Getting my hands on the real country ham that James Villas uses in so many recipes within Pig: King of the Southern Table proved to be a bit more difficult than I imagined. But after a few trips to some of the better butchers in town I had some lovely slabs of Benton's country ham that I was just dying to use.
But my reason for seeking out country ham was this Great Smoky Bacon, Country Ham, and Sauerkraut Pie, a savory pie that's somewhere between a quiche and choucroute. I know the combination doesn't sound all that appealing at first, but in this case it really works.
A custardy mix of eggs and cream are mixed with caramelized onions, sauerkraut, and caraway seeds, and poured into a lard-based pie crust that has been brushed with Dijon mustard. On top of that goes chopped country ham and a bit of chopped parsley, which does wonders to lend a lightness to what's otherwise a very serious pie.
Once the egg mixture set and I took the pie out of the oven, I was eager to see just how this seemingly bizarre combination of flavors melded. And although on paper this was a dish that could have gone horribly wrong, in a pie crust, all of the flavors were incredible together. The eggs and cream acted as a binder, adding a richness of texture, and playing down some of the assertive flavor of the sauerkraut that some find unappealing.
It's one of those great savory pies that can be enjoyed anytime of the day (and that precisely what I did with the leftovers). Heat up a slice for breakfast, or have it with a salad for lunch or dinner.
Win Pig: King of the Southern Table
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Pig: King of the Southern Table to give away this week.
- For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons lard, chilled and cut into bits
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- For the filling:
- 2 thick slices bacon, chopped
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup packed sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 pound cooked country ham, chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch pie plate and set aside.
To make the crust, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and lard in a bowl and work the mixture with your fingers till mealy. Add the water and stir till the dough gathers into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch circle and fit it into the prepared pie plate, tucking the edges under and pressing the dough. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork, bake for about 20 minutes, and then brush the interior surfaces with the mustard
Meanwhile, to make the filling, fry the bacon in a large skillet over moderate heat till about half cooked, add the onions, and stir till golden, about 8 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, caraway seeds, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, stir well, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven to 325°F.
In a bowl, whisk together the half-and-half and eggs till well blended.
Spoon the sauerkraut mixture over the bottom of the baked pie shell, sprinkle the ham and parsley evenly over the top, add the half-and-half mixture, and bake till the pie is set and golden, 45 to 50 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.