Ideas From Traditional to Trendy
You can't go wrong with a classic ham and scalloped potatoes dinner menu, but don't overlook more updated menu ideas, either. Whether you plan to serve a canned ham or a country-cured ham, boneless or bone-in, you have lots of options for ingredients that help to balance baked ham's salty flavors and richness. Ham accompaniments can please the traditionalists at the table and the modernists both.
Because a ham supper is not something you cook every day, make the appetizers equally special by cooking something a little different. If you always serve butternut squash soup, try making one with roasted carrots or red peppers instead, with a splash of lemon or lime juice added to the soup for brightness. Or buy prebaked phyllo dough cups and fill them with a small amount of finely chopped cooked mushrooms, flavored with minced garlic and chopped parsley.
Mild-flavored potatoes pair well with salty ham. Keep the smooth, hearty appeal of scalloped potatoes on your menu, but add unexpected ingredients to them, such as Asiago, Parmesan or Gruyere cheese. Or substitute other potato dishes that bring more excitement to the plate. Hop on the trend of purple foods by using purple potatoes for your scalloped dish or go with sweet potatoes, which aren't really potatoes but do have the same qualities as white potatoes. Try stacks of sliced sweet potatoes made in muffin tins for a new take on the ingredient.
A green bean casserole will satisfy the classicists at your dinner table, while the upstarts will appreciate roasted vegetables in vibrant colors, such as purple roasted cauliflower, purple asparagus, purple and pink carrots or purple corn. Corn works like potatoes in that its moderate flavor balances the saltiness in ham. Try a corn souffle for something different, or go with a corn fritter casserole. Sauteed greens, such as collards or kale, flavored with a little smokey chorizo sausage also bring sharp flavors to balance the ham's richness.
A salad with bright, vivid or acidic flavors balances both the richness and salt in a ham supper. Use orange or grapefruit slices in a green salad to do this, or dress the salad with a tangy pomegranate molasses, honey mustard or balsamic vinaigrette. Other strong flavors to cut through the ham's richness include roasted beets, which also bring an earthy sweetness to the table, or a pea salad with chopped red onions and chives.
Even though any dessert will pair with a ham supper, from brownies to apple pie, some desserts seem especially apt. Lemon meringue pie, for example, works well if you serve the ham for a springtime supper. The lemon pie provides acidity to clean your palate, and its bright color and flavor lifts your spirits after a long winter.
If you add a dab of lime or orange zest to a coconut meringue pie, it too brings brightness while also having lots of eye appeal set on a winter holiday table. At Thanksgiving, or anytime in the fall, serve a creamy pumpkin pie or pumpkin cake with the ham. The pumpkin's warm sweetness balances the ham's saltiness.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.