Ham Puffs


Back in my twenties (late 1970’s & early 80’s… yes, I’m that old…) I toted my “signature appetizer” to every potluck, picnic, and post-ball-game gathering: “Chicken Puffs.” Despite their unimaginative name, those bite-size lil’ pastries filled with delectable homemade chicken salad disappeared faster than Houdini. (David Copperfield for you young’uns.)

With an infallible choux pastry recipe (sorry, I can’t remember where it originated — but it doesn’t require milk or shortening, only the basics: butter, flour, salt, water, and eggs), I’d stir, split, and stuff to my heart’s content — a Julia Child wanna-be — decades before “Julie & Julia.”

Fast forward to present day and my hubby’s imminent arrival home…

I needed something to tide him over until dinner was ready, but a hurried forage through the fridge and pantry only yielded cubed ham and the aforementioned “basics.” Well, okay then! (Please pardon my “Minnesota speak” after my recent sojourn there… I’m still in withdrawal.) How ’bout ham puffs?!

The Man Of Few Words has a penchant for ham salad — it’s one of his favorite sandwich fillings. In fact, that’s what he requested for our wedding reception many a year ago. (And who am I to quibble when true love runs rampant and my fiance’ volunteers to help?!) TMOFW stood at the reception hall counter cranking out pound-after-pound of ground ham with my Grandma’s hand-operated grinder — for hours — while a dear friend & I whipped together “the filling” in large bowls. All told, we made over 300 sandwiches!

Thankfully, today’s effort was on a smaller scale. Wheeeeeee….

Ham Salad Pate a Choux 1HAM PUFFS (more elegantly known as “HAM SALAD PÂTE À CHOUX”)

For the “puffs”:

1/2 cup hot water

4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) butter

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs (at room temperature)

For the filling:

1 cup cubed cooked ham

1/4 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise (might need a lil’ more)

2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

Optional add in’s: grated onion, finely diced celery, chopped hard cooked eggs, minced pimento (for color), minced water chestnuts (for crunch), a smidge of Dijon mustard, and “what have you”

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a medium-size saucepan bring water and butter to a boil; remove from heat.

Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms around the spoon. Scrape off the spoon and cool dough slightly.

Beat in the eggs one at a time with an electric mixer. (Be quick about it or you’ll have scrambled eggs.) NOTE: The dough will be sticky! (Scrape the beaters, too.)

With two teaspoons, drop small balls of dough on a large un-greased baking sheet. (Bear in mind the “puffs” will double in size during baking, so make them smaller than you think you need or you’ll end up with gigantic appetizers.) Alternatively, you can shape them into artistic lil’ swirls with a pastry bag for “fancier” occasions. :)

Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately split each puff with a serrated knife. (My new steak knifes worked great for this.)

Place puffs on a wire rack with the “lids” open to cool completely.

Meanwhile prepare the filling.

In a food processor (gotta love modern day inventions) pulse the cubed ham until finely ground.

Stir in the mayonnaise (or salad dressing), pickle relish, and optional ingredients (if desired) until combined. Add more mayo or salad dressing only if needed to bind the mixture together. (You don’t want “soupy” filling.)

Fill each cooled puff with ham salad and serve immediately.

Ham Salad Pate a Choux 3Enjoying past and present memories, xoxo,

~ Kim

P.S. This choux pastry also makes fabulous “bite-sized éclairs”… just sayin’. :)

37 thoughts on “Ham Puffs

  1. These sound so delicious! And what a perfect appetizer for an event!
    After reading about your husbands love for ham salad, I realized that I have never made ham salad for my husband, so I have no idea what he thinks of it. I will have to get on that and fix these little gems for him some day :)

    • Why I did not think of smoked salmon is beyond me, Jan — (a favorite o’ mine) — retro genius! Thanks for suggesting that… I foresee another batch of choux pastry in my near future. :)

  2. Those adorable darling little puffy bombs are being made from the scratch with passion, love and honesty and that’s what made this post of yours extra special.

    I’m not much of a baker. But this easy yet warm recipe is whispering in my ears to give it a try. Kitchen disaster can not win this time around, I can tell :)

    • Nusrat, you have an innate talent for encouraging me with your thoughts and observations — thank you — you are extra special to me, xo! Best wishes on avoiding a kitchen disaster (I’ve had a few in my time, lol!) but they make for amusing stories to tell later. :)

    • Adam, I love your statement “every recipe has a story.” (If pots and pans could talk…) I think more life — and stories — happen in the kitchen than anywhere else in the house! Thanks so much. :)

  3. Hi Kim, I got your two emails today and was a little confused as I didn’t remember commenting! The other Charlie who has commented isn’t me so she might still be waiting on your emails. I did love the chicken salad recipes you sent me! These are a great appetiser and I do love choux pastry – you can stuff it with so many fillings xx

  4. This post struck a chord for me. My father frequently made ham salad. We all loved it and would always get excited when he decided the day to make it had arrived. my husband is not fond of the sweet pickle relish so I am thinking hard of a good substitute. Any ideas? I do hope is well with you. Sending ham salad love your way. Jeanne.

    • Shirley, those puffs can be a “backdrop” for many a filling and I have a feeling you’ll come up with some fantastic ones! (Glad you liked my ham version, too — thanks!) xo

  5. Not to pre-empt my next blog post (ha!), but I’m a firm believer in sharing the goodness, Charlie. Here’s the link to appease your mushroom lovin’ appetite! (My version coming soon… stay tuned. ;) http://www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com/2015/07/brandied-wild-mushroom-pate-recipe/

    About that Spam spread… I grew up less than 30 miles from Hormel’s and Spam was on the menu frequently when I was a young’un. Sammich spread, fried, brown-sugar coated, “pineapple surprise,” you name it! Ironically, I’ve never been to the Spam museum there — might just have to make the trip next time I’m home. :) Take care, xo.

  6. Kim: These look good!

    My mom used to make something similar with spam, and spread it on our sandwiches.

    Did I hear Mushroom Pate? Would love a recipe.

    • Dee, I had a pot roast simmering on the stove (a one pot wonder — veggies ‘n’ all) so I had a lil’ “time” on my hands — and imagination. By the way, that mushroom pate you recommended was FABULOUS! Just had the last of it for lunch today over black bean “spaghetti” and it was divine. (Soooo divine I didn’t take photos of it!) Gee whiz, I’ll have to make another batch… :)

  7. Oh my goodness Kim, I made something similar in the 80’s from Bernard Clayton jr!
    Not as good by the sounds of it…..so I’m onto this this weekend ham can be a bit expensive here
    in Sydney but my (kids) adults are on to this :) all love choux pastry.x

    • Maddy, I haven’t read Bernard Clayton Jr’s cookbooks yet (shame on me) — hoping our library has them or can get them in. Feel free to experiment with other fillings and let me know what you end up with! :)

  8. Any puffs are great! Sweet, savoury anything. I was sadly disappointed when I borrowed Julia Childs book from the library recently. Think we have come a long way but the classic basics for dough and pastry are probably great.

    • Maree, I “Googled” other choux recipes before I made mine and was surprised to find milk and Crisco and other additions had “snuck in” over the years. (I think they’d make the puffs heavy or soggy.) Some things are best tried and true. :) What didn’t you like about Julia’s cookbook? You made me curious!

    • Susan, after reading your grilled veggie sandwich post I’m thinking a lil’ cheese and a slice of cherry tomato and, and, and…would make a great “puff” filling, too. :) Thanks!

  9. First of all, I’m blown away that you made the puffs from scratch…omg, Kimmmeee, you’re dee bomb! And, secondly, I’m sure that Russ was in heaven coming home to this treat! You are just too too much! These are just delectable, and I’m loving the blue tea towel w/the tassels…so rustic and perfect for this dish! Sending lots of boho luv! xoxo

    • Ally, see my reply to Maureen above. ;) Russ did eat a fair share of ’em, but I think it was the ham salad more than the “puffs” that appealed to him, LOL. (I had fun making them though and that’s what counts! xoxo)

  10. I love ham salad too and these puffs make it oh so special. He must have been very pleased when he came home to a dish like this! You’re a good woman. :)

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