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Beyond Sandwiches: Using Cold Meat in Summer Food

by Jane Wangersky | June 27th, 2014 | Cooking Basics
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sausage-273581_640It’s the time of year when cold meat becomes even more popular — not just for sandwiches, it’s the go-to protein for many meals and snacks. Of course, cold meat is often referred to as cold cuts, reinforcing the idea that it’s just sliced up ready to put between two pieces of bread. But there are plenty of other things you can do with meat that’s already been cooked and cooled, whether commercially or at home.

Right here, I’ll just repeat that you can save a lot of money by roasting and slicing your own meat. No one likes to heat up the oven on a hot day, but you can try doing it at night. If you get a meat slicer, electric or manual, you can even get those paper-thin slices most people only ever see at the deli. Likewise, unsliced cooked ham costs about half the price of sliced. Cold roast pork may be new to you, but it’s worth trying. (Chicken, depending on how you look at it, is either more of a pain, since it has to be picked off the bones in small shreds, or less of a pain, since you don’t need a slicing machine for it.)

If you do your own slicing, wait till the meat is completely cold. It won’t be the right texture otherwise. If you’re short on time, put it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

Now that you have all this already-cooked meat, you can . . . cook it some more.Not enough to dry it out, just enough to brown it, in a hot pan with a tiny bit of fat for just a few minutes. Ham is good done this way in bacon fat. It’s quick enough for a weekday breakfast.

You can add it to pasta dishes, hot or cold, or to potato salad, or to casseroles. You can sprinkle it over a green salad, then serve with bread to make a complete meal. Cold ham slices wrapped around cold asparagus are easy and look elegant. Try any precooked meat as a pizza topping — ham and pepperoni are not the only ones that work for this. Or you can make a salad based on cold meat, with mayonnaise and seasoning, either for sandwich fillings or to eat as is.

If you do want to stick to sandwiches and make a meal of them, look into the muffaletta. (Word to the wise — yeah, I’m all for making your own deli meats, but I also happen to know that commercial “pizza packs” of assorted meats also make a good muffaletta.)

That cold meat in your fridge has plenty of possibilities that go way beyond sandwiches.

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