Although this is not technically a real mousse, that’s what the wife of a country ham producer in Clinton, Kentucky, called the glistening crock resting in her refrigerator. “There’s not much to do with the hard ends and fatty pieces of a ham except grind them up and use them in some type of spread,” she informed us as we took a knife to the concoction. “And this mousse holds up any day to a good sippin’ bourbon on the rocks.” Right she was, and while I’m sure she would have frowned upon my discreet addition of Madeira to the recipe, I do think the wine gives the mousse an almost elegant touch. Southerners love any molded dish—savory or sweet—and this one would enhance any cocktail buffet.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the flour, and whisk the roux 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, reduce the heat to low, and whisk the mixture till very thick. Add the mustard, sage, cayenne, and Madeira and stir till very well blended.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks and heavy cream, whisk till well blended, and stir in a little of the hot sauce. Return the mixture to the hot sauce and continue cooking over low heat, whisking, till thickened.
In another small bowl, soften the gelatin in the chicken broth for 5 minutes, then stir it into the hot sauce. Place the ham into a meat grinder or food processor, grind finely, and stir into the sauce.
Pour the mixture into a 1-quart mold, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 6 hours. Unmold the mousse on a large serving dish, garnish the edges with watercress, and serve with rectangles of toast.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.