24 April, 2008


Boneless Ham a la Gourmet Magazine 1987.

Here's the scene last Monday about 11:30 PM (that's 23:30 for my Continental friends, and a half hour more if you are in Hyderabad): I walk in with my haul from baking class, 2 rye loaves, 2 pains de campange, 12 mini baguettes. Bonne Femme is sitting on the couch unable to sleep. "I have fresh bread, who wants a ham sandwich?" BF replies, "I would but we don't have any mayonnaise."

"Huh? We got eggs don't we?"

One egg yolk, 1/2t mustard, a splash of vinegar, juice from half of a small lime, salt, white pepper and six ounces of canola oil. Thirty seconds later, Hey Presto, mayonnaise.

Midnight snack.

In school this quarter I am taking a food styling for photography class. Even though a friend who is a noted photography expert remarked, "Take the Class? Hell man, you could teach it," I still need to learn the "Tricks of the trade." I mean how do they get a burger to look hot and juicy even though its no warmer than a jar of jam? How do they make a beer look cold and refreshing even though it's been several hours since it came out of a can? I don't know the answers yet, but I will find out over the next few weeks.

For the first project I decided to shoot ham, so I gotta make some ham. I started with the brine recipe for "Glazed Holiday Ham," from Charcuterie, by Ruhlman and Polcyn. I threw in a handful old pickling spice and boiled it to a tea. Once this mixture had cooled I put in the ham. Since my boneless ham was in several pieces I figured it wouldn't need to sit too long, maybe three days.

Thoroughly pickled, time to tie our friends into roasts.

I let the roasts rest for a day then smoked them on the Weber Smokey Mountain.

Three hours later at an internal temperature of 155F, the ham is ready for its close-up.

This brings me to another philosophical quandary: Food as props. I'm sure somebody has written a book about this but I get an uneasy feeling about "styling" an object in order to made it look appetizing, then throw it away because it's inedible. This isn't a still life, this is portraiture. (all ham depicted in this blog was treated with respect, handled in accordance with sanitary guidelines and happily consumed). I know these thoughts verge on silly, along the lines of stepping on a bug, or the vegetarian having to cook meat at culinary class, I know there is give and take and compromises that are made for the greater good, but I haven't come to terms with it yet; I just can't put it down the drain.

In the mean time here are a couple of pictures of ham doing what it is supposed to do:

(Ham on a bagel under an egg and hollandaise)

(Ham on biscuit with egg)

Feeding someone, making someone happy.



jolie said...

Dude, let's hear it for the homemade mayonnaise-- it is easily made from ingrediants one is more than likely to have on hand, is far superior to its store bought, pasturized kin, and is totally up for all sorts of embelishments. I just did some up flavoured with fresh lavender leaves and it was awesome! HOLLA!

mac said...

And you put that lavender mayo on soft shell crab? That is WHACK. I saw the pics on flickr, right on. I think the point here that we can all agree on is that food tastes far better when made at home, food tastes better when made with love. And it only takes thirty seconds!

By the way I been think about a new blog about your upcoming adventures in pastry. I'd call it "Don't Mess with My Sister." How do you say that in French?

CMH Gourmand said...

Time for me to come to the castle for breakfast, second breakfast, and lunch with you and BF. All that ham makes me hungry.

Mission: Cochon said...

That smoked ham looks delarcious! Wow! I am now actively coveting your ham and longing for a smoker. And wishing I could take such excellent photographs of pork. Great work!

Andrew said...

Nice pics-before I started blogging, I assumed taking food pictures was easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I finally learned the shallow depth of field trick, but that is pretty standard stuff.
Oh yeah, love that ham.

Anonymous said...

Did Bob Marley really write a song called "Hammin'"?


mac said...

Dear Gourmie:
My man. Ma maison est ta maison. Come on by, I'll teach you how to make hotdogs and you'll never buy Nathan's again!

Dear MC:
Thanks for checking in. Your blog rocks. I have a caillettes (caul) receipe that's been languishing for a couple of years, after seeing your photos, I wanna get on it.

Dear Andrew:
Thanks for the kind words. In class I learned two rules to food pictures: 1. Use natural light. 2. have the light coming from the back half of the frame. The ham in photo at the top of this entry was just sitting next to a window. I used some foamcore cards to bounce the light around a little, but the only light source was the sun.

Dear Brian:
Sometimes I get a song stuck in my head. Does that ever happen to you? Now get back in that kitchen and make a little love for that newly enlargened family of yours.

Thanks to everyone for writing, keep em comming!

rachel said...

mac don't get too tripped up on looking good for the camera. As long as it looks good for the role you are serving it too, that is what matters.