My in-laws love Easter. The thought of budding flowers and warmer weather herald happy times for them. It’s the way they express their love for the season — a meal for five that could easily feed that many tenfold — that gets me onboard.
Whether celebrating a holiday or just another Saturday night, a meal with my chef father-in-law always means leftovers. I love it, don’t get me wrong! It’s just a matter of coming up with ways to use them all. The beautiful thing about his Easter meal is that everything is so simply prepared. A beautiful roasted ham (locally sourced from a Maryland farm just down the street from their house), lightly dressed green vegetables and a crisp white wine: It’s a blissful welcome to spring.
Making great use of what was already in-house, I whipped up an amazing dinner that really captured the bright flavors of the previous night’s meal. I dressed up a vegetable medley with simple lemon-dill vinaigrette while my favorite sandwich secret weapon — red pepper jelly — worked its magic on a grilled ham and Gouda sandwich.
I guess, now that I think about it, I love the Easter holiday too. It means the bright, fresh flavors of spring are here!
Grilled Ham & Gouda Sandwich With Easter Veggies
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 25 minutes
For the Grilled Ham & Gouda
8 thick slices good-quality bread
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons red pepper jelly
10 to 12 slices leftover roast ham (about 1 pound total)
1/2-pound Gouda, thinly sliced
For the Easter Veggies
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fruit preserves, such as apricot or peach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
4 cups roughly chopped (as needed) prepared green vegetables, such as asparagus, zucchini or peas
Place a large skillet or griddle pan over low heat. Lay out the slices of bread on a work surface and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over each one. Flip each slice over and spread a thin layer of red pepper jelly over each one. Build the sandwiches by dividing the ham and Gouda between four of the slices and closing them so that the mayonnaise is on the outside.
Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown and heated through.
While the sandwiches are toasting, in a large bowl whisk together the lemon juice, preserves, dill, olive oil and some salt and pepper. Toss the green vegetables with the dressing and reserve.
Cut the sandwiches on a bias and serve warm along with the vegetable salad.
NOTE: Be sure to keep the heat nice and low! Haunted forevermore by the “blackened outside, ice-cold inside” grilled cheeses of my youth (sorry, babysitters: you nailed lots of things, but grilled cheese was not one of them), I’ve learned that patience is key to a successful sammie. Slow and steady wins the race.
AWESOME TIP: One of my favorite grilled cheese tricks — passed on to me by the great and fabulous Paula Deen ‑ is to spread the outside of your bread with mayonnaise when making a grilled sandwich. As she explained, lots of people put butter in the pan and then cook the sandwich in the butter. This is awesome for the first side because it soaks up all the butter, but that means that the flip side is dry and burns. And that’s gross. When you use this trick, both sides of the sandwich get equal opportunity to have a beautiful, toasty, golden-brown crust.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.