Okay, ladies and gents, here it is: your final week of Hamming it Up with Chef Louie. And we're wrapping it up with one of my favorite ham recipes: ham croquettes!

I don't know about you, but I know that when I carve up a ham, there are always a few small shavings that get left behind. These pieces are perfectly edible -- they just didn't quite make the cut of the other slices. Save these pieces! We're using them today.

In addition to these shavings, you will need a few slices more of ham, finely minced. Put all these pieces together and you get what I fondly call "ham shrapnel."

Now what can we possibly do with these crumbs (besides stretch your food dollar by using as much of the ham as possible)? If you ask me, these smaller pieces are the perfect inspiration to break out a timeless little dish called croquettes. No, not the lawn game, although I suppose if you overcook it long enough you could substitute a ham croquette for one of those wooden croquet balls. Rather, this is a great dish to build a meal around, and with its use of pretty basic staple ingredients that most of us have on hand, it should cost you little-to-nothing to make!

Filling:
2 cups minced ham "shrapnel"
2 tbsp. finely minced celery
2 tbsp. of olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
2 tbsp. minced carrot

Coating:
1 egg (for egg wash)
1/2 cup bread crumbs, seasoned with salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning to taste

In a fry pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil, sweat the celery, onion and carrot until soft (about 8 minutes), then place in a bowl and cool. Once cooled, add the rest of the ingredients, mix, and make into small meatballs, then form the top half into a point resembling a chocolate kiss. Now dip the croquette into an egg wash, then roll it in the seasoned bread crumbs. Now's the time to break out the deep fryer if you have one. If not, you can pan fry them in a deep skillet with an inch of oil, and cook up until golden brown.

As a special treat, I like to top off my croquettes with this simple gravy.

Mushroom Gravy, Chef Louie's way:
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. butter
1 can mushroom stems and pieces
White wine

Take a sauce pan with 1 tbsp. of flour and 1 tbsp. of butter and cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes until light brown in color. Now add the contents of a can of mushroom stems and pieces - liquid and all - to the pan, adding a touch of white wine. Bring to a boil to thicken. If it gets too thick for your tastes, thin it with a little more white wine; if it's too thin, continue to cook it down a bit. When ready, turn off the heat and add a pat of butter for more flavor, and to add a shine to the sauce. Pour this over the croquettes, and serve with fried potatoes and your favorite green veggie for a tremendous dinner!

This concludes our ham recipes. Look for some brand-new dollar-stretching recipes in the weeks to come!

Salute!

Chef Louie hosts Good Day Food & Wine, a nationally syndicated weekend radio show. A culinary veteran, Chef Louie pledges to empower you in the kitchen, the supermarket, and help you eat better, entertain better and keep more of that hard-earned money close to home. Sign up for his free e-newsletter here.

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