Catering to Spring: Ham and Eggs
It’s that time of year again. It’s chilly but a skitch warm. Cloudy but the sun peaks through on occasion. Raw air pierced by a singular warm breeze. It’s spring in Chicago. And, as we continue to persevere to the finish line of 75 degrees and sunny, I am going to warm my soul and tuck into a heavenly plate of ham and eggs – the perfect compliment to spring days in Chicago.
First, let’s talk ham. Ham is, a fond food memory of mine. Bolton Dockrell, father of my childhood BFF, Margot, ran a ham smoking business behind their house in Roseland New Jersey. I vividly remember getting out of the car for a play date with Margot and seeing Mr. Dockrell outside, sporting a tweedy jacket with bowtie and gathering wood, as we all stood enveloped with the heavenly smell of smoking hams.
This fragrant memory made quite an impression. It’s no doubt that when I met my husband to-be, Michael, and he shared that his father was practiced in the art (hobby) of sausage and ham making, that I first started to say the words, “I do,” in the back of my head.
Mario, Michael’s father, makes his family recipe Calabrian-style Soppresata each January – which is definitely a highlight of the holiday season for me. What’s better than encased meats hanging from the fruit cellar ceiling? A little bit old country Belmonte, Italia meets Weirton, West Virginia.
For the rest of the year, I am on my own, seeking out smoked pork wherever I can get it. Luckily, the situation is looking up in Chicago. Rob and Allie Levitt’s Butcher & Larder opened a few months ago and it is smoked and cured and heaven in every direction through those magical doors on Milwaukee Avenue. Brava! And, then I can always rely on Paul Kahan and The Publican to turn out some amazing pork and will be further sated this summer when Publican Quality Meats opens and I can take some of the magic home. We’ve come a long way, baby.
My love for all things ham even gets some press from time to time! Check Entertaining Company outthis month in Michigan Avenue Magazine. Our Bloody Mary get a garnish of house-cured salami.
And, then there are eggs. Eggs go from the sublime to the oh my!!! Breakfast, brunch and dinner, with a little extra attention, they are far from mundane.
At Entertaining Company we are fairly obsessed with deviled eggs and are getting more and more requests for our Deviled Egg Station at cocktail parties. My personal favorite is paired with chorizo, goat cheese and spiked with epilette paprika. It’s bite-sized ham and eggs at it’s very best.
Speaking of bedeviling…our late night snackers love an egg sandwich served after midnight. For what is more reassuring to the psyche than a lightly buttered bagel featuring an over easy egg with smokey bacon? Yes, the sun will rise in 5 hours, but you won’t feel so bad because you have had a little something to nosh on.
This mother’s day, I will be celebrating my mother and daughters with a menu starting with a cocktail of Blood Orange Champagne sipped alongside a teeny cocktail muffin topped with artisanal bacon scrambled eggs and heirloom tomato chutney. Because, if nothing else says love, it is a spring morning with my most cherished ones – and a bite of eggs and ham.