The Gift of Ham

Remember when I was talking about fall 2011 being the season of pumpkins? Well, thus far, winter 2012 is shaping up to be the season of hams.

Well, to be technical, the hams were gifted between Christmas and New Year's, but since we're still enjoying the leftovers and will be for some time, I'm gonna call them part of the bounty of 2012. Besides, most of this winter will fall in 2012. Anyway, it began with the ham that followed us home from our Christmas visit to my husband's parents' home. A classic Christmas holiday right out of a Norman Rockwell painting had us leaving with a car filled to the point of groaning as we traveled back over the river and through the woods to our home. That delightful ham was roasted and enjoyed just before New Year's Eve and the ham in the soup recipe I'm sharing below came from that.

Then, a few days later, my parents came to visit us while I'm recovering from foot surgery and they brought along - you guess it - ham. We enjoyed a late lunch of it together, then had another meal of ham for dinner, then had ham in our eggs for breakfast and more ham in two quiches over two more meals. Yay, ham! I've still got a huge pile of leftover ham in my refrigerator. See me complaining? No way!

The chowder recipe I'm sharing here is simple to make and, in my case, took advantage of several items already in my refrigerator and freezer. The celeriac, which was from our last CSA box, can be replaced with diced celery if you want. I had leftover turkey stock, which worked beautifully in this soup. It would work with a variety of stocks, though. Frozen peas were in abundance in our freezer, just in case my recovering foot needed chilling (which it has not). And hey, I even managed to get my husband, who is not much of a fan of potatoes, to appreciate them in this creamy chowder. It's cook-with-what-you've-got cooking at its finest and I'd absolutely welcome a year marked with more of it.

Ham and Pea Chowder

  • 3 1/2 cups diced red potatoes
  • 1 cup peeled, diced celeriac
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk or half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup diced cooked ham
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas

Combine the potatoes, celeriac, onion, garlic, and stock in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in the milk or half-and-half as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, add the ham and peas, and cook the soup until heated through. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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