Sometimes I come up with a great idea for a recipe, and it fails miserably. This happened to me at lunch today, when I sneaked home to grab a bite.
We had a bunch of Easter ham in the fridge, a gift from a friend, and I was getting a bit tired of the regular old ham sandwiches I’ve had this week. I wanted something different. Something I hadn’t had in ages. Aha! Ham salad!
Before you start gagging, I must confess that I’ve always loved ham salad — even when it’s the nasty grocery store deli case glop. My love for ham salad came from my childhood, when my mother fed us a similar concoction that we called, “pickle and baloney” sandwiches. My mom would buy a big hunk of bologna from the grocery store — not the pre-sliced stuff, but the solid, cylinder found in the deli case. She’d break out the meat grinder and throw some sweet pickles into the mix. It would be a course grind of bologna and pickles, and she’d pull it together with some Miracle Whip (no mayonnaise in my childhood home). I loved that shit, and whenever I found a pickle and baloney sandwich in my lunch bag, I thought I was being treated to something damn special.
Over the years, my mother stopped making pickle and baloney, and she would buy ham salad from the deli instead. It wasn’t the same as my old favorite, but I still liked the stuff.
And so, when I went home today, I was going to make some ham salad. I mean, how hard is that — ham, pickles and mayo. Maybe a little celery for some crunch.
But then I realized we had no sweet pickles. Damn! You have to have that sweet element to make ham salad work.
So, with no pickles, I had to come up with Plan B. What is sweet that goes with ham? I was thinking of what goes well with prosciutto, and of course, I thought of figs. But it’s not fig season. I do, however, have lots of fig preserves in the pantry.
THAT’S IT! Ham and fig preserve salad!
So I minced up the ham, and finely chopped the fig preserves, added some mayo to bind it all. A little salt and pepper. Onto some bread it goes, and then I take a big bite.
It’s sweet. Too sweet. What I forgot is that the pickles didn’t just add sweetness, they added acidity to balance out the sweetness and to cut the overall richness of the ham and mayo. My sandwich didn’t have that. I could have added some vinegar, but that wouldn’t have kept the acidity with the fruit, which I wanted.
I ate half the sandwich and gave up, despondently.
Hmm, I wonder how mango chutney would work?