Ham Dip, well that’s what we call it, but it’s really more of a spread than a dip. It has a lovely, smoky, sweet-sharp creamy flavor, rather complex and robust. It’s great on a cracker, but makes a great sandwich, keeps well in the fridge and is best made at least 24 hours ahead, making it perfect for entertaining. On Christmas Eve we do finger food. It’s our tradition; it’s what we do. We light the fireplace (when it’s not 60° outside), have great conversations, usually there’s a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table to work on and sometimes friends drop by for a drink and few bites. It’s relaxing, we slow down and listen to each other, we remember, we share.
This year our table will include cocktail-sized Jamaican patties, an assortment of cheeses, slices of Cuban sandwiches, sweet and sour pork, stuffed dates, grilled kielbasa with good mustard, escabeche de pollo (“pickled chicken”–it tastes much better than it sounds) and “the” ham dip. For dessert there will be a lovely chocolate torte brought by a friend, with some homemade peppermint ice cream and a cookie tray which a very kind and thoughtful neighbor dropped off this afternoon (Ann, where do you find the time?).
Ham dip is always on our Christmas Eve table; it’s a staple and I always wonder why I don’t make it more often. It’s easy enough, it’s best made ahead and it keeps incredibly well, if it last that long, which it rarely does. Now, about the recipe. I always intend to write it down, but it just never seems to happen, so I’ll just sketch it out for you here, but keep in mind the amounts given should not be considered chiseled in stone. Let your taste buds lead you where you want the flavor to be. I ended up with about 5-6 cups of dip.
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 pound sliced, smoked ham, ground up in the food processor (about 3 cups)
- 1/3-1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 cup finely minced onion
- 3-4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
- 1-2 teaspoons Aleppo flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
- 1-2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 2 (canned) roasted red peppers, well-drained and very finely chopped
Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Stir in the remaining ingredients until well combined. Taste and correct the seasoning. Now this is where it gets interesting…we like this to be slightly sweet (from the peppers and relish), but with a bit of a bite (from the vinegar and mustard). It will taste different tomorrow, so if it tastes a bit too sharp or sweet, remember that the flavors will meld overnight. Scrape the mixture into a container and chill overnight. Normally it will be spreading consistency, but if it seems too thick, add 1-2 tablespoon milk. Serve with water crackers, Cuban crackers or party rye or with a spoon eaten over the sink!
Ham Dip Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
This is what it looks like before you stir it all up. You can’t see the onion, as it’s underneath the ham. You probably won’t need to add any salt, but I always add a good bit of freshly ground black pepper. You can make small sandwiches using party rye or thinly sliced French baguette, but I usually serve the dip with water crackers or Cuban crackers for The Latin Lover. This is always his request for the Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, table.
NOTE: I didn’t get this posted before Christmas, but it’s never too late for Cuban Ham Dip and it is a great mixture to serve with soup.