Ingredient of the Week: Tasso Ham

What is it?

Most people think quinoa is a grain, when it's

actually a seed

. Another surprise: Tasso ham is not actually ham. The cut of meat comes from a boneless, thin piece of pork shoulder, and not the leg of a pig like a traditional ham.

Tasso is cured quickly in either a brine or a dry salt/sugar mixture, rinsed and then rubbed with a spicy, intense mixture of cayenne pepper and garlic. The meat is finally smoked, and then it's ready to use.

How is it used? Tasso is a staple in soulful Cajun dishes. Most commonly, it's found in jambalaya as a flavoring agent, but it can also be used in a big pot of red beans, in stews, rice dressing, and my favorite - collard or mustard greens.

Where can I buy it? I've never seen it in Houston, but then again, I've never looked. On the way out of New Orleans, I stopped at Cochon Butcher and bought a pound to take home and experiment with during this cold snap. Where would I find it in town?

Recipe: Green beans with tasso ham (in case you're sick of the regular 'ol green bean casserole this Christmas)

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