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You know, we’re all getting savvy about this blog, and the name of the game is “labor saving”. It’s not not uncommon for any of us to take photos of what we’ve made for dinner. Whipped up a gorgeous spinach pie for dinner? Well then, better take a picture, just in case National Spinach Day is hiding somewhere in June. Today’s post is one of those sneaky things. I did not make a ham last night, or even last week. I made it in January, on the same day I made Peach Melba Buckle. Let me take you back…
*fuzzy wavy lines, jazz hands, spinning and any other cliche from the movies that indicates time travel*
It’s early January. For the last few weeks, most of my friends have been dispersed across the country, going back to wherever home is. We all have battle scars, from the mundane (Victorians hate being forced to wear parkas and winter boots–it burns!) to the trauma of what Aunt Edith said at the christmas dinner table and the crush of holiday airports. There are stories to swap, and re-connections to be made. So I like to gather my people (or my tribe, as Rumon would say) at my house for the therapeutic swapping of stories, some great food, and a big dose of community. Last year the gathering of the peeps was done under the umbrella of Turkey Appreciation Day, where B, with my assistance, made a bacon covered turkey with all the trimmings. It was epic, and delicious. This year I decided to save myself a little effort and host a potluck. My contribution would be a great big ham to anchor the meal.
So a ham – I’ve never cooked one before. I’ve never really even looked at them before. But I took some comfort in knowing that they are already cooked, which felt like half the battle. I consulted the usual sources when I’m cooking in new territory – the internet, my mother, and my sister J. “does the bone go up and down, or side to side?” “what kind of glaze should I use?” “Shoulder cut?” etc. etc. They got me sorted out, and off I went to the grocery store….
At which time I learned that the week after christmas is not a great time to shop for a ham. There was no selection. None. So I bought what they had, which was a spiral cut ham. On the up side, pork generally is very inexpensive right now. I think this ham was enough to feed 20+ people, and it was about $30.
What’s this spiral thing, you’re asking? Well, it seems some clever butcher or marketer got the idea that carving a ham was too much work for the happy housewife, so they have cut around and around the bone of the ham, so that you only have to make a few slices to have a platter full of ham ready to hit the table. Here’s a photo from the fine poeple at kansas city steaks, which gives you the general idea.
On my sister’s suggestion, I selected a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s for the ham, and then of course, did my own thing with it. Here’s my version:
Jamie’s Ham a la Deanna:
One PRECOOKED spiral ham
Score the fat of the ham, in a diamond pattern. [I didn't trim the fat down, but in retrospect, this was one fatty porker. I think I would trim the fat to 1/2 an inch thick, and then score it... live and learn.]
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbls hot pepper flakes
4 red shallots, peeled and diced
1 tbsp brown sugar
12 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp each ground allspice, ground nutmeg, ground cloves and sea salt
1/2 c golden rum
1/4 c malt vinegar
Wizz all of the above in a food processor, or with the chopper attachment of an immersion blender. Rub all over the ham, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a long time – 8 to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the ham in bone side down i.e. so the bone is running vertically through the meat) on a little rack in the bottom of a the roasting pan. This isn’t typically how you cook a ham, but I think in the case of the sprial ham, the ham people recommend this so that the slices don’t start to peel away from the ham as it cooks.
Bake for 90 min. The ham should be heated all the way through at that point. Remove the ham from the oven, and crank the oven to 425F. Brush the ham with the following glaze:
3 tbsp marmalade
1 c orange juice
1/2 c golden rum
Pop the ham back in the oven, then continue cooking the ham for another 30–40 minutes, basting with glaze every 10 minutes until crisp, golden and sticky. Let rest for a few minutes, carve and serve.
As for the spiral cut, I give it a thumbs down. I think all the cuts let the meat dry out a little more than it normally would, and I didn’t like the uniform look of the meat when it was served, Sure it was easy, but how hard is it really to carve a beast?
I was told, in the kindest way possible this morning, that I was a snob. Specifically, a snob about the finer, edible things in life. I took this as a compliment. After all, in the “religion” space on my facebook profile, I have “Sybarite“–and that wasn’t a joke. My friend went on to say that she didn’t feel like a snob, b/c she takes enjoyment from some foods that are less … gourmet. Like cheese whiz or eggo waffles. But I understand (and indulge!) like that too – don’t we all have foods that bring us back to some warm nostalgic place?
Which brings me to cold cuts. I’m not much of a sandwich eater. I certainly have never made my own salami or sausage (you can stop hoping for Deanna’s Special Turkey Sausage Recipe now!). But being a nostalgic snob, I do have opinions on the two best ways to eat cold cuts:
(1) A La Snob i.e In Europe, from a store like this one:
In this scenario, you’ve just come from the baker and the cheesemonger, and now you’re picking up the perfect salami or ham to round out your picnic. You have a 4Euro bottle of wine in your bag, you’re headed to grassy sunny nook near some impossibly beautiful architectural gem. After consuming your cold cuts and other treats, you have a nap in the grass and wake up surrounded by a rather confused looking group of Japanese tourists.
(2) With Nostalgia: Nostalgic cold cuts should be consumed at 12:05 am, at a small town wedding, after you’ve danced with your uncles and cousins, and you’ve had a few rye and coke. These coldcuts-summer sausage, shaved ham, some kind of compressed chicken product–will be served on large white trays, with orange and white cheese cubes, sweet pickles, and white buns. Don’t forget to take a few pieces of carrot and celery sticks and a little ranch dressing to round out this feast. Scarf down, then continue to eat, drink and be merry.
Soup – the gift that keeps on giving. It’s true. Think about it. When did you ever make a batch of homemade soup that only lasted for one meal? Never, right? But that’s okay because I’ve never met a soup that didn’t make great leftovers or didn’t freeze well and I bet you haven’t either. Well, as long as it was good soup to begin with of course. I’m not going to go into the history of soup or fill this space with random factoids about soup, though there is plenty interesting on the topic to be sure and if you are interested, I urge you to type “soup” into your Google (or Yahoo or whatever search engine) search bar and browse at your leisure. Today’s post is about sharing homemade soup recipes and celebrating homemade soup!
I do have one single-meal homemade soup recipe that I make from time to time. I don’t know how well it qualifies as homemade since one of the key ingredients is instant noodles but it also involves veggies and stuff so I think it does. Goes like this:
1. Put 3 – 4 c. water and one small handful each of mushrooms, chopped red bell pepper, and small broccoli florets into a medium-large saucepan and heat to boiling.
2. Add 2 tbsp. miso paste (I usually mash it up in a cup with hot water before adding it so it liquifies better), 1/2 – 1 tbsp sambal oelek and a couple squirts of soy sauce. Stir.
3. Add one package instant ramen noodles (with soup flavour mix if you want, or not), a couple handfuls of chopped spinach and/or bok choy and the juice of one lemon or lime. Cook 3 minutes or until noodles are tender.
Other optional add-ins include green onions, shrimp or other shellfish, an egg, kimchi, etc. Serves 2 people, or 1 really hungry person.
I have a lot of favorite homemade soup recipes I make. A couple of years ago I invented a Roasted Butternut Squash & Chipotle Cream soup. Sadly, I never wrote down the recipe but here’s my best approximation based on my very weak recollection:
1. Slice 1 butternut squash in half (lengthwise), rub lightly with olive oil and place face down in roasting pan. Roast at 350 until tender. [Optional: can sprinkle some brown sugar and/or salt & pepper for additional flavour]. Remove from oven, scoop flesh out of skin and reserve.
2. In stock pot, saute 1 small sweet onion in butter or olive oil until transparent. Add 1 tbsp. toasted ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander & 1/2 tsp. turmeric. Cook for 30 – 45 seconds.
3. Add squash flesh and just enough hot chicken, turkey or veggie stock to cover. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes to allow flavours to coalesce.
4. Season with 1-2 (or more if you like it really spicy) chipotle peppers (the canned in adobe sauce kind) and s & p. Cook for another 5 minutes and then blend the whole thing until smooth and creamy.
5. Serve with sour cream or yogourt garnish and fresh cilantro.
Many of my soups use homemade stock. I make giant batches of the stuff and keep it in my deep freeze for a variety of purposes. Usually it’s turkey or chicken, but last Easter I made a ham stock with the leftovers from the Easter Ham and it was really great so I recommend that as an option for those of you who like to make stock. Eva and I once made a roasted vegetable stock for a vegetarian stuffing we were making for a Thanksgiving dinner for 100 or so people. We concocted this giant vat of roiling liquid chock full of a variety of roasted veggies and seasonings like Bragg’s and fresh thyme and brown butter sage. The colour was great, the smell was great, the taste should have been great and it was mostly, but also … slightly bitter. Maybe it was because we’d overroasted some of the veggies, or maybe we should have left out the green peppers. Anyway, we solved our problem by adding Coca-Cola to it because that’s what we had on hand (it was a temporary kitchen). Which just goes to show that you can put anything in soup.
One of my all-time favorites is a soup my dad makes and it doesn’t even need stock. For some reason, I can never remember the recipe and I repeatedly call him for a recitation, so I thought it would be wise to immortalize it here.
(B’s Dad’s) Portuguese Kale Soup – the illustrated version
For the vegetarian version:
To achieve a meatier taste without actually using meat, cook the onions a little more so that they just barely start to brown. You can use a little more oil or even butter to help encourage that browning – but, as my (Jewish) dad says, make sure that you are careful to cook them only until they are just starting to brown a tiny bit around the edges and no more, or else the soup will taste Jewish, not Portuguese. Then add about 1 tbsp. of red pimento paste (the seasoning that is used to make chorizo or linguica; your choice whether you want to use spicy or mild), swirl it around in the oil and let it cook a bit, and then a little bit of red wine (because they also use that in making chorizo and linguica) and a couple of drops of liquid smoke (to give the smoked sausage flavour). Let the wine sizzle just a bit to cook out the alcohol and then add potatoes and proceed as above.
I hope you take the very small amount of time to make this soup. It is truly one of the best soups I have ever had. It’s easy and satisfying and pretty too. I wish I could take credit for it, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due. Thanks Daddy-o!