Food & Drink

Deviled Ham and Biscuit Crackers

A Virginia chef spins two Southern classics into one tasty appetizer

Photo: Brennan Wesley

Ian Boden thinks deviled ham is about to have a moment. “It’s got everything pimento cheese does,” says the James Beard Award–nominated chef at the Shack in Staunton, Virginia. “It’s creamy, it’s salty, it’s spreadable, and it’s also ubiquitous at church gatherings. Its big advantage over pimento, to me, is that it has smoke.” His version of the nostalgic spread is a balanced blend of house-smoked city ham, with local country ham, and a full spectrum of pork-friendly flavors: mustard, scallions, parsley, sorghum syrup, and more.

At the Shack, Boden uses it as the filling for a gooey toasted sandwich and serves it as an appetizer with a sheaf of his biscuit crackers—buttery, unleavened biscuit dough rolled cracker thin and baked until golden. “Years after I started making these crackers, I realized they’re basically biscuit matzo,” says Boden, who is Jewish, though his family did not keep kosher when he was growing up in Fairfax, Virginia. Ironically, the crackers are ideal vehicles for his ham-tastic topping.


  • Deviled Ham (Makes about 1 quart)

    • 1/2 lb. country ham, diced

    • 1/2 lb. smoked city ham, diced

    • 2 tbsp. butter, softened

    • 2 tbsp. cream cheese, softened

    • 1 tbsp. mayonnaise

    • 1 tbsp. whole-grain mustard

    • 1 tbsp. sorghum syrup

    • 2 tsp. hot sauce, plus more to taste

    • 1/2 jalapeño, minced

    • Zest of 1/2 lemon

    • Juice of 1 lemon

    • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

    • 4 scallions, sliced

    • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Biscuit Crackers

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

    • 1/2 tsp. salt

    • 1 half stick butter (2 oz.), preferably frozen

    • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk

    • Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

    • Coarse salt, to garnish


  1. For the deviled ham: 

    Working in batches, pulse both hams in a food processor until they’re in small pieces but not yet pureed. Next, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, then fold in the ham and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

  2. For the  biscuit crackers: 

    Measure flour and salt into a medium mixing bowl and combine well. Grate butter into the dry ingredients, stirring occasionally to make sure butter is coated with flour. Next, make a well in the mixture and slowly add the buttermilk. Mix gently with your hands until a loose dough forms, then turn it out onto a clean work surface. Without kneading the dough, form it into a roughly 6-inch square. Fold in half and press it until it comes together, about 4–6 times. Add more flour if necessary. Wrap with plastic and chill for 30 minutes.


  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough as thinly as possible with a floured rolling pin. To transfer to a parchment-paper-lined 18×13-inch half sheet pan, roll dough onto the rolling pin, then unroll it back onto the pan, trimming the sides as necessary.

  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse salt. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough, then another baking sheet. Weight the top baking sheet with a heavy pot or skillet. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until crackers are golden brown. Allow them to cool, then break them into pieces and store them in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Recipe from Ian Boden of the Shack in Staunton, Virginia