Is deviled ham as reviled a potted meat as SPAM? These compacted canned meats, high in sodium and shelf stabilizers, may be the stuff of hurricane warning survival supplies, and let's admit it, they're looked down on for being rather unsophisticated. But for me, they are part of the scrapbook of memories of trips to the beach and my grandfather's farm.
Can anyone else picture the small tin of deviled ham, denuded of its trademark white wrapper and bright red, gleefully dancing devil, complete with spiky tail and pointy three-pronged pitchfork? Our literal translation from English to Spanish was "carne del diablo:" devil's meat. The actual meaning of "deviled," (intensely seasoned) was completely lost on us and left us wondering what the devil the devil had to do with this product.
The spread, bright pink and crumbly, would nestle on a small platter among saltine crackers and yellow mustard. Intensely salty and rich, the flavor was unmistakable and, though I don't often add it to my grocery list, I smile each time I pass it in the aisle. The tastes of childhood remain, despite how preferences and tastebuds may mature.
For this recipe, I wasn't looking to Xerox the Underwood brand product, but rather draw on my recollections of its being served at casual gatherings like picnics or beach outings. The mix is, however, deviled, and not in the religious sense.
Smoked ham, intense and rich, is the base, and it's important to start with that and not a more mild ham, like honey or Virginia, lest your spread wind up lackluster. Mayonnaise allows for spreadability on soft white sandwich bread or fluffy rolls, and then, the piquant condiments: yellow mustard as a matter of course, Worcestershire for beefiness, garlic powder and onion powder for seasoning, and black and cayenne peppers for heat. To balance the blend with sweetness and texture, honey, finely chopped sweet gherkins, and minced red onions are stirred in.
I've opted to serve the spread chilled with peppery watercress on buttered sweet rolls, but presenting it in a small bowl with a pile of saltines would be just as appropriate.
- Recipe may be prepared 3 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container
- Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups salad; it can easily be doubled.
- For the Deviled Ham Salad:
- 8 ounces smoked ham, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup minced sweet gherkins, drained, plus 2 teaspoons liquid
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- For the Assembly
- 6 small (3 to 3 1/2 inches) bread rolls, such as brioche or Hawaiian
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup packed watercress leaves
For the Deviled Ham Salad: Pulse ham, mayonnaise, mustard, honey, Worcestershire, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cloves, and cayenne in food processor until a coarse paste forms, 6 to 8 pulses. Scrape sides and bottom of food processor with rubber spatula and pulse for 1 second. Transfer to medium bowl. Stir gherkins and onion into ham salad.
For the Assembly: Slice bread rolls in half and spread with cut sides with butter. Distribute watercress evenly among the bottom half of rolls. Top watercress with 1/4 cup ham salad. Serve.
food processor, rubber spatula