At first glance, one might not associate “ham” and “timbales” as being related. Timbales are a type of percussion instrument that originated in Cuba and resemble small drums, and ham is, well, ham. But this is the name given to the recipe way back when (I’ve seen them date from the late 1940s and early 1950s). If I were asked to give them a name, I might choose “Heavenly Ham and Egg Fluffs of Deliciousness,” but we will just stick with “timbales” for now. I’m guessing the name came from the shape.
These are basically a very light egg custard, filled with diced ham, that are served with a sauce (optional, but highly recommended) over toast. They are an easy and elegant addition to breakfast or perfect for a brunch menu. Ham timbales serve as a fine stand-in for Eggs Benedict and can be varied endlessly (try them with sautéed mushrooms and onions, cheese, cooked sausage or bacon, veggies, etc.). They must be baked using a water bath, but this extra step will insure that they remain light, delicate and oh-so good.
1 – 1 ½ cups diced ham
1 ¼ cups milk
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dehydrated onion flakes
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. paprika
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Add milk and beat to combine. Add salt, onion powder and flakes, pepper and paprika. Beat again and stir in ham.
Butter the inside of six custard cups. Place cups in large baking dish (a 9x13 works fine) and fill each cup about 2/3 full with egg mixture. Add HOT WATER to the baking dish until it comes up about 1 inch from the bottom. Carefully transfer baking dish to oven and bake for about 30 minutes. A knife inserted into the center of each cup should come out clean.
While the timbales are baking, make the sauce.
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
1 cup of hot chicken stock/broth (can also use vegetable stock)
½ cup milk or cream
Fresh herbs (optional – chives, parsley, tarragon all can work well with the sauce)
In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir in with a whisk until the flour is completely absorbed into the butter and it takes on a light brown color. Add stock or broth and whisk continuously until mixture begins to thicken. When it starts to boil, remove from heat. Add milk or cream and fresh herbs or seasoning.
Keep sauce warm until timbales are ready to serve.
Toast up some bread, bagels or English muffins.
When timbales have baked, remove from oven and carefully remove custard cups from water bath and transfer to a dish towel. Be careful, everything will be very hot.
Using a small thin knife, gently go around the edge of the custard cups to release the timbales. Invert the cups on top of the toast and remove. Top with sauce and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.