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Beet Salad with Cornbread Croutons and Country Ham

['3/4 cup water', '6 tablespoons butter, melted', '6 large fresh thyme sprigs', '1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt', '1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper', '1 bay leaf', '8 1 1/2-inch-diameter baby beets (preferably assorted colors), trimmed', '1 cup medium-grind cornmeal', '1/3 cup White Lily all purpose flour or cake flour', '11/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt', '1 teaspoon baking powder', '1/4 teaspoon baking soda', '6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided', '1 cup buttermilk', '1 large egg', 'Peel from 1 orange (orange part only), cut into thin 2-inch-long strips', 'Peel from 1 lemon (yellow part only), cut into thin 2-inch-long strips', '1/2 cup fresh orange juice', '1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice', '2 tablespoons sorghum syrup* or honey', '1/4 cup fresh lemon juice', '2 teaspoons Dijon mustard', '6 tablespoons peanut oil', '3 small sweet onions (such as Vidalia or Maui; about 1 pound), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices', 'Olive oil', 'Coarse kosher salt', 'Nonstick vegetable oil spray', '3 ounces very thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto', '4 teaspoons minced plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley', 'Fleur de sel**', 'Cracked black peppercorns', '1 5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled', 'Aged balsamic vinegar']

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 6 ingredients in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add beets and toss to coat. Cover with foil and roast until beets are tender, about 45 minutes. Cool; peel.
Place 9- or 10-inch-diameter cast-iron skillet in oven; preheat to 400°F. Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Melt 4 tablespoons butter. Whisk melted butter, buttermilk, and egg in another medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; whisk batter to blend. Place 2 tablespoons butter in hot skillet; swirl to coat. Add batter. Bake until top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool in skillet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.
Add enough water to small saucepan to measure 11/2 inches; bring to boil. Add orange peel. Blanch 1 minute; drain. Repeat blanching procedure with lemon peel; reserve lemon peel for serving. Return orange peel to same pan and add orange juice, grapefruit juice, and sorghum syrup. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until reduced to generous 1/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Whisk lemon juice and mustard in medium bowl; whisk in oil. Whisk in orange-grapefruit reduction. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat broiler. Line small baking sheet with foil. Place onion slices with rings intact on sheet. Brush with oil; sprinkle with coarse salt. Broil onions until browned, watching closely to prevent burning, about 10 minutes. Turn and broil until browned, about 5 minutes longer.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Cut cornbread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread cornbread in even layer on prepared sheet. Toast until golden brown around edges, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange ham in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Top with another sheet of parchment paper, then another rimmed baking sheet to press ham. Roast until ham is crisp, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness of ham. Remove top baking sheet and parchment paper. Cool. Break ham into bite-size pieces.
Whisk 4 teaspoons minced parsley into vinaigrette. Mix in reserved lemon peel. Quarter beets. Toss with some of vinaigrette (if using assorted colors, toss in separate bowls). Sprinkle with fleur de sel and cracked black pepper. Separate onion rings. Divide rings among plates in single layer. Arrange beets in and around onion rings. Sprinkle goat cheese over. Scatter ham and croutons over. Sprinkle fleur de sel and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley over. Drizzle with some of remaining vinaigrette and aged balsamic vinegar.
A syrup made from the cooked juice of sorghum cane; available at specialty foods stores and at
** A type of sea salt; available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.

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