Monday, March 22, 2010

HAM: An Obsession with the Hindquarter

Featured on Warren Bobrow's Wild Table in the Wild River Review

I'm drawn to books like some women are drawn to shoes. Even with the internet, and all the information I have at my fingertips, I still love my hardcopy books. Just think how much money women could save if they were satisfied looking at shoes online rather than stockpiling them in their closets.

You won't be surprised to know that food related books take up most of the room on my shelves. I play a game with myself when book shopping: Which Book Grabs My Attention First, and Why? Sometimes it's the color or shape, or the font on the spine. Next I peruse titles. Finally, I get a book in hand and thumb through. I love food pictures and since I've started trying to take a few myself, I realize just how hard it is to make some foods look as good as they taste. I save the best 'til last: the recipes. If one recipe catches my eye, makes me want to taste, prepare, serve it—the book is probably going home with me. Often, just one good recipe will seal the deal—and it's worth it if the recipe turns out to be all that I expected.

I have a book in hand right now that has far exceeded all my expectations! It's spring, and I'm thinking about the Easter dinner we share in our family. When we have large gatherings, I begin thinking 'large' food, which leads me to HAM, especially fresh ham for spring. And here we have the perfect book: HAM: An Obsession with the Hindquarter by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.

The very first recipe, Roasted Fresh Ham with a Maple-Spice Glaze sounds perfect, but wait, there's Moroccan-Style Roasted Fresh Ham, Tuscan Roasted Fresh Ham, Oven-Barbecued Fresh Ham. And that's just naming a few of the recipes in the first section. This luscious volume covers four types of ham: Fresh Ham, including recipes for a Ham Tagine and Steamed Ham Buns; Dry-Cured Ham in the Old World, with recipes for Chilled Honeydew Soup with Frizzled Ham and Prosciutto-Wrapped Meatloaf in a Vinegary Tomato Sauce, as well as a menu for a European ham party; Dry-Cured Ham in the New World, offering Jerk-Style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales and a Glazed and Roasted Country Ham; and Wet-Cured Ham, featuring an Iberian-Inspired Frittata and an over-the top Mac and Ham and Cheese. The recipes cover the globe and range from cooking an entire ham, to appetizers using bits, pieces, or slices. They're all quite doable and very enticing.

Bruce, a “New Yorker from Torah scribes and Kosher butchers”, and Mark, a “Southerner from sharecroppers and Civil War soldiers”, are a most unlikely pair to be writing about ham, but they cover the subject thoroughly with tempting recipes for all cooks. Trust me, if there's anything you want to know about preparing the hindquarter of a pig, you can find it in this very humorous, well written and informative book.

Here are two of my favorite recipes from Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter, the afore mentioned Roasted Fresh Ham with a Maple-Spice Glaze, and a show-stopping Jambon Persillé (terrine). Hope you enjoy!

Hindquarter being sliced and served at 'Gustos in Rome. They don't fool around!

Roasted Fresh Ham

with a Maple-Spice Glaze

feeds 6 teenage boys, 16 adults, or 26 twentysomething models

One 8- to 10-pound bone-in fresh

ham, preferably from the shank

end, any rind removed

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1. Put the Dickensian joint in a large roasting pan, preferably one that’s

shiny enough to reflect lots of ambient heat and not so flimsy that it tips

willy-nilly when you pick it up. Set the oven rack as high as it can go and

still afford the ham at least 2 inches of head space. Leave the roast in its

pan out on the counter and fire the oven up to 325 F.

2. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a small

bowl. Wash and dry your hands, then smooth the spice mixture all over

the ham’s external surface. Work it down into some of the crevices, but

be careful to avoid any deep-tissue massage. A ham is a complex structure

of muscle groups—too much massage and they can come apart like

Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her.

3. Cover the whole kit and caboodle with aluminum foil, shove it in the

oven, and leave it alone for 31/2 hours, while you go do whatever it is you

do when a big, sweating hunk of meat is roasting in your oven.

4. Peel off the aluminum foil. Baste the ham with about half the maple

syrup, preferably using a basting brush. Take it easy so you don’t knock

off the spice coating. Use small strokes—think Impressionism, not

Abstract Expressionism. (Or just dribble the syrup off a spoon.)

5. Continue roasting the ham, uncovered this time, basting every 15

minutes or so with more maple syrup as well as any pan drippings, until

an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the

meat without touching bone registers 170 F, about 11/4 hours. If it starts

to singe or turn too dark, tent it loosely with foil, uncovering it just at the

last to get it back to crunchy-crisp.

Jambon Persillé

from Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter by Weinstein and Scarbrough

Traditional preparations often include garlic with the parsley. However, we feel its spike can be excessive, so we've used only a little bit as well as some shallots here, a softer hint with the ham and parsley. Be sure to mince that garlic into very fine bits so no one takes an unexpected hit.

4 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, plus a little more if necessary

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons stemmed thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about one and a half l/4 oz. Packets)

2 T water

1 ½ cups packed parsley leaves, minced

3 medium shallots, minced

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1 ½ pounds not-smoked, wet-cured ham, such as jambon de Paris, diced

  1. Bring the broth, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, cloves, and bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook very slowly for 35 minutes.

  2. Uncover and continue cooking over a very low temperature for 10 minutes.

  3. While the broth cooks, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and set aside to soften for 5 minutes.

  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cool for a few minutes, and then strain the broth into a medium bowl, discarding all those solids. You should end up with 3 cups of liquid. If not, add a little more broth, just until you have the right amount.

  5. Stir the softened gelatin and any residual water into the broth until the gelatin dissolves, then set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the parsley, shallots, and garlic in a small bowl.

  6. Make alternating layers of the ham pieces and the parsley mixture in a 6-cup loaf or paté pan.

  7. Gently pour the broth mixture over the ham pieces. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, until the gelatin has set up the broth—but cover after a couple hours, once the mixture is chilled. If there's extra gelatinized broth left over, save it back in the freezer, adding it in dribs and drabs for extra richness to your next pots of soup.

  8. To unmold, fill a large bowl with warm (not hot) water. Run a thin knife around the inner perimeter of the terrine or pan, then very briefly dip the mold into the hot water, just so it comes about three-quarters of the way up the side. Don't dip longer than a few seconds or the gelatin will start to melt! Turn upside down onto a serving platter, unmold (shake free if necessary), and serve slices with grainy, spicy mustard on the side.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Five or Less!

Five Recipes with 5 Ingredients or Less
Is it possible to have interesting, layers of flavor with five ingredients or less? YES!
I know I get a little involved sometimes. This idea actually came about the morning after--after I spent the previous day in the kitchen preparing a fairly elaborate (involved) meal. We were at the coast with the seafood market only a two minute bike ride away--the next thing I knew my Numero Uno (daughter) helper in the kitchen and her husband, also a great cook, and I were in the kitchen with a pound of fresh shrimp. We made two dishes and crostini in the time it took to cook pasta--less than 30 minutes--and honestly, it may have been better than the meal I worked so hard on the day before.
(I'm not counting salt and pepper in my ingredients!)
So, here they are: 5 recipes, each with 5 ingredients or less:

Garlic Shrimp
1) 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2) 1 T extra virgin olive oil
3) 3 garlic cloves, minced
4) 1/2 tsp. dried red chili flakes-or to taste
5) 1 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste

Add olive oil to medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chili flakes, and cook just until garlic is softened, 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for about two minutes, or until shrimp just begins to turn pink. Finally, add wine and cook until reduced to half. Season with salt to taste.
Serve with pasta, crostini, or just a spoon!

Garlic Tomatoes and Brie
1) six garlic cloves, chopped, or less according to taste
2) 2 T extra virgin olive oil
3) 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
4) 1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
5) 16 oz. Brie, cut into small pieces (don't remove outside)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Add olive oil to medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook just until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, stirring, and cook until tomatoes are warmed through and beginning to change shape.
Combine brie and basil chiffonade in serving bowl. Pour hot tomatoes and garlic over cheese, and stir to combine, letting the brie soften in the warm sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over pasta, with crostini, or again, with a spoon!

1) 1 fresh baguette cut into half inch slices
2) 1 stick butter, melted
3) 1 T mixed Italian dried herbs
4) 1 tsp. garlic salt

Arrange bread slices on a sheet pan. Mix melted butter, dried herbs and garlic salt. Brush each crostini with melted butter mix and place in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, just until crostini begin to brown, and become crisp.

Flat-leaf Parsley Pasta
1) 1 lb. campanelle pasta (or your favorite pasta), cooked in salted water and drained (reserve 1 cup cooking liquid)
2) 2 T butter
3) 2 garlic cloves, minced
4) 1/3 cup chopped Flat-leaf parsley (or your favorite herb, ie Thyme or Sage)
5) grated Parmesan Cheese

Add butter to medium sized skillet over medium heat. When melted, add garlic and cook just until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add parsley cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add drained pasta, and enough of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese to taste.
Serve as is, with Garlic Tomatoes and Brie, or Garlic Shrimp.

1) 2 pts. fresh strawberries, sliced (Set aside a few slices for garnish.)
2) 1/2 cup sugar
3) 1 chilled bottle Prosecco
4) 3 pts. lemon sorbetto, frozen

Add sugar to sliced strawberries and set aside.
Pulse one cup of chilled Prosecco with half the sorbetto in blender just until combined, then add half the berries and pulse again (You want this to stay icy. May have to add a cube or two of crushed ice.)
Pour into festive glasses and top with just a bit of Prosecco and a strawberry slice.
Repeat with remaining ingredients when ready for another glass.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not Enough Time for Irish Stew? Try this!

Guinness Ribeye, Smashed Irish Potatoes and Savory Scones

St. Paddy's Day screams for a food celebration, beginning with Guinness and ending with a nice Irish Coffee, the perfect 'dessert' for any Irish meal. If you don't have the time to take a stew or corned beef to the finish line (you can use the slow cooker for both of these with some preplanning) I have a good suggestion. Guinness Ribeye can be on the table in 30 minutes, and the whole meal, potatoes, scones and all, in about an hour. I made a test run Sunday night, and with a tossed salad and the Irish Coffee, you have a full meal. Serve it country style, which at our house means 'bring the pots to the table'! I think you'll be happy with the flavor of the Guinness sauce and steak, which really does make me think of a good stew!

Guinness Steak with Irish Potatoes

4 thick Rib Eye Steaks, salted and peppered

3 T extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 T butter, divided

2 shallots, chopped

4 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup Guinness Stout

1 T tomato paste

1 T chopped fresh parsley

8 small potatoes (or 4 larger potatoes) scrubbed and cut into 2 inch pieces

3 garlic cloves, smashed

2 T fresh herbs, chopped (ie sage, thyme, rosemary—or a combination)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Parboil potatoes in salted water just until becoming tender. Drain potatoes and toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper, smashed garlic cloves, and chopped herbs. Spread on sheet pan and place in oven while preparing steaks. Stir the potatoes a couple of times while cooking. Potatoes should be browned on outside and tender on inside when done. Scrape potatoes into bowl, discarding garlic. Add 3 tablespoons butter and smash into chunks with potato masher.

Add one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to large skillet (preferably an iron skillet) over high heat. When melted and sizzling, add steaks and sear for about 2 minutes each side. Remove steaks, place on sheet pan in preheated 375° oven for 6-8 minutes for medium rare (this can be same oven you're using for the potatoes, just a different rack). Remove steaks from oven when they reach desired doneness, cover with foil and set aside. Remember they will cook a little more while resting.

Reduce heat to medium under iron skillet, and add mushrooms and shallots. Saute until mushrooms are lightly browned on each side. Add Guinness and tomato paste, stir to deglaze pan, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until liquid is reduced to half. Place steaks into pan with mushrooms (along with any accumulated juice), spooning mushrooms over steak. Top with chopped parsley.

Savory Irish Scones

2 cups self-rising flour

1 tsp. Baking powder

One-half tsp. Salt

1 stick cold butter cut into small cubes

1 tsp. Mixed dried herbs

1 cup shredded cheese

One cup milk

1 egg

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spray one cake pan with butter flavored

Sift flour (White Lily is thought to be the best American scone flour—it has less protein than others, which means less gluten, and better for light pastries.) and baking powder. Add cold butter pieces, and with fingers, mix for about one minute until coarse meal consistency.

Add cheese and dried herbs to flour and mix gently with fork.

Whisk milk and egg together, then begin adding milk and fluffing with fork until dough forms. There sill be some milk mixture left to use on top of scones. This is a wet dough.

Form dough into ball shape, turn onto lightly floured board, and very gently form into thick circle. Handle as little as possible. Cut into eight triangles. Dip tops of each piece into leftover milk/egg mixture and place in cake pan..

Bake for 10 minutes on top rack, turn pan front to back, and bake five more minutes. Remove from oven and place scones on cooling rack for about 15 minutes. Remove from pan to serving platter and recut wedges.

Buena Vista Irish Coffee Story

Irish Coffee

(My first Irish Coffee was at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, which claims to perfectly recreate the classic Irish drink.)

Warm your cup with very hot water, then discard the water.

Fill your warmed cup about three-quarters full with hot, strong coffee.

Add 2 sugar cubes (or two teaspoons sugar if you don’t have the cubes) and stir to dissolve.

Add 1 ½ oz. Irish Whiskey to coffee.

Top with sweetened whipped cream which has been lightly whipped.

Pour the lightly whipped cream onto the coffee over a spoon to keep the cream floating on top of the coffee.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meatloaf: More Than the Name Implies

Rustic Italian Torta
I'm not much of a meatloaf lover. This dish while in every way IS a loaf of meat, doesn't remind me in any way of the meatloaf that has haunted me since childhood. If you combine great complimentary ingredients that work well together in other recipes, you'll probably be happy with your creation. I use this combination for hamburgers, and for cannelloni filling. So, to have a 'meatloaf' in my repertoire, I put these same tastes together to form a rustic Italian torta. I line the pan with bread to catch and absorb all the wonderful juices--oh so good on the hamburger, and equally good here! This is one recipe that tastes even better than you think it will. The torta is very moist. After enjoying it for a Sunday supper, or a week night meal, the leftovers become great sandwiches, especially if nestled into a nice piece of foccacia.

Rustic Italian Torta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Several half inch slices of rustic Italian bread
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio
  • 1 cup loosely packed Italian Flat Leaf Parsley leaves
  • 1/4 pound hard salami, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto, roughly chopped
  • 2 pounds ground veal (I buy veal stew meat and grind it in my food processor)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (from rustic Italian loaf)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesano Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomato slices in oil
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  • Line the outside of a 10 inch spring form pan with foil. Brush the inside bottom with olive oil, and line the inside bottom with bread slices.

Add parsley, salami and prosciutto to food processor and pulse to chop.

Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl and set aside.
Place ground veal in large bowl. Add ground parsley and meat. Top with onion mixture. Then eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and finally parmesan cheese. With a fork, gently toss to combine these ingredients. Do not over-mix, or compact!

Add half the meat mixture to the prepared spring form pan. Top with half the mozzarella cheese and half the sun-dried tomatoes. Top with remaining meat mixture. Bake for one hour.

Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and rest for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the inside of the pan. Remove sides from pan, leaving the bottom sitting on the foil to catch any stray drippings. With an offset spatula and a large bladed knife (or the largest thin spatula-like things you have), slide torta to serving plate, slice, garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!
Bon Appetito!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Big Soups-Big Flavor!

This post is featured in the Wild Table portion of the current Wild River Review! Thank you, Warren Bobrow!
Conspiracy Theory

Since my first experience with traditional Italian food from the Chianti region, I've been quietly obsessed with the similarities between the recipes of my Southern background and these newly found treasures. There's much more to this than I can cover in one blog post, but to give you a good example, I'll begin with my Grandmother's Chicken and Dumplings.

Everyone thinks their mother, or grandmother had the best recipes for their favorite things. I know that, but in this particular case, I am absolutely sure Mama Nell's Chicken and Dumplings were the best in the whole world. She knew we loved them, so she made them often.

I liked playing with the dough and sneaking a bite of chicken. I wish I'd been paying more attention to exactly what she was doing, because try as I do, mine still aren't as good as hers, but I'm not giving up.

Mama Nell made what she called 'slick' dumplings. She made her dough, using cooled broth from the simmering chicken. And I can still see her bringing the dough together in a big bowl. I wish it had been a dough board, but it was just a regular glass bowl. And I also remember her spreading a piece of newspaper over the counter, taping it down, and rolling her dough on the paper after flouring it. I really don't know why, unless is had to do with drying the noodles a little before dropping them in the simmering broth, or maybe it made clean up easier. Whatever the reason, making slick dumplings is a part of my Southern heritage.

On the other hand, and completely unrelated in my mind, I had a real desire to take pasta classes and learn to make fresh pasta. No matter how many times I saw Mario Batali on the Food Network make the well of flour, and mix the eggs, I didn't make the connection until I actually went to Italy and was standing in the the kitchen of a wonderful Italian 'Mama' and we made pasta together on her kitchen table, and then it hit me: this is just exactly like making slick dumplings with Mama Nell. Well, it wasn't exactly. The ingredients were basically the same, but with different proportions. The kneading and rolling were much more intense making pasta, but it's a very similar process with a very similar result!

Chicken Stew with Pasta or Slick Dumplings
Step 1:
4 lb. whole chicken cut into pieces, including neck and giblets
2 celery stalks cut into large pieces
1 onion, quartered
2 carrots cut, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 sprigs of fresh sage
4 sprigs of fresh parsley
2 tsp. Sea salt
1 tsp. Freshly ground pepper

Place chicken pieces in soup pot and cover by two inches with water. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot leaving a little opening, and cook until meat is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Remove chicken to bowl and set aside to cool. Discard vegetables, giblets and neck. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard bones and skin. Roughly shred chicken.

Step 2:
Slick Dumplings* OR 16 oz. dried wide egg noodle pasta

Place chicken broth over medium-high heat. When it boils, reduce heat to simmer and add noodles or dumplings to pot. Cook as directed. (Add extra chicken broth**if needed.)

Step 3:
1 T butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 T all purpose flour
One-half cup whipping cream

Add butter and olive oil to medium sized pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onions, and saute until vegetables are tender. Add flour, stirring to combine, and cook for 2 minutes while continuing to stir. Add whipping cream, stir, and set aside until ready to add to soup pot.

Step 4:
When noodles are cooked, add shredded chicken and cooked vegetables with whipping cream back to pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about five-ten minutes until broth thickens a little.

*Slick Dumplings
2 eggs, beaten
3 oz. Broth, cooled
4 T cooking oil—a little less if using fatty broth
1 tsp. Salt
2 cups all purpose flour

Beat eggs, broth, oil, and salt together. Slowly add flour continuing to stir and mix until dough forms. Knead in bowl a couple of minutes and form smooth ball. Cover and refrigerate for one or two hours.

When ready to cook, remove dough from refrigerator and halve. Roll half the dough on lightly floured surface until thin. Cut into one inch strips, and then cut the strips into 4-5 inch pieces.

Now they are ready to drop into simmering broth. Allow to cook in simmering broth without stirring for about five minutes.

**Chicken Broth

When you roast chicken, save the bones or carcass, along with any pan drippings.
Place in soup pot, cover with water, add roughly chopped vegetables (carrots, onion, celery—or other vegetables you might have, but beware—think ahead about the flavors you might be adding to your broth). Also add any fresh herbs, sage is my favorite for chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer bones, pan drippings, vegetables and herbs for about 40 minutes. Cool and strain. Freeze broth and have it ready whenever you need extra chicken broth.