Que Serrano Serrano

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It was 15 years ago that I last enjoyed Serrano ham. I had been invited by a Swiss colleague to accompany him on a two-day trip to Madrid to review restaurants for an airline magazine and as I was already in Switzerland for a weekend-long chocolate and pastry tour I couldn't resist tailoring the trip to tack on two or three days at the beginning to visit Spain.In addition to the fantastic meals we experienced I fell in love with the Jamón Serrano (Serrano ham), so much so that I purchased an entire ham to bring back to my husband in NY. Much to my disappointment, this ham(which was probably illegal to bring in at the time and heavy to boot) turned out to be so salty that finally I had to discard it. When recently I was invited to a Serrano ham dinner in New York, I leapt at the chance to revisit this specialty and was so glad I did. There is now a ConsorcioSerrano that governs the standards of this glorious ham to maintain consistency of quality. And it was great to discover that Serrano ham is now being shipped (legally!) to the US. The dinner was held at La Fonda del Sol, located right next to Grand Central Station. The evening began with a demonstration by master ham carver Cortador Ricardo Garrido Robles from Spain. As he magisterially cut translucent-thin pink slices of the ham, plates were passed for serving and none of us could stop eating the samples. The ham was so perfect just by itself we would have been happy with that alone until we tasted the cuisine of Chef Josh DeChellis who briliantly integrated the jamón into each and every course. Pictured below were three of my favorites:

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Grilled halibut, melon, Serrano ham, and arugula Black mission figS serrano ham, and Montcabrer cheese Scallops cured by 'marination' using the salt from the Serrano ham which also embued ithem with flavor.