Poached eggs with tasso ham, griddled tomato and south Louisiana hollandaise
Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder butt. In this case, "ham" is a misnomer, since tasso is not made from the hind leg of a pig. This cut is typically fatty and, because the muscle is constantly used by the animal, has a great deal of flavor. The butt, which will weigh 7 to 8 pounds, is sliced across the grain into pieces about 3 in / 7.5 cm thick. These are dredged in a salt cure, which usually includes nitrates and sugar. The meat is left to cure briefly, only three or four hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a spice mixture containing Cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through. Though tasso may be eaten on its own, it is more often used as part of a flavor base for stews or braised vegetables. It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes, soup to gravy. Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of southern or Creole origin, such as jambalaya.