One of the advantages of having a second home in Virginia is that we can get baked country ham sliced to order from the supermarket deli up there, a luxury we've not had here in Savannah for a long time. Which means that over the holidays we'll be able to enjoy an old Southern Christmas treat: baked country ham sliced wafer-thin and piled high in warm biscuits or yeast rolls.
Sadly, the tradition of having this treat on Christmas morning is vanishing faster than snow in Florida. There are still a few families who have a whole baked country ham at the holidays, and they enjoy this luxury whenever they like throughout the season. But as fewer families keep this old culinary tradition, and still fewer market delis offer cooked country ham sliced to order, warm country ham biscuits or rolls are becoming rare.
They don't have to be: Good prosciutto, which is nowadays stocked even by small-town market delis, is just country ham with an Italian accent. It cooks in seconds, and when warmed in a skillet, folded, and stuffed into hot biscuits or rolls, it makes a more than acceptable substitute for our old baked Christmas country ham.
"Country Ham" Rolls
These aren't just for Christmas in my house. They're also a quick Sunday morning treat that gets us through to that late Sunday lunch. Yes, they're made with frozen Parker House rolls. You can make your own if you really want to, or substitute hot, homemade buttermilk biscuits for them, but in my old age, I've come to accept that, when a process is already done for me, and done well, why fight it?
1 package frozen Parker House rolls, thawed overnight in the refrigerator, or homemade rolls
6-8 ounces thin-sliced prosciutto
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Put the pan of rolls on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn them out of the pan and let them cool just enough to handle. Split each roll, leaving one side of it attached, and if you like lightly butter them. Cover and keep warm.
2. Rub a little butter on the center of a non-stick or well-seasoned cast-iron pan and warm it over medium low heat. When the pan is hot but not smoking, one piece at a time, lay a slice of prosciutto on the pan and as soon as it starts to bubble up (this is almost immediate), quickly fold it over 3-4 times with a pair of wooden or nylon-tipped tongs and stuff it into a prepared roll. Keep them warm while repeating with the remaining ham and rolls.
3. Serve immediately while still warm or let them cool, return them to the pan in which the rolls were baked, and cover tightly with foil. If you're making them more than 2-3 hours ahead, refrigerate them until half an hour before you plan to serve them. When ready to serve, reheat (still tightly covered) for 5-7 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
The recipe and portions of this essay are adapted from Ham: A Savor the South Cookbook ®, published by UNC Press. Copyright © 2017 by Damon Lee Fowler, all rights reserved.