Green Eggs & Ham
BY TOM YATES
This is the time of year I start thinking about pulling my peat pots from the garage and buying seeds. Summer dreams with endless possibilities. I plant my herbs in makeshift plastic tabletop greenhouses before placing them under the only windows in the dining room alcove. That trick usually works for a day or two before I eventually end up moving them around the house chasing scarce available sunlight. After pampering the herbs until they peek through the peat, unfurl, and reach toward the light, I harden them off before transplanting them into giant herb pots on the back deck.
This year, most of my herbs survived our winter. It still blows me away that delicate chervil, parsley, and thyme made it through bouts of snow and freezing temperatures. Although weathered a bit, they poke through dead leaves and acorn shoots like proud warriors. Fresh, strong, and happy.
With most of my herbs in place for the season, I guess I won’t need the peat pots this year…..until I start thinking about tomatoes and fresh basil.
A couple of nights ago, I celebrated my urban herbal survival with a riff on omelettes aux fines herbes. Classically, an omelette aux fines herbes is made with a combination of herbs and beaten eggs cooked in a very hot omelette pan with clarified butter. Without browning the eggs, the omelette is stirred until it’s almost set, folded, and rolled from the pan. I’ve never grasped that method. Even after classes in school dedicated to the art of perfectly cooked, folded, and rolled French omelettes, I still can’t (or don’t want to) master the technique. It’s a little too fiddly and fussy. I cook my omelettes in an omelette pan with unsalted non-clarified butter and fill them with whatever suits me. I briefly cover them before sliding and folding them out of the pan. They’re big, bold, and fluffy. No apologies.
That being said, I used the idea of omelette aux fines herbes as a starting point for a playful take on green eggs and ham. We had gorgeous bluish/green tinted organic eggs from Fresh Market. I cracked two eggs into two individual ramekins before adding minced fresh chives, parsley, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to each egg-filled ramekin. I whisked the eggs and herbs until they were well blended and set them aside.
I had a huge chunk of prosciutto de parma. Really. Huge. I didn’t have the patience (or a meat slicer) to shave the prosciutto into delicate paper thin slices, so I decided to treat it like country ham. Big, chewy hunks of salty ham. I sliced thick strips of prosciutto from a halved wheel of cured pork, cranked a cast iron skillet over a medium high flame, and drizzled it with oil before carefully added the prosciutto. I knew I was committing prosciutto purist sacrilege, but I didn’t care!
I pan seared the prosciutto until it caramelized into beautifully browned pork candy and tossed sliced navel oranges into the skillet before deglazing the pan with 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice until the juice bubbled and reduced, napping the ham with a glistening glaze.
After sliding the glazed prosciutto into the oven to keep warm, I heated an omelette pan and added 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter sizzled, I poured the herb-flecked beaten eggs into the pan and cooked them until they were almost set before topping them with creme fraiche, fresh spinach, and grated fontina cheese. I briefly covered the eggs to melt the cheese, removed the lid, and folded the omelettes onto our plates.
Glazed ham. Soft airy omelettes. Earthy spinach. Oozing fontina cheese. Fresh garden herbs.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
…So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them EVERYWHERE!
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This article also appears on page 7 of the April print edition of the Hamburg Journal.