so and send me into a culinary tailspin known as ham dread.

Even though our local supermarket was likely peddling hams for pennies a pound, my mom’s initial ham dinner always had a Norman Rockwell vibe and served to quell my fears for a little while. She’d center the enormous Coca-Cola glazed beast in the center of the table and serve it alongside scalloped potatoes and green beans. We’d slather warm rolls with butter and talk merrily as we nibbled the salty meat.

As our family meal came to a happy end we’d inevitably turn our attention to the leftover ham in the middle of the table. Even though we had eaten ourselves into a smoked-meat coma it looked as though we had barely made a dent in the 18-pound ham. In that moment ham dread would overtake my brother and I in full force. We knew our family dinners were destined to become an endless parade of ham sandwiches, ham and cheese omelets, ham salads, ham and potatoes, creamy ham casserole and ultimately some sort of super freaky cherry glazed ham loaf.

My mom had an endless arsenal of magical recipes for leftover ham. The smoked pork themed dinners just kept on coming for what felt like weeks until that ham’s bone gave up its last morsels of meat in a pot of thick pea soup. And just when we couldn’t take another bite of ham, that squeaky clean bone would finally land with a loud thud at the bottom of an otherwise empty garbage can.

Sure, we had all endured more than a few sodium-induced blood-pressure spikes, but her talent for stretching a single ham into a week’s worth of family meals was most impressive. In fact, the folks behind the nose-to-tail movement of today could have seriously learned a thing or two from watching my mom handle a ham.

I am happy to report the ham dread of my youth has been replaced with a sincere respect for the frugal approach my mom took with her cookery. I’ve even passed ham dread down through the generations by cooking up a ham and whittling it down to the bone for my family a couple of times a year.

With Easter having just ended, plenty of folks are starring down a refrigerator full of leftover ham these days and I thought it would be only fitting to share one of my mom’s many recipes to use up mountains of holiday leftovers. Her take on a German omelet is both filling and delicious and a worthy way to revisit the humble ham.

 

My Mom’s Bauernfrühstück-German Farmer’s Breakfast

Over 30 years ago, while vacationing in California, my mom bought a copy of the Sunset Cookbook for $2.99. It contained a recipe for Bauernfrühstück and over the years she adapted the egg dish to suit her personal tastes.

1/4 cup butter

2 cups diced raw potato

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

1/8 cup diced red pepper

1 1/2 cup leftover diced ham

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

6 eggs

3/4 teaspoon salt and a dash pepper

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 cup shredded Havarti cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a 10-inch oven-proof, non-stick frying pan. Add the potatoes and onions, cover and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until evenly browned and potatoes are tender. Add the ham and parsley and mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low.

In a medium bowl beat together the eggs, salt, pepper and milk until well-blended. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and ham. Cover and cook until eggs are almost set (about 15 minutes). Transfer the pan to the oven for 5-8 minutes or until eggs are fully set. Sprinkle the omelet with the cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the Bauernfrühstück to a serving plate. Cut into 6-8 wedges and serve.

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