Growing up there were certain dishes my Dad made that no matter how hard my Mom tried, she just couldn’t make as good as him. His City Chicken was the best I have ever EVER had in my life. If you’re not from Pittsburgh it’s a ‘mock’ drumstick consisting of cubes of meat (usually pork and veal), breaded, which have been placed on a wooden and then fried then put in a roaster to steam. I can’t tell you how many times I purposely came home from college on the weekend just for that dish. It’s still one dish that I can’t make. It’s so simple that I just can’t do it. One day though. Another dish is his ham salad sandwich spread. 4 simple ingredients that literally rocked like no one’s business. Growing up we had a very famous deli here, Isaly’s, that was known for their chipped chopped ham. That was the key to ham bbq sammiches. The other was their Ham Salad. While I never liked chipped chopped ham (still don’t), I used to love their ham salad. That was until my Dad made it using up some leftover ham we had one Easter. Now the fact that we had leftover anything in our house considering we had 8 people living there 4 of which were GINORMOUS non-stop eating machine brothers was a pure miracle. Come to think of it I think that’s the year he made 2-25 pound hams. Anywho we had an abundance to say the least of ham. And that’s where I learned how to ‘repurpose’ leftovers into amazing ‘new’ dishes. Since we were really poor, buying pre-made stuff, even ham salad was a luxury so we learned to make stuff on our own and honestly it blew away anything you could buy in the stores.
Now I know what you’re thinking.. “TKW, this has mayo in it! And you abhor mayo! What gives?” First off this doesn’t have real mayo in it. My Dad tried it with mayo and it was DISGUSTING (and rightly so cause mayo is icky) but the taste was just nasty. Then he tried the ‘competitor’ – the whipped salad dressing/spread. THAT was it. Now while I won’t actively seek this stuff out to eat I will tolerate it in certain foods and honestly it’s what this recipe needs for that zippy tang.
Fast forward a bajillion years from my childhood to last week (yes a bajillion cause I’m that old) and I found myself with leftover Christmas ham. I already shared with you my most favorite chowder recipe using the ham (which has gone VIRAL!), however one can only have so much of this chowder (or in my case only as much as my poor freezer will hold) so I needed to come up with some different recipes other than ham steaks again and again and again. Then I remembered this recipe and instantly got such a huge smile on my face. While I had none of the stuff on hand I specifically went to the store just to buy the 2 ingredients and while some may call it wasting gas, I call it tummy satisfaction!
There is just something homey and simple about this dish. Now it could be the fact that it literally uses only 3-4 ingredients or the fact that it is very inexpensive to make and it makes a bunch. This isn’t fancy schmancy or hoity toity but what it is is real, down to earth, unpretentious and for me, home. It carries memories of my childhood sitting on the kitchen table watching my Dad in his white t-shirt and dickies pants cranking the hand meat grinder telling me stories of when he was a kid. Laughing until we cried and then being the first allowed to ‘sneak’ a taste. God I miss those days and would give up everything I have just to have one more day in the kitchen with him and Mom. However even though they’ve both been gone for many, many years they are always with me in the kitchen kind of keeping me in line or in a way, guiding my mixing hand.
Now I don’t have a hand meat grinder but if you do, feel free to use that. I let some of my modern amenities help me out here and just used my food processor to pulse the meat and gherkins down to the right size (pay attention to the pictures – that’s the size you want, you don’t want a puree). This came together in what, 5 minutes after I put it in the food processor and then you can either eat it then or chill it (that’s how I prefer it).
Now I’m sure if you’ve had this you’ve had it with eggs, onions or real mayo in it (gag) but this is what I know and what I like. Give it a shot and yes, the ketchup adds that certain je ne sais quoi needed to round out the flavor. Just be easy with it as you don’t want a lot.
To serve this we opted for crackers or simple white bread. Now if you did want to get fancy schmancy with it, you could easily put this on toasted rye crostini and top each with a half of baby sweet gherkin.Print
- 2 cups cubed ham
- 1 cup cubed ring bologna (Optional) – this was put in if we had extra money
- 1 cup sweet gherkins
- 1 1/3 cup whipped salad dressing (not mayo) *See note
- 1 Tbl ketchup
- Place the cubed ham (and bologna) in a food processor and pulse just until you get smaller pieces.
- Add in the gherkins and pulse until the pieces are about the size of rice. You don’t want it pureed; you want small pieces.
- Scrape into a bowl.
- Add in the whipped salad dressing (I used Miracle Whip) and ketchup and mix to combine. If adding in the ring bologna increase the dressing to 1 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbl.
- Store in an air tight container in the fridge.