The Perfectionist's Thanksgiving

See Also
The Feasts: Holiday Banquets to the Nth Degree
  Virginia-Ham Croquettes

The Chef
Thomas Keller of Per Se

8 people

4 ounces cooked Smithfield ham, rind and excess fat removed (Serrano or prosciutto can be substituted)
1 large shallot
1 small carrot
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
½ stick sweet butter
2/3 cup less 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 whole eggs
1 egg white
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 teaspoon picked thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart vegetable oil

Cooking Instructions
The day before, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put the ham, 1 quart water, shallot, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme sprig in a medium cast-iron casserole with a lid. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover the casserole with foil and then the lid, and braise in the oven until the ham is almost falling apart, about 8 hours. Allow the ham to cool in the liquid overnight. The next day, bring 1/2 cup of the ham-braising liquid and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add all the flour at once to the liquid and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Remove from heat and beat in one egg at a time until the pâte à choux mixture is smooth. Cover and keep warm.

Place the ham in a food processor and process until finely shredded and powdery. Add approximately an equal amount of the pâte à choux mixture to the ham and process until the mixture is creamy. Blend in all the parsley, chives, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Roll the mixture into 64 3/4-inch balls. Freeze any excess balls. Fill halfway a heavy tall-sided pot with oil and heat to 350 degrees. Right before serving the soup, add the ham balls in small batches and fry until crisp on the exterior. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Best With
Place 8 croquettes in each bowl of sunchoke soup.

Suggested Menu: sunchoke soup with virginia-ham croquettes; virginia-ham croquettes; breast of four corners farm's turkey "cuit sous vide" and roasted leg "en ballotine"; giblet gravy; green-bean casserole: Oven-baked haricots verts with cream of california cepe mushroom and crispy shallots; garnet sweet-potato mille-feuille with white-truffle royale and shaved truffles from alba; Waldorf-salad stuffing; pecan pie with whipped cream; caramel popcorn.

To Drink (with sunchoke soup and croquettes): Pol Roger 1995 Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill; Champagne, France ($170). Rich enough to stand up to the flavor of the ham and sunchokes, and the bubbles contrast with the smooth soup.

Photograph by Reinhard Hunger