Everything You Need to Know About Ham & Eggs: People all over the world turn to ham and eggs for comfort at the table. They are the most versatile, deeply satisfying, and soul-nourishing dish there is. We’ve had everything from fancy eggs Benedict to simple sunny-side-up eggs with a hot slab of ham.
This combination has given us strength to face the day, helped us celebrate in the middle, and given us warm comfort at the end. The late James Beard called the dish a “great American classic,” but it’s not limited to any one place, race, or social class. Anywhere pigs are raised for food, their hams (hindquarters) are kept fresh in salt. And eggs are always served with salt-cured ham.
There aren’t many pairs that are as good as this one. In fact, it goes so well together that cooks have found ways to pair eggs with salt-cured meat in places where ham isn’t eaten: Watch people make scrambled eggs with lox or corned beef hash with poached eggs on top.
Everything You Need to Know About Ham & Eggs
Another great thing about this combination is that most of the ways to make it are straight forward and easy. However, as with most easy recipes, they need good ingredients and skill from the cook. In order for these recipes to work, the eggs need to be at room temperature.
Place them in a heat-safe bowl, cover them with very hot tap water, and let them sit for two minutes. This will bring them to room temperature quickly if you’re taking them out of the fridge right before cooking. After you drain them well, cook them right away.
AMERICAN HAM AND EGGS
In his book American Cookery, the late James Beard, a champion of American cooking, wrote eloquently about the virtues of ham and eggs. He called them a “great American dish” that you could safely order at almost any inn or country diner in the country. We’re sorry to say that this isn’t true anymore, but you can still make this delicious dish at home quickly.
People often call these eggs “fried” or “sunny-side-up,” with the latter name coming from the fact that the yolks are still soft and runny and a bright yellow color. The word “fried” isn’t quite right for them because they don’t really “fry.” Instead, they cook slowly with just enough fat to keep them from sticking to the pan.
- 4 big, fresh eggs that are no longer cold (see notes above)
- 2 cooked 6-ounce slices of ham or ham steaks, cut 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick, or 4–6 thinner slices at least 1/8-inch thick
- Ham fat scraps or 1 tablespoon of bacon grease
- About two to three tablespoons of unsalted butter
- In a mill, put salt and whole black pepper.
1. If the eggs are cold, warm them up as described in the note above. Cut off the ham’s extra fat, but leave some on it.
2. Warm the trims of fat in a heavy-bottomed 11- to 12-inch nonstick pan or a cast iron pan that has been used before. Take the cracklings out and cook until the fat is gone. Add enough butter to cover the bottom of the pan. As the butter melts, swirl it around to cover the whole bottom of the pan.
3. Put the ham in the pan and cook it slowly, turning it over a few times a while, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fat is golden and crisp around the edges and the ham is lightly browned. Warm up plates or a platter.
4. You can cook eggs in butter or the same fat. To use ham drippings, take out all but about a tablespoon, or just enough to cover the pan’s bottom. If you are using fresh butter, pour off the fat, clean the pan, and add a tablespoon of butter. Swirl the butter around to cover the bottom.
5. Crack an egg into a small bowl and then put it in the pan. With a wooden spoon, quickly but gently push the yolk to the middle of the white. If the white spreads out a lot, which means the eggs are older, gently push the edges in to make a neat round.
Do again with the rest of the eggs. The first egg should go on the bottom of the pan if the stove isn’t level and the eggs are moving to one side. Then, turn the pan 180 degrees and add the second egg. For about one minute, cook slowly until the white is almost clear and the bottom is just barely set.
6. The white can be a little more done on top, or the yolk can be more done. Either put the lid on the pan or use a spoonful of boiling water to cover each egg and then put the lid on top of the pan. Covered or not, keep cooking until the white is done the way you like it, which should take another minute or two.
If you want to make a real fried egg, the white should be set but still soft, and the yolk should be bright orange-yellow and still melty. Add salt and pepper to taste, put on a warm plate, and serve right away.
Notes: Some people like the edges of their fried eggs to be crispy and browned. Melt the butter over medium-low heat and let it bubble up before adding the eggs. This will keep the whites from getting too tough. They will pop and bubble as soon as they touch the pan.
Move the yolk to the middle of the egg quickly but gently. Let it cook until the bottom is almost clear, then turn down the heat and continue as above.
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