Freezer meal #3:
Risotto with peas, zucchini and ham

June 22, 2009


I have never cooked a ham. Most other pork products, I’m well-acquainted with: the tenderloin, the roast, the chop, prosciutto, and of course my beloved bacon. But a ham? It’s just never appealed to me. Not sure why.

But my mother-in-law does serve ham, and I’m always happy to eat it when she does. She was here a few months ago, to care for our older two children while Tim, the Wee One and I traipsed to Utah. When I returned, she had left in my refrigerator the remnants of a cooked ham, pulled off the bone, and the bone itself, which was used in the split-pea soup that set off this whole Freezer series. I made some ham salad, and stuck the rest of the leftovers in the freezer.

That’s what I pulled out a few days ago — frozen chunks of cooked ham. From that and last week’s veggie box, I pulled together a lovely risotto. Although, it wasn’t a true risotto, since I only had about 1/4 cup of arborio rice on hand; since one of my self-imposed rules for this cooking series is that I must only use what I already have in the house, I simply replaced what was lacking (an additional 1 1/4 cups) with regular long-grain white rice. But it was delicious all the same, even with the slightly different (and less creamy) texture.

This recipe, like a few others, is based on one from Everyday Food. Theirs was a vegetarian spring risotto, but the ham added a lot of flavor, and a main-course depth that is missing in the original version. I loved it, almost enough to try my hand at cooking a ham someday. Or, continue to skip the ham-baking, and just replace it with another favorite pork product.

The meat wasn’t very fatty, so I started my sauté with butter (or olive oil) rather than rendering the pork fat. But sautéeing the pre-cooked ham does add flavor, so don’t skip that step.

Risotto with peas, zucchini and ham

  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock (or [2] 14.5-oz cans reduced-sodium chicken broth)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 pound zucchini (1 to 2 large), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • about 1 cup cooked ham, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (or medium- or long-grain white rice)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (a great reason to get a 4-pack of little chardonnay bottles)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

In a small saucepan, heat the stock (or broth) and 2 1/2 cups water over low heat (do not boil, but keep it warm). Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a 12-inch, straight-sided skillet (or 3-quart saucepan) over medium heat. Add zucchini, and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 4-5 minutes, then add the ham. Continue to cook until the zucchini is golden, about 5 more minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer zucchini and ham to a plate.

Reduce heat to med-low. Add onion, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Raise heat to medium, and add rice. Cook, stirring, until translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue to cook, adding about 1 cup hot broth at a time, stirring frequently until almost all is absorbed before adding more. It should take about 25-30 minutes to add all of the broth and for the rice too cook to tender.

Add zucchini, ham, and peas. Cook until peas are warm and bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 1 Tbsp butter, and parmesan. Taste for seasoning, and serve topped with more cheese.

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