Houston Chef Emmanuel Hodencq shares his passion for Bayonne Ham.

Emmanuel Hodencq cropChef Emmanuel Hodencq is proud to represent French culture in Houston. You can enjoy his friendly, French manner at Toulouse Café and Bar, where his passion to serve fine French cuisine means his weekend brunch Charcuterie board always contains authentic French Bayonne Ham

Bay 5 cropLocated in Houston’s prestigious River Oaks community, Toulouse Café and Bar offers classic French-influenced Belgian cuisine with a slightly modern twist catering to both adventurous and traditional diners. It’s a popular place for friends who appreciate authentic French cuisine served in a comfortably luxurious setting.

For Emmanuel, his choice to serve Jamon de Bayonne for weekend brunch was simple. As a student of French cuisine, he knows the Jambon de Bayonne name guarantees the ham he serves will be expertly prepared, fresh and authentically delicious for his discerning patrons.

Hailing from a town north of Paris, Emmanuel has spent his entire career in the French food community. After practicing his craft for over 20 years at an upscale Parisian hotel, he came to the US to share French cuisine nine years ago. For the last five years, he has been in Houston.

Emmanuel confessed to us that he prefers the French version of ham preparation over the Texas variant, which often involves smoking the meats. In regards to Bayonne Ham, two numbers stand out to him. One is the length of preparation, which usually averages around twelve months. The other is the thousand-year-plus tradition of Bayonne Ham.

Along with Bayonne Ham and other delicacies, the Charcutier board features a Swiss homemade Pate and a Chicken Mousse. For a final touch, the board is served on a French newspaper. To accompany the board, Emmanuel recommends one of their memorable French red or white wines.

Bayonne Ham is produced the same way it was a thousand years ago in the heart of a strictly defined area: the Adour basin. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountains, the unique conditions of this region are what contribute to the rewarding flavor that Bayonne Ham offers.

The whole, fresh hams are rubbed with salt from Saliesde-Béarn salty spring water. They are then covered with a thick layer of salt and placed in the salting room. Resting: at low temperature and high humidity The hams are suspended in a room where they are dried at low temperature in artificially created winter conditions.

The hams are hung in the drying rooms, where the long maturing process begins, gradually enhancing their flavor, aroma and tenderness. The drying is then slowed down using the “Pannage” technique, where a mixture of pork fat and flour is applied to the muscular parts of the ham, make for a gentler drying process during the long maturing period.

Next is the maturing process, where the ham acquires all of its qualities and reveals its personality: a mild flavor, balanced saltiness and delicate aroma.

The hams are tested at the end of the curing period, assessed by experts who define the hams’ taste qualities. On average, it takes 9 to 12 months to make a Bayonne Ham. Only then can the Lauburu cross, the “Bayonne” seal, can be applied if they have successfully passed each of the different selection stages.

If like us, you’re the type that prefers authentic French cuisine, be sure to visit Toulouse Bar and Café in Houston. Neither their delightful French Chef nor their authentic Jamon de Bayonne will disappoint. Closer to Austin, you can always find Bayonne Ham at Central Market.