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Recipes and Stories

14 October 2016: Baked Ham Steak with Pineapple and Sweet Potatoes

Baked Ham Steak with Pineapple and Sweet Potatoes

When canned pineapple was first introduced more than a century ago, cooks in places where the fruit had always been an imported and therefore rare and expensive luxury probably went a bit overboard with it. Not only had it suddenly become affordable, it was trimmed of its spike-leaved top knot, its prickly skin and tough core were removed, and it had been neatly cut into conveniently attractive rings.

Not surprisingly, during the early part of the twentieth century, those canned pineapple rings began turning up in all kinds of “fancy” dishes and quickly became the most popular way to gussy up a sweet-glazed ham for company, often with their center holes filled with maraschino cherries.

This simple little recipe is of that vintage, and may seem a little bit retro and maybe even a little corny, but it also happens to be quite good. You could use fresh pineapple if you really can’t stand the notion of the can, but trust me: by the time it bakes for an hour, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Baked Ham Steak with Pineapple and Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

4 medium, slender orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 center-cut bone-in ham steak cut at least ½-inch-thick or up to 1-inch-thick, about 1¼-2 pounds, or 2 8-ounce boneless ½-inch-thick ham steaks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 8-ounce can pineapple rings in pineapple juice, juice reserved
1/3 cup (tightly packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or to taste
Whole nutmeg in a grater

1. Scrub the sweet potatoes under cold running water, peel, and cut them into 1-inch thick slices. If you can only find fat sweet potatoes, halve the potatoes lengthwise before slicing them.

2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Take the ham steak from the packaging and thoroughly drain away any liquid. Pat it dry. Put 1 tablespoon butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed, oven-safe lidded 12-skillet or shallow flame-safe casserole. Warm the pan over medium heat and when the butter is melted and bubbling, add the ham and brown it well on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Turn off the heat.

3. Arrange the sweet potatoes around the ham. Break the pineapple rings into quarters and scatter them over the potatoes. Stir the pineapple juice and brown sugar together and pour it over all. Dot the potatoes and pineapple with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle them with generously cinnamon and nutmeg, both to taste. Cover tightly with the lid (or with foil if you don’t have a lid for the pan) and bake until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover, baste everything with the pan juices, and bake, basting occasionally, about 30 minutes longer, or until the pan juices are reduced and the potatoes are lightly colored.

4. Take up the ham to a platter and slice it thickly or divide it into individual portions. Surround it with the potatoes and pineapple, spoon the pan juices over it, and serve.

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