Slightly sweet, clove-flecked pineapple ham — jamón con piña — is an Easter dinner tradition in the home of chef Jose Mendín’s grandmother, near San Juan.
But when Mendín bakes the ham, as satisfying as the warm slices are right out of the oven, Mendín prefers to use them the next day as a brunch ingredient.
“I’d do a pimped-up sandwich, or use leftover meat to make fried rice with an egg on top,” said Mendín, chef-owner of Miami’s Pubbelly Restaurant Group. “Since the ham can be made ahead, I love the idea of serving it as part of an Easter brunch.”
Mendín and other South Florida restaurant chefs — Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s and Crumb on Parchment, and Robbyns Martinez of Himmarshee Public House and Rok:Brgr — played with classic Easter ham and lamb dishes to come up with recipes home cooks can use to impress their holiday guests.
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Lamb has been part of Jewish and Christian springtime holidays since biblical times. Ham came to U.S. Easter dinner tables much later, after European settlers brought their salt-curing techniques to the colonies. A big cut, the hams aged through the winter and were ready by Easter.
A Miami-born Jewish Latina, Bernstein drew inspiration from her mother’s Argentine cooking for a chimichurri rub she used to coat roast ham.
Bernstein knows her way around pork (she’s the reigning queen of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s popular Swine & Wine event), and it shows in this recipe.
An initial blast of heat in a 500-degree oven sets the ham’s skin on a course to becoming a crispy, addictive bark. The meat remains juicy and deeply seasoned after roasting at a lower temperature thanks to an overnight brine spiked with apple cider vinegar.
From his Himmarshee Public House kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, Martinez said he set out to use lamb to create “a complex flavor profile using ingredients that are easy to come by and a recipe that is doable for the home chef.”
He accomplished that by lacquering lamb ribs with a spicy-sweet glaze of the Asian hot sauce Sriracha and root beer (his preferred bottle: Abita from Louisiana).
“The ribs are sweet and have a slightly spicy finish with a sticky, caramelized glaze,” Martinez said.
Usually grilled or broiled until a delicate medium-rare, ribs get a low-and-slow bake before being glazed and finished under high heat. They become fall-off-the-bone tender when ready to serve.
Martinez said he enjoyed mixing ingredients like sesame oil, rice vinegar and Sriracha with American staples like lamb and root beer. “The hint of Asian influences enhances a traditional American dish,” he said.
As for Mendín, his jamón con piña looks and tastes like a classic Easter ham: a precooked, boneless roast with pineapple rings set on a sticky glaze of brown sugar and orange liqueur.
But combine leftover slices of that sweet-salty roast pork with homemade pork belly confit, creamy yuzu mustard, tangy pickles and Swiss cheese in an eggy-yellow roll? That is a medianoche to top all medianoches.
Mendín’s take on Easter ham and its sandwich spinoff are easy enough to make at home.
But for those who would rather let Mendín do the cooking, his grandmother’s jamón con piña and his medianoche will be served at PB Steak’s Easter brunch, from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.