Loyal readers may recall our first ham roast, which involved delicious but grainy meat served to my in-laws. I hoped to do better this time, or at least not worse, and so rounded up suggestions: our Methow Valley grower’s recipe for slow roasting the joint, the Joy of Cooking‘s long boil followed by a quick blast of dry heat. What was most influential, though, was Harold McGee’s recent article about how we cook (or overcook) with heat. Dear reader, here was game-changing information.

With McGee’s science on the brain, I opted to roast this ham in a Dutch oven at 200 degrees, far below the boiling point of the liquid ingredients, so it would cook slowly and without significant steaming. The result hardly looked promising. At just past the two hour mark, the internal temperature had already shot far beyond 160 degrees. The meat appeared overcooked again; some parts had shrunk more than others and the surface was dry. But after it cooled I found it surprisingly dense, smooth, and flavorful. A mushroom cream sauce, adapted from Julia Child, returned plenty of moisture to the plate. So — I’m on to this low temperature thing. Look for more experimentation, and meanwhile, please leave a comment if you have related observations.

UPDATE: Check out a more recent post on oven-roasting a small ham without moisture.

Recipe: Ham with Mushroom-Cream Sauce

4-lb cured ham / ½ onion, sliced / thickly sliced carrot / 2 sprigs parsley / 1 bay leaf / 4 sprigs thyme / 1 clove / 2 cups white wine or vermouth / 3 cups stock / 1 pound thickly sliced mushrooms / 2 tbls flour mixed with 2 tbls butter / 1 cup heavy cream / salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cut rind off ham. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy ovenproof pot and brown onion and carrot, 6-8 minutes. Add parsley, bay leaf, thyme, clove, wine or vermouth, and stock and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add ham, and cover pot. Place in oven, and roast, until ham reaches an internal temperature of 138 degrees, basting once or twice. When done, remove ham from pot. If you like, turn oven up to 450 degrees and return ham to the oven on a roasting rack, baking until fat is browned, 7-9 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf from pot juices and reduce juices until thick. In a separate pan, heat 1 tbls butter and saute mushrooms until slightly brown. Stir the separate flour and butter mixture into pot juices, then add sauteed mushrooms and cream. Simmer on low heat until flavors are combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over ham slices. Feeds 6-8. Adapted from Julia Child.

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