Fried Country Ham Steaks with Red-Eve Gravy
Charlie Gatton Jr., of Father’s Country Hams will be quick to tell you that the future lies in country ham steaks-and he’s not wrong. These are slices off the ham, usually from the thickest bit of muscle, farthest from the hock. But read the label carefully: some are precooked and ready-to-eat. Thus, they do not need to be soaked in advance (so skip steps 1 and 2 in this recipe).
The debates about red-eye gravy rage. The name? Some say it refers to your red eyes at breakfast after a night of drinking. Other says that the little red circle in the creamy translucence gives rise to a vulgar name for a part of a woman’s anatomy. (Shouldn’t you then have two bowls of gravy?) But those debates are nothing compared to the ones about how the stuff should be made. Purists insist it’s nothing but ham drippings, no additives; others, Alabaman in nature, that the gravy should be mixed with ketchup or even yellow mustard. In the end, we prefer the traditional Kentucky way: with coffee. But for the best taste, we use something no country restaurant would have on hand: espresso. If the gravy is too salty for your taste, calm it down with dashes of a hot red pepper sauce like Tabasco sauce.
Makes4 servings but can be doubled or tripled, provided you double or triple the number of skillets in use
Total Timeunder 1 hour
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturemeaty, rich, salty, savory
- Two ½-pound, -¼ inch-thick uncooked country ham steaks
- 2 tablespoons lard or solid vegetable shortening
- 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, plus additional for soaking the steaks
- 2 tablespoons espresso or very, very strong coffee
Place the ham steaks in a large baking pan, cover with water, and soak for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Drain the steaks; cut off the thick outer rind if there is one (but leave the fat for better protection and flavor); and pat dry.
Melt the lard or shortening in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ham steaks, then pour in l/3 cup water. Crank the heat to medium high and bring the water to a boil. Turn the ham steaks once or twice as the water boils away.
Once the water is gone, continue cooking the steaks, frying them in the residual fat, until browned in splotchy patches, turning once, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter.
Pour the coffee and 3 tablespoons water into the skillet. As the mixture comes to a boil, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Boil for 30 seconds, then pour into a small bowl. Use this red-eye gravy as a dip for the ham, a sop for biscuits, or a drizzle for accompanying eggs, particularly those served sunny side up.
2010 Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough