Sunday Supper

I’ve written about Easter a couple of times now – this year Easter was simple. It was just the three of us, so we didn’t need much. Gotta have the ham. Gotta have the Au Gratin Potatoes. Gotta have the asparagus. Just for fun, we did deviled eggs. And those super easy warm and serve dinner rolls. No multi-layers of appetizers, no multi-course supper and surprisingly enough, no dessert. Instead, we started the day with an assortment of pastries. It was enough to give us that sugar fix early on.

blood orangeThis year, I tried a new ham recipe I picked up while visiting therebalchick.com. Well, sort of tried a new recipe. The original recipe called for Blood Oranges. After scouring three different grocery stores to no avail, it was a matter of falling back on an old recipe or simply going with what I had, navel oranges. Oranges are a winter crop. Blood Oranges can be had from December through March. With Easter late this year, the beautiful Blood Orange wasn’t an option. I will definitely make this ham again at Christmas time. Another detour from the original recipe was that she uses a bone-in smoked ham. The bone-in smoked hams were HUGE – much more than the three of us could polish off in several days, so I went with a small spiral cut boneless fully cooked ham. Even then, the three-pound ham is going to feed us for several more days.

The asparagus was different this year as well. A few nights ago I tried a new way of cooking asparagus in a skillet with a little butter, roasted garlic and a splash of lemon juice. I let the asparagus get nice and browned, almost blackened in spots. It gave a wonder added layer to the vegetable, with a nice smokey flavor. Typically when serving asparagus with a hollandaise sauce, I steam asparagus. The pan-seared method of cooking the asparagus was a big hit with the family – even my why-do-you-always-make-me-taste-the-asparagus eater liked the pan-seared veggies. So I decided to give seared asparagus with hollandaise sauce a try. The hollandaise sauce is recipe from everydayfrenchchef.com. The sauce was super easy to make, especially after adding a few short cuts. (The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of boiling water. I couldn’t see boiling a pot of water to get two teaspoons, so I put some water in a small cup and “boiled” it in the microwave. I don’t think the sauce knew the difference, and it was one less pan to wash. The same goes for the fresh lemon juice. The instructions said to warm it in a pan to lukewarm. Stick a cup in the microwave for about 10 seconds and there ya go.) I really like Meg Bortin, author of The Everyday French Chef. Her goal is to create authentic French dishes that are also simple and easy to create. Her hollandaise sauce was the easiest I’ve ever made without skimping on flavor.

As for the Au Gratin Potatoes, it’s a recipe I picked up years ago from my very first Betty Crocker cookbook. Over the years, it has evolved into a much milder, rich, onion infused potato casserole. I especially like the nice crunchy topping.

Now for the small kitchen dilemma. The ham warms at a very low temperature. The potatoes are cooked in a moderately-hot oven. If you don’t have dual ovens, this seemingly difficult problem can be solved one of two ways.  Option one would be to heat the ham in a roasting oven while you cook the potatoes in your regular oven. If you don’t have a roasting oven, cook the potatoes first, then turn down the heat and cook the ham. While the ham is “resting”, turn up the heat and rewarm the potatoes.  If you do the one-dish at a time method, plan to start the asparagus and hollandaise sauce when the potatoes are warming.  The timing should be right to have everything come together in the end.

This meal is delicious and you don’t have to wait until Easter.  Any Sunday is perfect.  I like Sunday dinners to be special in honor of Sunday. It’s a nice way to end the week or start the week, depending upon how you want to look at it. Whatever the occasion, I hope you enjoy!

Blood Orange Glazed Ham
6-8 Lb Ham Virginia Ham
4 blood oranges (or naval in a pinch)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water

Zest 1 entire blood orange into a small sauce pot.  Then juice that orange and two additional ones (juice from 3 total oranges) into the pot.  Over medium heat, whisk in the brown sugar.  Lower the temperature to a simmer and let it reduce until you have a slightly thickened sauce that can be poured over the ham.

When it is ready, preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Pour and then rub the glaze over the entire ham, then add the ½ cup of water to the bottom of the roasting dish.  Cover pan tightly with foil to allow ham to steam warm.  This will keep the ham from drying out.  Place in the oven and warm slowly.  About mid-way through the heating, uncover ham, spoon juices over the meat then cover again and continue to cook.  (Bone-in ham will take about 20 minutes per pound, boneless will take about 15 minutes per pound.  Take care, as the boneless ham may dry out if not allowed to “steam” warm).

You’ll want to cook the ham to an ideal temperature of 150 degrees. When the ham is done, let rest for about 20 minutes to help hold in the juices.

Slice the final blood orange into rounds and add to the ham and serving platter.

Mema’s Au Gratin Potatoes
6 Medium Russet Potatoes (about 2 lbs) peeled and thinly sliced
¼ Cup Butter
1 Medium White onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Cups Milk
2 1/2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (½ cup reserved)
½ Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
½ Cup Fine Dry Bread Crumbs
Paprika

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Peel potatoes and slice into thin disks using a food processor or vegetable slicer. Cut enough potatoes to measure 4 cups. Place sliced potatoes into cold water until ready to use, then drain.

Heat butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions in hot butter until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat.

Stir in milk and 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese and all of the Monterrey Jack Cheese. Return to heat and cook until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Drain potatoes in a colander and shake to remove excess water. Spread potatoes in an ungreased 1 ½-quart casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour.

Mix remaining cheese, breadcrumbs and paprika (just enough for a nice color). Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over top of potatoes and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until top is brown and bubbly.

Asperges à la sauce Hollandaise
3 egg yolks
1 Stick unsalted butter
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons boiling water
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs green asparagus, thick stalks
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced

First, make the hollandaise. This recipe makes about a cup of sauce.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well-blended, about 20 seconds. Add the salt.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. In a small cup or bowl heat the juice of 1/2 a lemon to lukewarm in the microwave, about 5-10 seconds. In another cup or microwave bowl heat a small quantity of water to boiling, about 2 minutes.

Begin adding the melted butter to the yolks, teaspoonful by teaspoonful, whisking constantly. When the sauce begins to thicken, add a few drops of the lemon juice. Continue in this way until all the butter and juice have been incorporated. Stir in the boiling water.

Grind in some pepper and check the flavorings, adding more salt if necessary.

If serving within the hour, place the bowl in a warm place, for example beside the stove. If serving later, place the sauce in the fridge. Before serving, heat an inch of water to lukewarm in a large pot. Turn off the heat. Place the bowl of sauce in the pot, taking care not to get any water into the bowl, and stir the sauce occasionally until it has softened. Be careful: if the water is too hot, the sauce will curdle.

Wash and trim the asparagus. Asparagus will “snap” just above the woody end. You want the asparagus to be about 6-8 inches long.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to sizzling. Turn down the heat to medium and add the asparagus. Gently squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon half over the asparagus.

Using a broad spatula, turn the spears over from time to time until they are browned more or less evenly, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. The spears will remain mainly green, with patches of crispy deep brown. Check for doneness by tasting a spear. It should be tender but slightly al dente.

Just before serving, place the asparagus on a serving platter. Spoon hollandaise sauce over tips for a nice presentation, with the remaining sauce served table-side.

Eggs Benedict

I don’t know if this is “blog worthy” but I am excited.  I’ve never eaten Eggs Benedict before, let alone made them.  I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? I can’t believe it took me so long to try this!

Last weekend, I bought my first ever egg poacher in Jackson, at the Biggest Little Kitchen Store.  (If you ever get a chance to visit the Mother Lode town of Jackson, California – this is a must stop.  You name it, they have it.  Love that little store. And the beautiful drive in the foothills in the spring is not to be missed either!)

All week, I’ve been waiting for Sunday – the one day of the week that I truly have time to make all sorts of special things for my family.  Today I wanted to try Eggs Benedict.  Let me tell you, it is wonderful!  But there is a down side – the kitchen is a mess!  You need several pots, pans, a blender, a toaster and baking sheet for the muffins.  Mess or not, we’re going to have this again – and soon!

Eggs Benedict consists of four layers – a toasted English Muffin, a nice slice of Canadian Bacon or ham, a poached egg and Hollandaise Sauce.  The toast gives a nice crunch.  The ham is sweetly salty, the egg wonderful and the sauce seems to bring everything together.  The recipe below will make 4 Eggs Benedict – perfect for my little poacher in one batch.  You can always double the recipe and poach the eggs in batches.  Just remember to slightly under cook the first batch of eggs so that they don’t over cook while holding in a warm oven.

Hollandaise Sauce
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pinch fine sea salt
1 pinch white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

To make the sauce, in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, whisk the egg yolks, lemon and lime juice and water constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and continue whisking for about 1 minute more, but remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture thickens. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper and blend until smooth. Let cool for 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly pour in the melted butter in a thin stream until incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer the sauce to a saucepan and keep warm over very low heat.

Note: If you don’t want to go to all the bother of making the Hollandaise Sauce from scratch, Knorr’s makes a nice “instant” sauce mix.  Simply whisk the mix with 1 cup of milk and 1/2 a stick of butter over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add a little fresh squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne and that’s it. Keep warm until ready to use.  Although it’s not home-made, this will do nicely in a pinch.

Eggs Benedict
3 tablespoons butter
2 English muffins, split
4 slices baked ham, or Canadian Bacon each 1/4 inch thick and cut to fit English Muffins
4 large eggs

Split English Muffins and place in the toaster to lightly toast.  Once muffins are toasted, place on a baking sheet.  Spread a little butter on each muffin.  Cover with foil and hold in a warm oven until ready to assemble.

Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining butter. Add the ham and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Keep warm.

Fill an egg-poaching pan with 1/2 inch water, set the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Lightly brush the poaching cups with a little butter and crack an egg into each cup. Cover and cook until the whites are firm and the yolks are glazed over but still soft, about 3-4 minutes, or until done to your liking.

Place 1 muffin half on each of 4 warmed individual plates. Top each muffin half with a slice of ham, an egg and some of the sauce. Serve immediately.

This is wonderful with some breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit for a light yet satisfying start to a new day.

President’s Day Supper

Next month we will cerebrate the births of our first and sixteenth Presidents – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  In honor of President’s Day, I decided to create a special menu to commemorate the day.  Virginia Ham seemed the obvious choice for George Washington.  (I haven’t a clue if George ever dined on Virginia Ham – especially when you consider his limitation – having painful dentures limited him to soft foods, but President’s Day seemed a good excuse to have a nice ham dinner). Honest Abe was a bit more difficult to nail down.  Let’s face it, Abraham Lincoln was a man of humble beginnings and simple tastes.  It has been said that Mr. Lincoln liked a good cup of coffee, enjoyed nibbling on fruit throughout the day and was partial to biscuits.  Not much to work with, but it’s enough.  And then there’s the rich history of this country – the inspiring as well as the not-so-honorable moments of our past as a nation.  I drew from all these things to create this year’s feast.

Our menu this year will consist of Country Ham (another name for Virginia Ham – the difference is not how the ham is cured but rather WHERE the ham is cured).  I am particularly fond of Kahlua-Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes.  It turns out Good Ol’ George was also fond of sweet potatoes, especially mashed with a little butter.  However; my guys aren’t sweet potato fans, so for them I have added baby peas as an optional side.  Mr. Lincoln’s contribution to the mix are delicious, easy to make Herb Biscuits.  And it wouldn’t be much of a celebration without something wonderful for dessert.  Boston Cream Pie seems just the ticket.   As we all know, Boston Cream Pie isn’t a pie at all, but rather layers of cake with a cream filling and marvelous chocolate Ganache.

yams

Before I get down to the recipes – let’s talk for a moment about sweet potatoes and yams.  In America, we do not eat yams. We might call sweet potatoes yams, but they simply aren’t yams. So why do we do that? The word yam comes from African words njam, nyami, or djambi, meaning “to eat”.  When slaves first saw sweet potatoes, they were reminded of the tuber of a tropical vine found in Africa and the Caribbean.   The name stuck.  In reality, yams and sweet potatoes aren’t even in the same family.   Yams, true yams can grow to be five-feet long.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anything five-feet long in the produce section of my local Safeway.  That is not to say we can’t find true yams in the US.  The smaller yams have managed to work their way into some of the International Specialty Markets, particularly those that stock Latin or Caribbean foods.   One of these days, I just might experiment with true yams – which will be a post for another day . . .

The Boston Cream Pie can be made a day ahead of time, then kept in the refrigerator.  Just take it out of the frige about 30 minutes before serving.

Boston Cream Pie

Ingredients – Cake Base

1 Yellow Cake (from box or favorite recipe)

boston 2

Bake cake according to recipe or mix. Allow cake to cool fully. Wrap and store at room temperature until ready to assemble.

Ingredients – Cream Filling

1 ½ Cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs, whole
4 Large Egg Yolks
½ Cup Sugar
¼ Flour
Pinch of Salt

Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat (do not boil). Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and salt and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then gradually whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture.

Pour the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until thick and pudding-like, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula to push the pudding through.

Let cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Ingredients – Chocolate Ganache

4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Heat the chocolate, cream, vanilla and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before using.

To Assemble:

Slice cake in half. Place on serving plate, cut side up. Top with cream filling, to ¼ inch from edge. Carefully top with top half of cake. Press down slightly. Pour Ganache over the cake and smooth with an offset spatula.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours before serving.

Country Baked Ham

6-7 lb Smoke Cured Ham, bone-in
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices, juice reserved
15 to 20 whole cloves (optional)
1 small jar maraschino cherries
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Remove ham from refrigerator and let rest on counter 20 minutes.

glazed-ham2Score ham to create diamond pattern in skin. At each intersection, insert whole clove. Decoratively arrange pineapple rings with cherry in center of each ring. Secure with a toothpick. Place ham in shallow baking pan, tent with foil and place in the oven to bake.
Place ham in shallow baking pan, tent with foil and place in the oven to bake, 25 minutes per pound, about 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

Ingredients – Glaze
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
Reserved Pineapple Juice

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and just enough of the reserved pineapple juice to make a thick glaze. Spoon the glaze over the ham and bake for the remaining 30 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and carve.

Kahlua-Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes

4 Sweet Potatoes, cooked
12 Tablespoons butter (1 ½ sticks)Sweet-potato-1
¼ Cup Kahlua
1 Cup Honey
¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg

Place Sweet Potatoes in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil and continue to cook at a rolling boil until Sweet Potatoes are tender but firm. Remove from pan, cool slightly.

Peel and cut Sweet Potatoes into serving-size pieces.

In a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add Sweet Potatoes, Kahlua, and honey. Season with cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, gently toss Sweet Potatoes to coat in mixture. Cover and simmer until Sweet Potatoes are heated through and sauce has thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

Lincoln's Herb Biscuits 02-18-2012

Buttermilk Herb Biscuits

2 Cups Self-Rising Flour
¼ Teaspoon Dried Sage
¼ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
¼ Teaspoon Crushed Rosemary
¼ Cup Mayonnaise
1 Cup Buttermilk
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Spray 12-muffin tin with cooking spray. Set aside until ready to use.

Whisk herbs into flour. Use a dinner knife to mix in mayonnaise and buttermilk. DO NOT over mix.

Divide biscuit batter into muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes.

Remember those peas I talked about?  There’s no real recipe.  It’s too simple.  Lesueur Peas 2/24/00 FEATURES Chris Thelen

1 Can Le Sueur Early Peas, drained (in my humble opinion, these are the best canned peas)
2 Tablespoons Butter

Drain peas and place in a saucepan with butter. Heat over medium heat until warm, about 10 minutes.