Baked Easter Ham

Easter and large baked hams.. I really don’t know then these to things where paired up, but it seems every store out there is throwing hams at me. So there must be some reason why ham is so associated with Easter… maybe to ward off heathens. Well, here is a simple straightforward baked ham, the secret to getting it right is in the knife.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 (12 to 14 pound) uncooked smoked ham, bone-in
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Cognac

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Wrap ham completely with parchment-lined foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Pop it into the oven and bake for about 1 1/2 hours.

Unwrap ham and toss out the parchment and foil. Now here’s the real secret to making those diamond shaped patterns in the fat. Use a utility knife, you know, like the sheetrock cutting knives, to score the fat in a diamond pattern, making the lines about 3/4 inch apart. The uniform depth of the blade makes uniform cuts in the fat. Transfer ham to a large roasting pan.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and Cognac. Brush ham evenly with 3/4 of the brown sugar mixture and return to oven. Continue cooking the ham for an hour more. Then, brush ham with remaining brown sugar mixture and continue cooking 30 minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter until ready to carve.

easter ham

Tangerine – Lime – Tequila Dressing

I was working in the lab, late last night. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. And its going to be a lot more spring-like this weekend and perhaps a simple spring greens salad would be nice. These are plenty of sales in the produce down at Sweet Pea market. While I was there, I found a small pint size bottle of tangerine juice. Now that got me thinking about tangerines, and limes, and with limes… tequila! Now, how about those greens with tangerine – lime – tequila dressing.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup tangerine juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Silver Patron tequila
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Combine the ingredients and mix well… serve on top of those greens of course.

Tequila- Patron-Silver

Mushrooms stuffed with Crab

This makes a nice warm appetizer. A small serving tray of these will disappear in no time at all. Yes, agaricus bisporus, the common white, or button mushroom gets invites to all the parties because he’s a fungi… ok, it’s a notoriously bad pun, but, unlike crab stuffing,  I use it sparingly.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 30 large mushrooms
  • 1 pound lump crab meat
  • 2 lg. green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/8 c. parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Dash of Tabasco
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened

Combine ingredients (except mushrooms) to make the stuffing mixture.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and sauté the stems in butter and add them to the stuffing mixture.

Stuff the caps with the stuffing. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Let them cool a bit before getting them on the tray and out to the guests.


Simple Chicken Broth

It’s a few days into spring by way of the calendar, but you couldn’t tell it from the weather out there. It’s still cold and blustery out there. And this weather can certainly lead to a bad case of the sniffles. To help combat this, have a nice bowl of homemade chicken broth. Broth is not the same thing as stock even though many people use the two interchangeably. Stock, which is a basis for many soups and sauces, is made from water and bones, chicken bones, beef bones, fish bones. Broth is made from water and meaty bones. It also often contains vegetables and aromatic herbs in the mixture as well. So broth contains much more flavor than stock. A chicken broth is a great thing to make for those packages of very inexpensive chicken backs.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pound meaty chicken backs
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • A couple stems of parsley
  • A pinch or two of rosemary and thyme
  • A pinch or two of sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a stock pot, cover them with water, and bring it to a rolling boil to break down all the connective tissue in the chicken backs. Reduce the heat to low and cook for two to three hours replacing water as you go. Then, strain everything through a colander into another pot. Discard the solids. Then, slowly strain the mixture through cheesecloth to further clarify the broth. Then serve it in a mug or bowl. I like to server this with toasted garlic bread.

Chicken Broth

Caldo de Gallina (Dominican Chicken Soup)

We just can’t seem to let go of winter’s chill out here on the island. Perhaps some Dominican style chicken soup will be good for the soul. A bit of red pepper flakes adds just the right amount of heat to this fairly straight forward broth.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds cooked chicken (skinned, boned, cut into small pieces)
  • 2 medium potatos (cut into cube-like structures)
  • ½ cup of Yucca (cut into cube-like structures too)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 cup celery stalk (chopped into cubes)
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 tablespoon dried cilantro (if not available, substitute dried parsley)
  • 1 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 10 cups water
  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add chicken, bouillon cubes, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and dried cilantro. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the water, potatoes, yucca. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Break up the angel hair pasta and add to the pot. Stir frequently until noodles are tender. Remove from the heat and serve.

dominican chicken soup

Spring Trout with Dijon Mustard

April first is opening day for trout fisherman in the Finger Lakes tributaries. Catherine Creek which runs into Seneca Lake being the most famous, but any tributary to any of the larger finger lakes is likely to host a run of spawning rainbows. Lake fishing gets back in gear with many people running planner boards along the shore line of Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes looking for hungry trout and salmon. So, what to do with some spring caught trout?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 medium trout fillets
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard ( I prefer the stone-ground)
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

In a wide flat dish, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt, to taste.

In a small bowl, mix together the mustard and the juice of 1 lemon. Brush both sides of the trout with mustard mixture. Then coat the fish on both sides with the seasoned bread crumbs and press firmly to adhere the crumbs to the fish.

Coat a large skillet with about 1/4 to 1/2-inch of olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Add the fish to the pan and cook about 6 to 7 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and cook the other side until the fish is brown and crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. This is where those long thin fish spatulas come in handy. Trying to do this with small spatulas usually breaks the fillet.

Remove the fish from the pan and drain on paper towels. I recommend the Duck Walk white with this and since the trout is packed with strong flavors with the Dijon mustard, I keep the sides simple a spring greens salad and rice.

spring trout

Braised Beef Ribs with Guinness

There is the saying that ‘fat adds flavor’ and the problem with flavorful braised beef ribs has been the fat. The problem with braised beef ribs is the fat that comes from using the bone-in ribs. This recipe uses boneless beef ribs. Now, since we are not using the bone, we loose a lot of the thickness in the broth that comes from all the gelatin in the bone’s connective tissue. To add this thickness back to the broth, I add a bit of unflavored gelatin. So, we’ll cut the fat, but not the flavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs, trimmed of excess fat (see note and step-by-step)
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin from pole to pole (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking and brown the ribs. Work in batches to prevent over-crowding. When its browned transfer the meat to a bowl and hold on to it.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes  Add in the tomato paste and cook. Then add garlic and cook. Increase heat to medium-high and add Guinness, broth, carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, 2 to 2½ hours.

Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to serving platter and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and strain off fat. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meat and serve. I like this over egg noodles.

boneless beef short ribs

Irish Mutton Pie with Guiness

Well St Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and today being Pi day… Well, let’s make a pie. A good old Irish pie, with mutton, and potatoes, and Guinness, hell a shot or two of Bushmills in the sauce couldn’t hurt.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Half a pound of cubed mutton
  • 1 pint Guinness
  • 3 onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 6 large potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • Puff pastry
  • salt and pepper

Add the meat and Guinness into a dutch oven and simmer for an hour. Add the potatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. Slice the carrots, onion, and celery and add them to pot and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and cover with the puff pastry. Pop into a 350 oven for half an hour till ‘done’. Serve with a pint or two. Cheers!muttonpie