Never anything I’ve given much thought to, not a particular favorite and not even anything I would ask for given a choice. Probably an overactive imagination at work, but stopping to think about it, ham salad is one of those mixtures that pulls up visions of nebulous ingredients, something that might include extremities and unnamed extras. Reminds me of a scene from the 1996 Billy Bob Thornton movie Sling Blade when Karl is eating potted meat from a can and the boy Frank says, “You think it’s really got peckers in there?” and Karl answers, “Looky right here. I believe you right. I believe I see one in there.” He’s pulling the boy’s leg, but with not much of a stretch it does seem a possible ingredient of potted meat. Or maybe ham salad?
Wandering the aisles of Publix the other day I stopped in front of the meat section to look at ham steaks. Considering whether that might be a good choice for dinner, I noticed a package of four small ham steaks that might have been put together with children in mind. Somehow, I got the idea of chopping those four little steaks up and making a bowl of ham salad—ingredients all handpicked.
Why make something I’ve never been especially fond of? Call it ham salad education.
HAM SALAD WITHOUT THE PECKERS
Approximately 3 cups fully cooked ham, finely chopped
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped red pepper
1½ tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon sweet basil
Approximately ¾ cup of mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dark mustard (Zatarain’s Creole Mustard is a good choice)
1½ teaspoons honey
Salt not necessary — the ham’s saltiness is more than enough
Black pepper to taste
In a large bowl combine the ham, celery, onion, red pepper, egg and mix well with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and stir for a couple of minutes. Cover and chill for about an hour.
No question this ham salad is excellent in a sandwich along with lettuce and tomato, and just as good stuffed into pita bread. For those wanting to skip the bread, serve the ham salad over a bed of lettuce with a couple of tomato slices, a stalk of celery and a couple of olives. Now that I’ve tried making this traditional American salad, it might just become a regular around here. It’s easy to make and it’s inexpensive.
A note about chopping the ham: Most would probably reach automatically for the Cuisinart, toss the roughly cut ham in and buzz it into a finely chopped consistency with the push of a button. That’s fine, but there is a better way if you happen to have the right tool. Sears sells a handy kitchen chopper for about $14.00 called the OXO Good Grips Mini Chopper. Works like a charm, takes maybe five minutes longer than the Cuisinart and is easier to clean. Great for chopping onion, garlic, peppers and nuts. Available in many stores, the Sears price may be lowest.