Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Neon Ham Salad Stuffed Tomato Platter

     The Neon Ham Salad name comes from the type of pickle relish used in the recipe.  Neon Relish is a popular Chicago condiment.  Neon Relish is one of the featured ingredients on an authentic Chicago Style Hot Dog.  The color of  Neon Pickle Relish is a bright neon bluish green color.  The unique flavor of Neon Relish is more complex than regular sweet pickle relish.
     Procuring Neon Relish is not easy to do outside of the Chicago area.  Neon Relish is a brand name product and it is the original.  Neon Relish is the best.  The Vienna Hot Dog Company also markets a product that goes by the name Chicago Style Relish, which is nearly as good.  Neon Relish or Chicago Relish can be found at Chicago Style Hot Dog Stands and at some Chicago Italian Beef restaurants.  Both relish products can also be found at internet shopping sites, like Amazon.

     I posted a standard Ham Salad recipe a few years ago and I was surprised to find out how many people have never heard of ham salad.  About 100 people commented on the Ham Salad posting at social networks websites.  Most of them thought that Ham Salad was some kind of a novel new idea.
     Toward the end of the 1800's and the early 1900's, Europeans called Mayonnaise Potato Salad by the name American Salad (salade américain).  Europeans then started calling every salad that was made with mayonnaise an American Salad, even if the salad was made with tuna, chicken or carrots and raisons.

     Mayonnaise was not an item that could be bought in a store one hundred ten years ago.  Mayonnaise was made to order before the age of refrigeration.  When jars of Mayonnaise were first markets in the early 1900's, it caused a culinary revolution, because mayonnaise became a convenience.  Everybody and their mother's mother was making mayonnaise salads.  Potato Salad (salade américain) was the king of all mayonnaise salads.
     Nowadays, a jar of mayonnaise sits in nearly every refrigerator and the mayonnaise is most often used to make a fairly limited variety of mayonnaise salads.  In America, the name "salade américain" makes no sense.  The names of mayonnaise salads are specific in this country.  When Tuna Salad is mentioned, people think of a mayonnaise and tuna mixture.  The same goes for Chicken Salad.

     In the American southern states, Ham Salad is a popular item.  One of the best Ham Salads is made with dry cured Southern Ham.  The flavor of a Ham Salad that is made with Southern Ham is indescribably delicious!
     Southern Ham is very salty and it must be soaked in water before cooking.  Standard cured ham can be a little bit salty too.  It is best to only add a pinch of salt or no salt at all, when seasoning a Ham Salad or the flavor will be far too salty.
     When choosing a ham for a ham salad recipe, try to find a nice quality roasted ham.  Cheap boiled pressed deli style lunchmeat ham is not a good choice.  Roasted cured ham or smoked cured ham are the best options.  
     Neon Ham Salad: 
     This recipe yield 1 portion!
     Step 1:  Trim any excess fat or rind off of a 4 ounce piece of ham.
     Finely chop the ham.
     Step 2:  Place the chopped ham in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Chicago style Neon Relish.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely diced celery.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 pinch of salt, if the ham is not already salty tasting.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion top.
     Step 3:  Add just enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together, while stirring.
     *Do not add too much mayonnaise!  Only use enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together or the Ham Salad will be soupy!  For a stuffed tomato the Ham Salad has to be fairly stiff.
     Stir the ingredients together till thoroughly blended.
     Refrigerate the Neon Ham Salad to 41ºF for about 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Neon Ham Salad Stuffed Tomato Platter: 
     This recipe yields 1 stuffed tomato platter presentation. 
     Since most people expect to see bright colors when the word neon is mentioned, just go with it!  Some of the best quality brightest neon color pickle products are made in Iran and Iraq.  Basically the art of pickling originated in ancient Persia and this heritage continues to this day.  Persian pickle products can be found in Mediterranean food markets and they usually sell for a nice price.  
     Step 1:  Place a few small leaves of green leaf lettuce on a plate as a bed for the salad.
     Step 2:  Place a ripe medium size tomato on a cutting board with the core of the tomato facing down.
     Cut 4 vertical slices into the tomato from the top, almost to the bottom, so the slices only are cut just slightly more than 3/4's of the way through the tomato.  (4 vertical slices yields 8 tomato flower petals.)
    *The knife cuts must not be sliced all the way through the tomato or the tomato will not open up like a flower!  This procedure is called a Star Cut Tomato.
     Step 3:  Place the tomato on the bed of lettuce on center of the plate.
     Gently open the thin wedges of the tomato to create an open flower shape.
     Step 4:  Use a large scoop to neatly gather the Neon Ham Salad.
     Place the scoop of Neon Ham Salad into the center of the open tomato flower.
     Step 5:  Garnish the plate with these colorful items:
     - Italian Giardiniera
     - Persian Pink Pickled Turnips
     - Chicago style Sport Peppers
     - Pickled Banana Pepper Rings
     - Mixed Olives
     Garnish the Neon Ham Salad with Italian Parsley leaves.
     This tasty stuffed tomato salad entrée definitely has a neon glow!

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