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Dancing Tomatoes

THE BEST PART OF THE HAM

The heel of the ham may well be the very best part. I’m talking here about the heel of an air-cured ham, what most of us in the anglophone world call “prosciutto”, you know, the burnished red, paper thin delicacy that makes everything better.

What is Heel of Ham?

So, what is the heel? It’s the rounded part which yields very short slices that no one wants to buy. So, the butchers – here at least – don’t slice up that piece. They stash it in the back of the shop and when all customers are gone, slice it for themselves. Because they know what I know: it’s one of the best parts of the ham.

My Norman Butcher

When I lived in Normandy, my butcher would save me the heel of the ham. He didn’t slice it up for me but I didn’t care. I would slice what I could then dice the rest and use it in everything from soup to salad. And sometimes I simply served it as an appetizer, along with cherry tomatoes, or radishes, or slices of baguette.

Slicing to the Heel

It takes time to get to know butchers in a new neighborhood, but I may have arrived. The other day I watched as the butcher sliced up some air-cured ham (for a customer who was buying KILOS of it…maybe a for a clandestine party?). As he reached the heel, he took it off the slicer, wrapped it up, set it aside and started in on another ham.

Eyeing the Heel

I eyed that heel. When he was finished and it was my turn I asked if I could buy it. He laughed, a big throaty sound. “You’ve got the eye, Madame,” he said. “I’d thought about taking that home for myself.” But like the god of meat he is, he wrapped and weighed it, made up a price which was what I might have paid for a glass of water, and handed it over.

A Treasure in My Hand

I took the treasure home and sliced what I could very thin to serve as an appetizer. I didn’t have radishes or cherry tomatoes, but I did have crackers and champagne. It was all delicious. Then I diced some and tossed it with a salad. And then I added some to a pizza…and I still have some left, because it keeps a long while.

Get to know a local butcher and ask them for their next heel of air-cured ham. You’ll make a friend and have some delicious fun.

Bon Appetit!

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