Recipe: Fresh Ham Sandwiches with Jarlsberg

Growing up in Mobile, AL my family had a very basic New Year’s Eve tradition. My father, a deputy sheriff, had worked more than enough fireworks related accidents.  Therefore nothing more volatile than a sparkler was ever part of our celebration. Still we had a tradition-rich New Year’s.

Each of us kids was given a dollar bill to keep in a pocket. The superstition was that if you didn’t have money in your pocket at midnight you’d be broke all year long. Most of the evening was spent playing with whatever toys or games we received for Christmas while my mother was busy in the kitchen preparing the feast for the next day. The usual “good luck” foods like collard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread and a fresh baked ham.

JarlsbergAn hour or so before midnight my father would slice some of the fresh ham and pan fry it for a little caramelization on this old cast iron griddle. Once the ham was browned he would then assemble sandwiches with the ham, mayonnaise and yellow mustard between two slices of white bread.  My mother loved cheese so as a special touch we would add a few slices of Jarlsberg.  The sandwiches would then go on the old griddle until toasty. Simple but truly delicious.

Those ham sandwiches, dripping with melted Jarlsberg, were one of my mother’s favorite meals of the year, I think because it was one of the few she didn’t have to cook herself.  She and I had a wonderful relationship because her eyes were always bigger than her stomach.  My stomach for that matter was always a bottomless pit.

You can make this sandwich yourself using smoked ham but it is better with fresh baked ham, especially if it was baked my mother. The flavor is similar to a Cuban sandwich. Most likely I am a fan of the Cuban because it takes me back to those New Year’s Eves of my childhood.

At midnight, bellies full, we would count down the last ten seconds of the old year before screaming, “Happy New Year!” Kisses and hugs were exchanged and maybe a sip or two of something naughty. Before long we were unconscious, pork and a swallow of Whiskey Sour makes an excellent sedative for a youngster. We needed the rest, too, because the next day would be a torrent of soul food and football, the cornerstones of life.

Sure it was a bland, humdrum way to spend a New Year’s Eve but it is a heck of a lot better than watching a giant Moonpie dangle from a construction crane or dodging drunks on the highway.  It is also one of my most cherished childhood memories.

My dear mother passed away last month and I know that I will never again get to finish the last few bites of her sandwich for her.  But I am happy that at our last Christmas celebration we had all the makings of of those New Year’s sandwiches.  There was ham, mayo, mustard, plain white bread, Jarlsberg and for the last time my mother.

Jarlsberg is the perfect cheese for this sandwich because of its buttery, rich texture and easy melt-ability (New Word!).  It’s nutty undertones go perfectly with creamy mayo and tangy mustard.  You can learn more about Jarlsberg by visiting their blog, jarlsbergusa.wordpress.com or maybe even take in the Eat, Write, Retreat conference this May where they will be one of the sponsors.

You don’t have to wait for New Year’s Eve to make these sandwiches.  They are great for a middle of the week quick meal, a late-night snack or for your Super Bowl or March Madness party.  Check it out.

Griddle Ham Sandwiches with Jarlsberg
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4-8
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds baked fresh ham, sliced (may substitute smoked ham)
  • 16 slices white bread
  • 16 slices Jarlsberg or Jarlsberg light
  • Mayonnaise and mustard to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet to medium heat.
  2. Pan fry the ham until hot. Remove and set aside.
  3. On one slice of of bread put a healthy amount of mayo, on another a heavy amount of mustard. Place the two pieces together to and twist to mix the condiments lightly.
  4. Open the bread back up and add four ounces of ham and two slices of Jarlsberg.
  5. Place the sandwiches on the griddle and cook until toasty, turn and cook until the other side is also toasty.
  6. Repeat until all ingredients are gone.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
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2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
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2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
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