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Two hams gone wrong…and two recipes that could have saved them…Cuban Pernil and Pigeon Peas and RIce

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Ingrid Hoffman’s Recipe for Cuban Pernil uses a Fresh Ham as its start off point.

         Much to my absolute horror, my dear friend, Ann Legette in Greensboro, NC, sent me the following email yesterday… “Hello Darling, It was so fun to have a funny story to share at Christmas lunch with the extended Legette family – about cooking my first ham, “Monte’s Ham.” I have a feeling all I will need to share with you is my dear friend and next door neighbor’s comment (who slipped in the kitchen door as I was carving the ham) and you will know exactly where I went wrong…“Honey, that’s not a ham, that’s a turkey!”

          Ann continues, “Okay, I am no gourmet, but I do know a ham bone from a turkey thigh and that was no turkey. I told the butcher I needed a 7- 8 pound fresh ham with a bone. I removed that poor pig’s thick skin and carried on per your instructions. Once cooked, the meat was, however, as white as turkey, and it tasted like well done pork tenderloin.  I mentioned it to David, who mentioned it to his mother, who said, “Oh, she bought a natural ham.”  It made me feel a bit better that nobody at the Legette table had any idea why my ham turned into a turkey. And the conversation quickly turned to the amount of traffic around of the Honey Baked Ham store on Christmas Eve.
When you have a minute, please fill me in on how to buy a ham.
p.s. Your glaze was delicious.

           Well, as we say in email, OMG. I could not believe that in the recipe for Monte’s Ham, nowhere does it state that the ham we’re making is a Smoked Ham, straight from the supermarket under the brand name Smithfield’s or Cook’s purchased this week for $1.29 a lb and weighing in at a little over 11 lbs. This is not, as Ann discovered, a fresh ham at all…I do truly apologize and hope that she will forgive me. But Ann was hardly alone in her purchase. Read this exchange from my friend Jill Clark in Dublin. But we were able to save Jill’s ham from a sorry fate by flipping through our recipes to provide her with a delicious fresh ham recipe, Ingrid Hoffman’s Pernil, a holiday ham from Cuba. Along with it, we have a recipe for Pigeon Peas and Rice that is as good as any recipe I’ve ever tasted. I hope you’ll enjoy the dialogue and the time line on this one while we save Jill’s bacon. I only wish we could have saved Ann’s as well.

Ingrid Hoffmann’s recipe for Pigeon Peas and Rice (Arroz con Gandules) would work with either Pernil or Monte’s Ham.  It’s just so good!

On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 10:01 AM, Jill Clark wrote:
Am hosting my team for a holiday party tomorrow. I just bought a ham. However, I think it is a pale ham on the bone and not smoked. Will this work? Am I going to be able to make a successful Monte’s ham? Advice please?
Xoxoox Jill
On Tue, December 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM, Monte Mathews wrote:
Is it a fresh ham as opposed to a smoked ham? If so, take it back. It won’t work with Monte’s ham. There are wonderful recipes for fresh ham and I particularly like some of the Cuban recipes. If you can’t return it, I’ll try to dig one up for you. XOX>
On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 11:09 AM, Jill Clark wrote:
I might have been able to but I took a cab out to Stillorgan and was already in a cab on my way back to office. I needed to be here for a 3:30 meeting. I either have to take bus back to Stillorgan or spend a fortune in cabs. OY. . .
So, I now am the proud owner of something like an 18-pound fresh ham and I have a HUGE crowd coming for a Christmas buffet tomorrow. So, over the Xmas break, please look for a recipe for me and I will use it in the New Year. I guess I’ll have a Cuban/Mojito pulled pork celebration for the entire block?
Here’s the problem though — I was in the Tesco and this is what alerted me to the fact that maybe I had the wrong product. They have a smoked ham but it is not like the smoked ham you and I are used to. It is essentially a fresh ham that some irish person smoked. Do you think this will work?
On Tue, December 15, 2009, at 11:18 AM Monte Mathews wrote:
I am sure the Tesco ham will be just fine. It just has to be smoked. But are you sure you can’t just use the Fresh Ham and turn the whole party into something quite different for the Irish? The first time I made this recipe for Cuban Pernil, I almost died it was so good….but you need to start it now.
On Tue, December 15, 2009, at 11:48 AM Jill Clark wrote:
If I were going to do this (and it would certainly make my life easier because I already own the damn ham!) would I cut all the fat off of it before I did the smashing of garlic and marinading? I’m thinking I would but since this is a ham and is slightly different from a fresh pork leg, I want to be sure, to be sure. Thoughts please?
On Tue, December 15, 2009 at 11:55 AM Monte Mathews wrote:
We can buy Mojo here in bottles. But the key is the Adobo which is also easy to find here already made up. But you can make your own using Ingrid’s recipe for Delicioso Adobo. The main thing about the mojo is lots of lime and orange juice coupled with garlic powder, salt. I never cut off fat because it adds so much to the flavor. Pierce the fat with a knife and then pack the pirecings with garlic and adobo. I think it’s semantics..I used fresh ham for this recipe.
On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 11:59 AM, Jill Clark wrote:
OK — I am going for it. Thanks for rescuing me. I’ll let you know how it turns out on Thursday. Now — this means I have to make a few tweaks to my sides as I was looking at/doing stuff that is/was a bit more X-masy. . .So, it’s a cuban Christmas. I bet the Irish have NEVER had one of those before! (-:
So here, without further ado is the recipe for the fresh ham…


Now the most delicious accompaniment to the Pernil is this wonderful recipe for Pigeon Peas and Rice also courtesy of Ingrid Hoffmann.

And how did the Irish enjoy their Cuban Christmas Dinner? Read on…

On Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 6:43 PM, Jill Clark wrote:
They’ve finally all gone and drank me out of house and home! I
served pitchers of Cosmopolitans (red/pink for Christmas . . .)
AND a party of 22 – 25, with some non drinkers in there – drank 4
litres of Absolute, 1 litre Gin, 11/2 litre Scotch, plus beer and wine?
Anyway — food was superb and, naturally, my reputation as an
extraordinary hostess is preserved, Phew!

Ham was DELICIOUS!!! I was in no less than 7 different
grocery/specialty markets looking for achieve, the mojo sauce, lemon
pepper and one other thing that I can’t remember right now. I finally
had to give it up because I had to get home and get cooking. (I was up
until about 3:30 am on Tuesday!) Anyway, wasn’t able to get those
things — got home, got to the web and went to the food substitutions
site. Achieve can be substituted with equal parts Turmeric and Hot
Paprika (both of which I had — SCORE!), and Mojo sauce can be made
(mostly garlic and lime — again, I had — SCORE!) Lemon pepper can be
created with salt, pepper and lemon zest — again, which I had —
SCORE!) I think my oven runs pretty hot (or maybe 180c is that much
hotter than 176c which is really 350F) because it did not really need
the 5 – 5 1/2 hours. I think I might have taken it out a little sooner
and maybe it might have been a bit moister? Not that it seemed or was
all that dry — but when I stuck the meat thermometer in — it had gone
past the 160F and so, I’m wondering if it just should have come out
sooner? A couple of people did pick up on spiciness of it, which was
good. I made a delicious creamy mushrooms with marsala wine on toasts
(this would have been REALLY good with Monte’s ham — which it was
originally intended for), a not so great Christmas salad —
beets/brussel sprouts and vinaigrette, some potatoes (this IS Ireland
after all) and lots of other appetizer things which were BIG hits! BOYS
LOVE HAM — they went back time and time again — for as big as that ham
was — I don’t have all that much left. Even my husband wants me to
bring some to Glasgow this weekend!!
Anyway, I was hating myself for taking this on on Tuesday night but now
that it is over and my team had so much fun — “This is the BEST
Christmas party I have ever been to!” (Just what every hostess wants to
hear!) — it was well worth it! Thanks for your help — I couldn’t have
done it without you!

1 thought on “Two hams gone wrong…and two recipes that could have saved them…Cuban Pernil and Pigeon Peas and RIce”

  • Here's a comment from one of our readers who got it right! Even though she had to run out the last minute and buy a pre-cut ham…usually a no no with this recipe. Thank You ELG!


    On Xmas Day, my carefully laid dinner plans were thwarted by the addition of three big eaters. They would graciously bring a pre-cooked ham. I threw my husband out of the house with instructions to 1) find a food store that was open and 2) don't return without
    bitter marmalade. Mercifully, we had cloves and a jar of authentic dijon in the pantry. All guests were perched on my living room sofas, while I was in the kitchen hoping I could adapt the recipe to a pre-cooked ham. It was easy. Just heat and drizzle the glaze. (Oh and the suggestion about a throw-away pan should be a requirement). So what were the results of my last minute efforts? Nothing on the table got the oohs, ahs and "may I please have seconds" like Monte's Ham. And the next morning, it was the centerpiece of breakfast with eggs. In our home, we now refer to it as Monte's Ham & Eggs.

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