Captain’s Liquored Bananas

Bananas ar forty nine cents a pound at Best Yet market this week! So… let’s make some for dessert. I haven’t made bananas foster in quite some time. So, with a fresh carton of vanilla ice cream and some ‘on sale bananas’ let’s get these two together. Now THAT’S cooking with rum!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp banana liqueur
  • 2 under ripe bananas, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup Captain Morgan spiced rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar, allspice and nutmeg and stir until sugar dissolves. Add banana liqueur and bring sauce to simmer. Add bananas and cook for 1 minute on each side, carefully spooning sauce over bananas as they are cooking. Remove bananas from pan to a serving dish. Bring sauce to a simmer and carefully add the rum. If the sauce is very hot, the alcohol will flame on its own. If not, using stick flame, carefully ignite and continue cooking until flame dies out, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. If sauce is too thin, cook for 1 to 2 minutes until it is syrupy in consistency. Add orange zest and stir to combine. Immediately spoon the sauce over bananas and serve. Serve with ice cream.

bananasfoster04

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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

A Simple, Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

Not for something different, simple dressings for salads, and a word or two about balsamic vinegar or ‘aceto balsamico’ to sound classy.

Surprise! The real balsamic vinegar isn’t a vinegar at all. True vinegar is acetic acid and water, the result of the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria in various liquids which contain the simple sugars such as wine, cider, rice liquid. Which is where we get the express that vinegar is a good wine gone bad. But true Balsamic vinegar, the outrageously expensive bottle, isn’t the result of any fermentation, but is reduction of cooked white  Tebbiano grape juice. The Balsamic in my pantry is actually red wine vinegar with caramel color and ‘additives’ to make it an awful lot like the expensive one.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

    Combine all the ingredients into a shaking bottle and shake away. Then, shake some on your salad!

Ham – Nigella Lawson

Christmas time is a great time for a nice country ham. But the store bought hams tend to be too salty for my taste so I take Nigella Lawson’s advice. Instead of soaking the ham to get rid of excess salt from the smoking process, I cover it with cold water in a large stock pot, bring it just to the boil, then throw out the water and put in fresh cold water. I then add the rest of the ingredients and bring it back up to the boil again and start the cooking time from this point. Check with your butcher though, if he says that the ham doesn’t need soaking at all then you’ll be ok without this step, unless you’d like to get rid of some of the salt anyway.

To calculate cooking time work on  30 minutes per lb plus 20 minutes. The meat should be loosening from the bone slightly without crumbling completely to pieces when it is cooked.

  • Ham weighing about 4lbs
  • 1.5 pints apple juice or cider
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • bunch of herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

After you have got rid of excess salt as above, put all the ingredients except the sugar into a big pot, cover with cold water and bring to boiling point. Add the sugar now. Turn the heat down so that the water is simmering not too energetically and cook for the allotted time as above. If you are going to eat the gammon hot you can serve at once. If you want it cold, leave to cool in the stock to retain moistness in the meat. Once it is cool take the ham out of the stock. Cut the tough rind away from the fat and smother the fat and meat with your chosen glaze ingredients.

Glaze
My favourite glaze is a mix of grainy mustard and dark brown sugar, two tablespoons of each mixed together. Sometimes I squeeze in some orange juice or use honey instead of sugar, then I usually put in a teaspoon of mustard powder too to thicken the glaze. Experiment with your favourite flavours. Mustard is always a good one for ham though. The glaze should be fairly thick, so it doesn’t run straight off the ham again. Put the glazed ham under the grill/broiler for ten minutes or so to set it.

Always cook yourself a bigger ham than you actually need as the leftovers are so good you’ll be happy to eat them all week!