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Easter + Ham + Ramps

What to do with leftover ham roast from Easter? Almost a moot point: practically anything you want! Diced in omelets, fried and chopped on a bed of sautéed asparagus, in stratas and frittatas, Benedicts, stuffed in chiles with cheese and herbs… the options are endless. This recipe, however, is born of fond memories and an unexpected treat at the farmer’s market.

So, memories first. Megan’s mother Teresa—a wonderful, accomplished home cook—would make these small ham sandwiches whenever leftover ham was around. Split parker house rolls, butter whipped with brown mustard, Swiss cheese, and thick slices of ham, warmed in a low oven until the cheese almost melts. Not only is it a good use of leftover ham from an Easter dinner, it’s also great for large family brunches and luncheons: just make up a baking sheet of these sandwiches, cover with aluminum foil, and pop them into the oven when guests start to arrive (or when you arrive at someone else’s house).

Now for the farmer’s market find that made us change plans a little…

Oregon-grown ramps!

Easter time is ramp season. The little, trendy alliums are popping up on north-facing slopes all over Appalachia and, it turns out, at specialty growing operations in the Pacific Northwest. Having encountered our first non-foraged ramps at the farmer’s market, I find it hard to sufficiently express my gratitude to those who have dedicated their time to making ramp propagation economically viable here.

Trendiness aside, ramps are a delicious springtime treat for lovers of pungent, garlicky flavors… a kind of rare, anti-social asparagus. Increased popularity has led to unsustainable levels of foraging in many areas throughout their traditional growing region. Hopefully, more growers will find ways to efficiently bring this notoriously finicky wild onion to market… supplies increase, prices (and foraging levels) decrease, trends fade, and everyone can live happily ever after!

Regardless of how you come by your ramps, you should treat them with respect in the kitchen. How? By utilizing them to best effect.

First off, use ramps promptly or store them well: in the crisper, in a zip-top bag, wrapped in a paper towel. Second, eating ramps without ham, bacon, or sausage is just unnatural (except for the traditional Tennessee hiking snack of freshly-dug ramps, Spam, and Ritz crackers). Thirdly, for me, respecting ramps means treating the bulbs and greens differently. I love the warm, caramelized taste of bulbs gently fried in butter. Though wilted ramp tops are alright, I prefer to taste the vegetal, garlicky funk of raw ramp greens. So, the full spectrum of ramp-iness: bulbs lightly browned in butter, finely chopped raw tops and ham griddled in the ramp-infused butter (another form of respect… don’t let rampy brown butter go to waste!). 

I digress, back to Teresa’s Easter sandwich. We decided to take the sautéed bulbs, finely chop them with the greens, and then whip them into butter with some whole-grain mustard.

Voilà: ramp-griddled ham, ramp-mustard butter, and a barely-melted slice of sharp cheddar on a small poppy-seed roll. Of course, any tender allium with green tops can be treated this way… scallions, young sweet onions, young green garlic. Or, if none of these are available try using mature garlic or shallots for the bulbs and chives for the greens.

We love ramps! Here are some other, rampy blogs from years past: Sweet and Spicy Ramp Bacon, Ramp Tortilla Española, Ramp-Mushroom Soufflés, Ramp-Nettle Pesto, Pan-Roasted Venison Loin wrapped in Ramps and Bacon, and (phew!) Rampy Southern-style Corn Bread. Guess we're a little obsessed...


Griddled Ham Sandwiches with Ramp-Mustard Butter
10 small sandwiches

The butter gets much better after a 30-minute rest in the refrigerator.

Trim and clean:
     6 ramps, scallions, or spring onions
Cut the greens off of the white stem and bulb, reserving them for later. Split any larger bulbs lengthwise. Melt over medium-low heat in a cast iron skillet:
     3 tablespoons butter
Add the ramp bulbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove and blot dry with a paper towel. Turn the heat up to medium and brown in batches:
     1 ¼ pounds ham, sliced ¼-inch thick (about 5 slices of a full, boneless ham), 
         or 10 slices Canadian bacon, or 10 slices Spam
Meanwhile, finely chop the reserved ramp greens and cooked bulbs. Add to a bowl or food processor, along with:
     4 oz. (1 stick) butter, softened
     1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
     ¼ teaspoon black pepper
     ¼ teaspoon salt
Blend or whip until smooth. Split:
     10 dinner rolls, parker house rolls, or other small, tender buns
Place about ½ of a ham slice between each halved roll. Top each ham slice with:
     1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
Spread on the underside of the top of each roll ½ a teaspoon or more of the whipped butter. Place the sandwiches on baking sheets and cover tightly with aluminum foil (you can also wrap them in a foil pouch). Refrigerate if storing for more than a few hours. Close to serving time, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place sandwiches in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the cheese is very soft.

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Author's note: Garnet yams have mahogany skins that yield bright orange flesh. They are not interchangeable with pale-skinned sweet potatoes, which tend to have a much dried flesh and are...