The sweet and salty savor of a good ham is a fine thing in its own right, but potatoes have a remarkable way of making it even better. Whether they're paired at the dinner table or combined in a hearty soup, the potatoes mellow and enhance the flavors in your ham. This serendipitous combination might show to the best advantage in ham and potato soup, where you have the freedom to enhance the ham and potato flavors with a variety of spices.
The Easy Options
Whether you favor a rich dairy-based or light broth-based soup, fresh-ground white or black pepper is the most indispensable spice. Its pungency provides a foil to both the potatoes' rich blandness and the ham's sweetness. The sharp, assertive flavor of cloves works well with ham, but it should be used with a very light hand, or it will overwhelm your soup. Allspice can be a better choice, much milder but still with a hint of clove flavor. Alternatively, use a pinch of nutmeg to broaden the soup's flavor. Just a tiny amount -- not enough to identify as nutmeg -- has a notable ability to make a cream-based soup taste somehow creamier.
A Bit of a Stretch
If you have a well-stocked spice cupboard and a more adventurous palate, other spices also make a fine complement to ham and potatoes. The earthiness of toasted cumin or the floral and citrusy notes of coriander lend your soup an intriguingly different flavor. With its aromatic sweet and bitter notes, fenugreek is an esoteric choice that can redefine the soup. Saffron, the most exotic spice of all, complements both potatoes and cream in a remarkable way and also lends the soup a rich, golden color.
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