Ham (or Ham and Turkey) Tetrazzini
Historians and popular culture mavens like to argue about the origins of this popular casserole, but all agree that the dish was created for Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini, whose appetite was apparently as large as her legendary voice. The original wasn’t a casserole but a bed of spaghetti topped with a velouté sauce enriched with poultry, mushrooms, and possibly slivered almonds, and finished with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. For at least three-quarters of a century, however, the more usual rendition has been this crumb-topped casserole. Here in the South, the poultry is often either supplemented with ham or altogether replaced by it. If you’re buying ham rather than using up leftovers, choose cooked ham that isn’t “smoky” or sweet.
  1. Bring the chicken broth, water, and herb bundle to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to 2 cups and turn off the heat. Remove and discard the herb bundle. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°. Rub a 9 × 13-inch casserole with butter and bring 4 quarts water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to color. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the broth and milk or cream and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Simmer until it’s thickened and the flour loses its raw, pasty taste, about 3–4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  3. When the water is boiling, stir in a handful of salt and the spaghetti. Cook until almost al dente. Drain and put it in the prepared casserole. Fold the egg yolks, sherry, ham, almonds, and cheese into the sauce and pour it over the pasta. Gently toss to mix and level the top with a spatula.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in a skillet over low heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs. Toss until the butter is evenly absorbed; sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the top of the casserole. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes, and serve hot.
Recipe Notes

From Ham: Savor the South® cookbook by Damon Lee Fowler. Copyright © 2017 by University of North Carolina Press.

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