julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

Jambon’s Connected to the Yum Bone


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“If a preparation of ham can be considered ‘refreshing,’ this is it.  Not to mention the fact, and I could have said this earlier, I suppose, but ‘Jambon’ is just a great word to say.  You can amuse yourself for several minutes, if you’re Julie, just wandering around the house saying ‘Jambon… Jambon… Jambon…’ and bopping your head like a Rastafarian.” – Julie Powell

Kind of over the whole stew thing and in need of some recipes that wouldn’t take hours of preparation (I’ve got a bit of a hectic week), I decided that last night’s dinner should be a ham dish. After all, it’s been awhile since I’ve made ham – we’ve pretty much exhausted all of Julia’s chicken recipes (or is it they who have exhausted me?), and the beef chapter is almost finished as well; veal twice in a week seems a bit pretentious, and I just wan’t in the mood for fish – so, there you have it. I spun my wheel and it landed on ham. Ham’s the winner! 

Tranches de Jambon en Piperade  (ham slices baked with tomatoes, onions, and peppers) sounded both simple and delicious (I’m always particularly encouraged when the recipe is only a page long). It begins with slices of cooked ham (remember, if a recipe calls for “pork”, it’s asking for raw meat; if it calls for “ham”, it’s already cooked) which I browned in a mixture of hot oil and butter. Julia tells her readers to really crank up the heat when it comes to browning meat, but I have to tell you – the way that fat was popping and splattering, I had a flashback to this incident and decided not to take any chances. I turned the heat down, told Julia to mind her own business (after all, it wasn’t her face and hand that were scarred for life!) and went about my work. The ham I bought at the store came sliced, which is fine as this recipe calls for us to do so ourselves – unfortunately, mine was sliced thinner than Julia recommends, so the meat didn’t turn out as hearty as I had envisioned it would. No matter! The show must go on!  


When all of my ham slices were browned, I set them into a baking dish. In the same pan, I added a cup of sliced onions, covered the pan and cooked them slowly for about 5 minutes, then tossed in a cup of sliced green bell pepper and cooked them together for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared some PSJ tomatoes and gave them a rough chop, then tossed them over the veggies in the pan. I also included a clove of mashed garlic and some pepper, thyme, and the slightest baby pinch of cayenne pepper (of which I am not a huge fan).  

Onions, pepper and tomatoes are happy campers on the stove.

I covered the pan and let all of these vegetables work together for a few minutes, then took the lid off and let the liquid come to a boil. I gave the pan a few good shakes until the tomato juice had mostly evaporated and then, using a pair of tongs, I covered the browned ham in the baking dish with the vegetables. For just the two of us, I used one large yellow onion, one large bell pepper, and three medium-sized tomatoes and had just enough veggies to cover the ham. The onions were translucent but not brown, and the bell pepper was nice and tender. Things were looking good!  

I covered the baking dish with a sheet of tin foil, then popped it into the oven (350 degrees) for about 15 minutes. (It doesn’t need much time, since the ham is already cooked.) When I pulled the dish out of the oven, yummy smells were filling my kitchen. I let the dish cool for a few minutes, then used a large spoon to serve the casserole onto our plates (along with a bowl of leftover cabbage soup…still delicious days later!). 

Browned ham is hiding underneath this layer of veggies.

With the thin ham slices hiding beneath the mounds of vegetables, I wasn’t entirely convinced I was going to like this dish. However, I shouldn’t have been concerned, because this recipe was surprisingly good! The vegetables were cooked perfectly, tender and full of flavor, and they worked really well with the sliced ham (again, too thin, but still delicious). Funny how the ham was supposed to be the star of the dish (I mean, it had its own dressing room and everything), yet the vegetables were my favorite part. As I scarfed down not one but TWO helpings of this dish, my mind wandered to the possibilities. Things I want to try using this same recipe: replacing the ham with shredded beef and making fajitas with those delicious onions and peppers; topping an all-beef hot dog with the medley for a little kick; replacing the ham with southwest chicken for a zesty casserole. (I have a feeling Julia is rolling over in her grave, but I can’t help it – her techniques have inspired me to think outside the box, and as I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with that!  

The ham dish goes great with our leftover cabbage soup.

I liked everything about this dish. Visually, its bright colors made a nice presentation on the stark plate. The seasonings in the dish were just right – even my arch-nemesis cayenne pepper seemed to behave. And as if I had spent hours planning it, the cabbage soup with its chunks of ham was a really nice, complimentary sidekick to this meal. (“My, but your cape is especially billowy today. And look at the way you handle that grappling hook with such finesse!”… Things a complimentary sidekick would say!)

This was a different take on French cuisine, as there was no vermouth or beef stock sauce to flavor the dish – just simple ingredients for a simply delicious meal. This dinner took a little less than an hour to make, and a lot less than an hour to eat…it was super tasty and didn’t last long on our plates. I definitely want to try it again, next time with thicker slices of meat. (Luckily, there are still a few more sliced ham recipes to go.)  

Next up…a new quiche recipe! If you like mushrooms and you like pastry, you’re in for a treat. I hope. 

Until next time!
– Jessica








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