Using a neutral oil for this recipe lets the full-on flavor of the pork shine through. Berkshire (Kurobuta) and Mulefoot hog breeds are known for their rich fat and marbled meat.
Because the meat is fresh, it can stand some tenderizing. Doing a "quick cure" with salt and sugar for a day accomplishes that. Remember that this is fresh meat; overcooking it will make it chewy. After cooking, the meat should be pink on the inside and should be allowed to rest so it retains its juices. Make the sauce at least several hours in advance to allow the lemon zest to bloom.
Although this recipe calls for pan-searing, these ham steaks also are excellent grilled.
Make Ahead: The ham steaks need to be cured at least 6 hours in advance and up to overnight. The gremolata needs to be prepared several hours in advance; it can be done a day in advance and refrigerated; bring it to room temperature before serving.
- For the steaks
- Four 1-pound, bone-in, fresh heritage ham steaks, 1/2-inch thick, such as Berkshire or Mulefoot (see headnote and related sidebar for availability)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 12 sprigs thyme
- 1 stem rosemary
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil
- For the gremolata
- 1/2 bunch scallions, white and light-green parts, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- Finely grated zest from 1 lemon (1 teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the steaks: If the skin is attached, remove it, along with all but 1/4 inch of the outside layer of fat. Season each steak with the salt, pepper and sugar on both sides, and rub the seasonings into the meat.
Combine the thyme, rosemary, garlic in a large (2 1/2-gallon) resealable plastic food storage bag, then use a hammer or meat mallet to gently crush the leaves and the garlic. Add 1/4 cup of the oil then seal the bag and massage the contents gently to form a marinade.
Add the ham steaks to the bag one at a time, doing your best to coat them with the marinade. Arrange the steaks so that they lie flat in the bag without overlapping. Seal and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 6 and up to 1 day (the latter is preferable).
For the gremolata: Combine the scallions, lemon zest, capers, garlic, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. Cover and let the mixture stand at room temperature for several hours so the flavors meld, or refrigerate if you're not using it until the next day. The yield is 10 tablespoons.
When ready to cook the steaks, pick the thyme, rosemary stems and garlic pieces off the steaks. Use kitchen shears to cut four evenly spaced half-inch snips around the edges of the ham steaks, which will help keep them from curling as they cook.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, nonstick skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, sear the steaks until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. The meat should not feel completely firm when you press it with a finger; it should be slightly pink and juicy inside.
Transfer the steaks to a platter, cover them loosely with aluminum foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. Serve with the gremolata on the side.
From Sourced columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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