One thing I really admire about Spanish food is the presentation. No matter how humble the food, it will be served in an attractive manner. The same is true for a very simple dish called lacón a la Gallega. It’s just ham and potatoes, but it’s always presented in an appealing way with a basket of fresh bread and washed down with a cold beer.
Lacón is more like the ham we’re familiar with in the US, but made from the pork shoulder (aka picnic ham) rather than the leg. It’s eaten widely in Spain, but is definitely overshadowed by jamón. It’s often served as part of a tabla, or sharing plate, so a group of people can enjoy the great, simple flavors. Everyone eats from the communal dish or if they prefer, they can transfer a bit to their own plate.
If you’d like to upgrade this dish to a meal, fry up a couple of eggs and serve them right on top of the lacón. If you have good tomatoes available, serve slices on the side. I had my ham and potatoes served that way when I was on the Camino. It had been a hot, dusty day but the bar had a little terrace where I could sit in the shade and enjoy the fresh breeze. Everything was served at room temperature, except the eggs. I mopped up all the juices from the platter and the meaty tomatoes with pieces of the local bread and washed it all down with a frosty glass of Estrella Galicia (if you see this beer in the market TRY IT). My stomach is growling just thinking about that basic meal.
When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals was boiled dinner of ham, cabbage, new potatoes and green beans. Naturally lacón a la Gallega appeals to me. What distinguishes it from the boiled dinner is the use of paprika instead of mustard. If you are eating in a Spanish bar, look for it on the menu under the section titled Raciones. You don’t have to wait until you’re in Spain, it’s simple to make at home.
- 1 large potato per person, washed and sliced into thick rounds
- 2 ounces cooked ham per person (perfect for leftovers)
- good quality extra virgin olive oil
- smoky paprika, hot or sweet as you like
- chopped parsley for garnish
- Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and arrange on a platter.
- Drizzle with olive oil, then season with paprika.
- Arrange pieces of ham over top the potatoes, drizzle with more olive oil and paprika.
- Garnish with the parsley.
The first Wednesday of the month will feature something I ate while walking the Camino de Santiago last September. Last month we had Ham and Leek Quiche.