Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Ham with Honey, Mustard and Clove: 2015

Whether you believe in Jesus, or the Easter Bunny, Easter brings both its promise of eternal life and/or - more eggs in your basket. Usually celebrated, like holidays, birthdays, Saint Paddy's Day, and others, with food, for this occasion most of us enjoy - a big chunk of pig thigh - we call, ham.

We love to get the family all together for Easter.  The kids are all just a bit past hunting for eggs, but we enjoy the meal and all the craziness that goes on while they are here. In years past, the ham has tended toward dryness, and often too salty, so this year we went for something a little different...un-sliced, shank ham.

Un-sliced ham offers up thick pieces of juicy, tender meat. That is because slicing meat adds surface area through which moisture escapes during the baking and even while sitting on the platter. Some people slice off bite-sized pieces of meat on the plate because they would rather conserve the moisture - for taste.

We didn't do anything to reduce saltiness of this ham, other than use a glaze that called for none, as most glazes do. Not sure why, but no one seemed to notice the usual saltiness in this ham.

It was as good as the picture indicates, maybe better.


1 10 lb ham, shank
1 C honey
1/4 C Whole Grain Mustard (Dijon works)
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1 tsp crushed cloves
4 tbl unsalted buter


Prepare the glaze: Place the butter in the pan at med-low heat.  Once melted add the other ingredients and stir util well blended, about 3-5 minutes. Remove and let cool, preferable to a honey-like consistency.

Take ham out of refrigerator half and hour before putting it into the oven.  Set the oven temperature at 350 degrees F.  Trim the fat leaving at least 1/4 inch.  Layer the pan with a couple of layers of aluminum foil (nice when it comes clean-up time).  Just before putting the ham in the oven, cover the top with parchment paper, then wrap the entire ham tightly with aluminum foil.

Cook for 55 - 60 minutes.

Take the ham out of the oven and reset the temperature to 425 degrees.   Remove the foil and the parchment paper.  Score the meat with slices no deeper than 1/4 inch. Brush about a third of the glaze over the top and down the sides; then back in the oven.  Every 20 - 25 minutes, brush more glaze, do this until all the glaze is used and the ham is a dark golden color with a brown crust. Remove from the oven, cover in foil and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Collect the pan juices, remove the fat that rises to the top, and place on table as a aus jus.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Croque Mademoiselle

I came across the Croque Monsieur and Croque Mademoiselle in the book, "Paris Cafe: The Select Crowd," by Noel Riley Fitch and one of my online friends, Rick Tulka (a Mad Magazine cartoonist).

Both Croques are basically ham and cheese sandwiches, but what sets the Croque Mademoiselle off is that it has an egg on top. Both are lathered in a sauce of some type: bechamel, Hollandaise, etc.

My version of the Croque Mademoiselle is a combination of recipes I have found, including the one in the book mentioned above, and what I like in a breakfast plate - with two eggs, not one, on top.

The Croque Monsier was first mentioned in literature with volume 2 of Proust's, "In Search of Lost Time," 1918.


Two eggs, poached
2 or 3 slices of ham
1 piece of bread, white will do, toasted or roasted, and buttered
1 slice of gruyere, swiss, or asiago (I used asiago here and grated it over the top)
bechamel sauce, or in my case, 1/2 pkt of Hollaindaise mix from the grocer's


Prepare the sauce
Toast the bread
Poach the eggs
Heat the ham
Toast on bottom, then layered with the ham, then the eggs, the sauce, then the grated cheese.
Salt and pepper to taste.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Pan Seared Steak with Brandy Sauce"

Pan-seared Steak with Brandy Sauce,
Asparagus and noodles with Pesto
Watching some "ol-boys" in Montana, with Anthony Bourdain, working out of a blackened, cast-iron skillet, this idea for a sauce-lathered steak came to mind. After some thinking and some internet searching here's what we came up with:


1 lb steak: round, flank, skirt, or your favorite choice
1/2 C finely chopped shallots, or scallions
4 tbl Butter
1/4 C Red Wine
1/3 C Beef Broth
4 tsp Worcestershire
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Tomato paste
4 tbl Brandy
1/2 C Cream of Mushroom


At high-heat, place 2-3 tbl butter in the pan. Swirl to contact all sides of the pan. Add 1 lb of bite sized chunks of the steak. Brown on all sides, reduce heat to medium-low, add another tbl butter, if needed, and the red wine. Continue at this heat until the red wine evaporates and the liquid in the pan thickens. Remove the meat, and cover.

Saute shallots/scallions for 2 mins on medium-high. Add brandy for deglazing the pan, increase temperature to high-heat. Once the brandy has evaporated, add the broth mixture (broth, Worcestershire, Dijon, tomato paste). Bring to a boil. Cook until thickened.  Add the cream of mushrom, stir until the liquid is well mixed.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs"

As a young man I could take, or leave, chicken of just about any kind: grilled, barbecued, or baked.

On a 45-day guided tour of Europe in 1970, I had fried chicken 23 times. It was years before I could eat it again, and enjoy it.

However, as I accumulate more and more years, I am finding I like chicken better and better - fixed just about any way.

This is a super easy recipe from "Simply Recipes" by Elise Bauer, which we found today, and put it together this evening for a very flavorful dinner.


4 chicken thighs
1/4 C spicy mustard
1/4 C honey
1tbl olive oil
3 or 4 springs fresh rosemary
freshly ground pepper


Set the oven for 350 degrees.

Mix the mustard, honey, olive oil and salt in a small mixing bowl. Further add ingredients to taste.  I added a bit more mustard and salt.

Place the thighs in a roasting pan and pour the mixture over the top.  Add the rosemary springs between the pieces and bake for 45 mins to an hour. We removed ours at 45 mins, but it could have gone just a few more minutes for added browning and crisping of the skin. Done when the juices run clear, or at 170 degrees.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Another Lovely Loaf of Bread"

Due to the angle of the camera, this beautifully raised loaf looks flat.  It isn't. 

You may find this hard to believe, but this freshly baked loaf of bread was never kneaded, it never needed to be kneaded. It's kinda fun to play with those words.  

But not as much fun as baking this loaf. 

Here's the recipe * : 


4 Cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 Cups water (85 - 95 degrees)
2 tsps Quick Rising Yeast
2 - 3 tsps Salt
2 Tbl chopped rosemary
2-3 tsps Sea Salt
1 tbl olive oil


Put the yeast in the water and stir until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups of flour and the salt, then stir until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the next 2 cups of flour and stir until the dough ball pulls away from the side of the bowl. No more. Cover and, for full flavors, refrigerate overnight; or let sit in a warm place for about 2 - 3 hours until the dough ball has doubled in size.

Next day, turn the oven light on in your oven. Then in about 30 mins put the covered dough in the oven with only the oven light on (the oven light produces enough heat to get your oven to about 80 degrees), let warm. Let rise for two hours. 

Set the oven for 500 degrees.  

Then carefully pour the dough into either a 9 or 10 inch oiled skillet or a dutch oven.  Let it sit for 15 or 20 mins until the dough has risen again to maybe twice its size.  Spread the olive oil on the surface, evenly sprinkle the rosemary, and the sea salt. 

Put it in the oven, reduce the temp to 400 degrees.  Bake for approximately 20 - 30 minutes, or until you have a nicely browned crust.  

Remove and place on a rack for cooling, then enjoy.  

* Recipe adapted from the book, "No Knead to Knead," by Suzanne Dunaway. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"New Book, New Bread Recipes"

I recently purchased a bread recipe book from Amazon called, "No Knead to Need," by Suzanne Dunaway, and absolutely love the breads now coming out of the oven.

The three breads here all came from the same batch of dough, and my oven!  The baguette is a regular sized loaf, the two focaccias are about 7 or 8 inches by roughly, 11. The sugar and cinnamon disappeared first.


4 Cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 3/4 Cups water (85 - 95 degrees)
2 tsps Quick Rising Yeast
2 tsps Salt
2 Tbl chopped rosemary
2 tsps Sea Salt
1 Tbl unsalted butter


Put the yeast in the water and stir until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups of flour and and salt, then stir until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the next 2 cups of flour and stir until the dough ball pulls away from the side of the bowl. No more. Cover and, for full flavors, refrigerate overnight; or let sit in a warm place for about 2 - 3 hours until the dough ball has doubled in size.

Next day, turn your oven to 200 degrees, let warm. Put the dough, still covered, in the oven and close the door, not quite all the way. Let rise for two hours.

Pre-hear the oven to 500 degrees. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, and cut into two equal pieces. Put one aside.

The Banguette: I go ahead and knead the dough 5 or 6 times, then form it into the baguette. Put the dough on a baquette pan, available in most kitchen stores, or online. Let sit for about 15 mins, then put into the oven, lower the temperature to 400 degrees. I also put a pan of water in the oven to keep things on the moist side.

The Focaccia:  Knead a few times, then spread the dough out on a floured cookie sheet. Use your fingers to punch down the holes, or indentions, in the dough. On one I spread olive oil, freshly chopped rosemary, and sprinkled the surface lightly with sea salt (just under a tsp). For the other, punch the holes: spread some unsalted butter, then sprinkle liberally with a sugar/cinnamon mix (or do them separately).  Heat at 450 degrees for about 12 - 15 mintues.

I did all three breads in the oven at the same time. Pre-heated to 500 degrees, then reduced to 415 for about 15 minutes, then reduced again, to 400 in another 10 mins. Internal temps for bread should be about 205 - 215 degrees for doneness.