Benton’s Ham – Fontina / Butternut / Cocoa Nibs

This course came to me on a Sunday afternoon while suffering on the couch with a 104 degree fever. Though I had no desire of thinking about food and tried pushing this idea out of my head, I knew that it had legs and would hit the menu. I brought the ham in from Benton’s in Tennessee for the idea of Green Eggs and Ham that I rolled out for St. Patrick’s Day. That dish worked much better in my head than it did on the plate, so we were left with 95% of the ham. This was likely why it was on my mind at all when I was sick.
The thought began with the pairing of the ham with Swiss chard and cocoa nibs. When I was feeling a bit better on Tuesday, I started to expand on the idea and scoured the pantry and fridge. Fontina cheese was left from a fondutta course that never really took off. Ham and cheese? No brainer. The cocoa nibs were toasted and then added to a gastrique made with caramelized sugar and red wine vinegar. The next ingredient that hit the dish was ramon nut which was brought in by our friend and forager, Dave Odd. The nut has a distinct characteristics of chocolate and coffee and added extra complexity. Butternut squash was left in the box from this root beer course and rounded it out. The dish had a semi-short run but was met with much love.

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