Ham salad is ham salad: a simple way to use up ham leftovers in a creamy sandwich spread. Simple in theory, anyway.
Element of distress
Most ham salads are plagued with the overwhelming taste of pretty much everything else other than the sweet, smoky bits of pork. Between the texture (like pureed spread), the gloppiness (from mayonnaise overload), and the laundry list of ingredients running roughshod over the ham (Thousand Island dressing, honey, random vegetables from the crisper), many recipes go off the rails.
Line of attack
We’ll put the emphasis on ham in our ham salad by paring the recipe down to a few classic ingredients (and releasing our white-knuckled grip on the mayonnaise jar).
Let’s fight this mayo thing head on. For 1½ cups of leftover ham, many recipes required an equal amount of mayonnaise. Could less be more? We used ¼ cup to add creaminess and to just hold the salad together. A tablespoon of whole-grain mustard contributed pungency and a little crunch.
Now that the ham has been pushed from the wings to on stage, let’s ensure it remains the center of attention. (It is a ham, after all.) We loved the sweet-tart contrast of sweet pickle relish, but we judiciously reduced the amount from ½ cup found in many recipes to just 3 tablespoons. Black pepper was all the seasoning needed; the ham was plenty salty on its own.
Now we’re in the mix. We learned the hard way not to dump everything in the food processor and hit “on” (unless you’d prefer your my ham salad turned into a pâté-esque approximation of glorified pet food). We simply chopped the ham by itself in the food processor, then transferred it to a bowl and stirred in the remaining ingredients by hand.
Consensus? A single spoonful of this sweet, creamy, balanced salad would satisfy any ham lover, and it only gets better after a short spell in the fridge.
Play it again, ham.