Saturday, January 15, 2011

Best Ham Dinner was Just Okay.

Last Sunday I set out to make this: Best Ham Dinner

We'll start with the star of the show and go from there with verdict to follow.

The Ham

I've linked to the recipe page so I don't intend to keep repeating the recipe here. However, this one was a little weird. See below:

"Place ham, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan; pour in 2 cups (500 mL) water. Cover pan tightly with foil; roast in 325°F (160°C) oven for 2 hours, adding more water if necessary to maintain level. Pour off drippings, reserving 1/4 cup (50 mL).

If ham has skin, peel off. Trim fat layer to 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness. Diagonally score fat to form diamond pattern. Stud centre of each diamond with clove."

SO... I'm supposed to cook it for two hours, and then stud it with cloves? That doesn't sound right. I decided that these directions were flip-flopped and studded it first.

You'll notice it's too big for the pan. That's because earlier this fall my roasting pan was requisitioned as a drip catcher for the leak in our ceiling. The bottom was completely rusted out and it was in no way serviceable for dinner. So cake pan it was!

The directions told me to poor two cups of water in the pan and seal it tightly with foil. But... I was also confused about how I was supposed to get any drippings if this thing was poaching in a bath. It's true that the ham was supposed to be on a rack probably mostly above the water, but still, any drippings would have mixed in with the water and would have been impossible to reserve. I followed the directions though, because I want to start making more than the dozen or so dishes I know - can't do that without learning something new. I hear you can do that by following directions!

It went in there for two hours. It came out looking like this:

I should note here that there was hardly any fat on this poor guy. Even though I pinched my fingers very close to the end of the blade to keep from scoring the ham too deeply, I still cut into the meat of the thing. See how you can see the ham?

Also, as I predicted, there were no drippings to collect. Unfortunate,  these drippings were to be used in...

The Glaze:

1/4cup (50 mL) liquid honey
1/4 cup (50 mL) pineapple juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard

All but the Dijon in the pan, let go at medium high or so until reduced to half a cup. Not too hard, you just have to leave it there until it's done doing it's thing. Then you hit it with the mustard and... the pan drippings.

So, with a tablespoon I did try and pull some fat from the top of the water in the ham pan.

It was a bad idea. I knew better, but I was trying to follow directions.
Before these "drippings" the glaze was thick like caramel sauce. I had trouble staying out of it to be honest. But then I added what was basically ham water.

It went from this:

To this:

See how runny it is? It was sad. But that's okay, I put it in a skillet and made it awesome.

Now see how thick that is? "Man I'm good!" I thought to myself before I actually tried to brush that on the poor ham. "Oh..." I thought instead.  I had to keep heating it to make it at all brushable. To be fair I did attempt to brush the runny stuff on the ham, and all it did was run off. I had to fix it and this stuff had no problem staying put.

Let's move on, shall we? I think we'll talk about potatoes next!

Crunchy Scalloped Potatoes

The first thing you should know is that these call for leeks. I was excited. I've wanted to cook with them for a long time and always scared myself off. Not this time!

What I soon learned is that you don't even use half of the leek.

See that? See what I cut it down to? You're supposed to cut it down until there's only white and "light green." Mine might have had more green than they should have, but these were almost three bucks a pound, that's all I was cutting.

I was supposed to cut the little nub of a leek into thin slices. But... I'd heard that sometimes sneaky leeks had dirt in them, and you had to wash it out. Sorta like celery? ...sure.

I could not find an entry into this thing to peel back the layers. I don't think it's built that way. I ended up slicing it down the side to about halfway through. There was no dirt. Hurray!

You simmer those with butter for a while.

See how pretty and green those are? So lovely. I fixed that.

You're supposed to cook them until they're soft and then add flour and milk and make a sort of gravy. Before I got that far I burned them. It's what I do.

I salvaged most of them, fortunately. Those bastards could have been charred though, and I still would have used them. Three dollars a pound!!

The directions told me to add the flour to the leeks, cook for a minute or so, and then poor in the milk. That sounded stupid. Does this recipe think lumps are awesome? I did this part in another pan and added in the leeks at the end.

You cook the flour and milk (and whatever flavorings you're supposed to throw in there - salt, pepper, thyme, whatever) until it coats the back of a spoon.

Does not coat the back of a spoon:

Achievement unlocked:

If you haven't caught on, the reason you're making this tasty gravy stuff is to add it to sliced potatoes and bake it in a casserole dish. It also says to use a waxy potato, but since I had a basket full of bakers in the garage, I used those instead. To account for how mushy they'd get I decided to under cook them. This only sorta worked.

Also, because in my family you make enough potatoes to feed the neighbors, I had too much potatoes:

That's what I get for not following directions. It said to use 2.5 lbs and put it in a 2 liter dish. That's the dish you see in the picture. Not gonna work. I threw about a third of them away because they didn't fit in the dish and I don't care about starving children.

For the topping I used panko crumbs, the Kraft Parmesan Cheese, and too much butter. You don't need a picture of that. It might have been too buttery because I used a drier sort of crumb, and the recipe called for regular old breadcrumbs. I fixed this whoopsie by adding more crumbs. Solved.

Also, I toasted them in a skillet first, because it ensures you get a crunchy topping instead of mush. Best Recipes didn't tell me this, my multiple affairs with mac and cheese did.

That all went on top of the potatoes in the dish and were ready for baking:

So... what's next? The salad? Sure.

Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Gross. Here's a picture of me stirring up the dressing:

It's missing the dill, sorry. You don't need to know anything else about this salad because it was gross. Well, the dressing was. So gross. And it's not that I'm partial to commercial dressings or hate buttermilk;  this was just lacking.

Let's wrap this up. I'm not showing you a picture of steamed broccoli. We had broccoli, I steamed it in the microwave. Not much to explain there. 

Oh - also, this whole time I was making everything else, the ham was getting glazed every fifteen minutes. It turned out pretty glorious considering what I had to work with (myself, crap kitchen, discount ham.) Oh, you see a bottle of kikomon in the corner of that pic. There is no soy sauce in this dinner, it was just there.  

Just look at that though. THOSE are the drippings I need. Mmm, ham pan.

Get to the Table:

For this fine evening I purchased a tablecloth - made out of cloth! It wasn't coated in plastic or anything! However, they did only have crap colors. This green was as good as it got. Plus, it went with the horrible horrible yellow that is my kitchen.

We set the table (you just can't see the plates):

See how brown and tasty the crumb topping looks on those taters? Yay me! Yay taters!

Also, I'm not hiding naked pictures in the toaster, so don't bother looking.

Plate O Dinner!:

Simon- Ready for Dinner:

Max "eating broccoli":

Note: This is Max posing as a broccoli eater. He was very concerned that I'd tell the whole Internet that he won't eat vegetables. Seriously. 
So let me tell you Internet - Max hates vegetables. However, on this night he DID try a small little bite (verdict? Disgusting!) even though he posed with this bigger bite later.  

Oh - I meant to tell you. This crazy recipe told me to deconstruct a whole pineapple and grill it so that we could have tasty caramelized pineapple with the ham. I'm sure it would have been awesome, but it was a little much considering everything else I was trying to accomplish. I used Dole pineapple in a can. Not as awesome as fresh but it did carry the added bonus of being packed in pineapple juice. I used some for the glaze and the rest...

It was cocktail time:

For desert, I made King Arthur's Pound Cake, shown below:
I made it with almond extract and brandy and followed the directions the whole time!  That's only half a cake you see on the plate. I wrapped the rest and stuck it in the freezer (this was prepared the night before, was so not going to try and bake cake the same day I was preparing a dinner with two other baked items.)

That icing stuff is brandy butter sauce. A note on that stuff (I linked to it in previous blogs): it's fricking AWESOME hot. It's warm and buttery and boozy and sweet. Mmmmm. Cold though, it gets grainy and not so awesome. Just letting you know.

The bowl to the side is whipped cream with brandy. It didn't get very whipped and started to get unwhippy right away. I don't know if it's because the cream was kinda old, or because I used granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar (Mark let me know that his mom uses powdered) or just because I suck at whipping somehow. I left it up to the kitchen aid though, so I don't think it's that last one.

So there you go. I made Sunday dinner, yay me!

So, what'ja think?

Salad: The big fail of this whole thing was the dressing, hands down. It was just lackluster. I even started with the salad so that the richness of the rest of the meal didn't overpower my palette or something. Nope, it was just lame. The whole family agreed.

Brocoli:  Is broccoli, nothing special was done with this. I just made it to give us more veggie to cram in.

Potatoes: These were pretty tasty. I really enjoyed the mellow onion flavor the leeks brought, rather than the slimy sorta-hard onion that I've had with other versions. I would say this recipe needs more salt, but that may be because the ham was salty, like ham is, and masked it. Also - the panko crumbs on this were win, I don't know that I'll ever go back to the blue can of crumbs again.

HAAAAM!: Yay ham. The glaze on this was great. I've never bothered with a glaze before and now I don't think I'll ever make ham without it again. Just yum.

Cake: I think I cooked this cake too long. I am forever overbaking out of fear of leaving something too doughy in the middle. The sad part? The recipe gives you a testing suggest - it says to gently press and if the cake springs back, it's done! I did this 8 minutes before I pulled it out and it sprung back! But I went "gee, I dunno..." and left it in there to all but burn.

That being said, this cake was still incredibly moist - it was still moist last night when we finished it off! Mmmm. The whipped cream was really a must though, otherwise the cake was a little too blah. Tasty, but not "Sunday Night Dessert" tasty. What would have made it even more awesome? Fruit of some sort.  That other cake half in the freezer is hanging out until April when strawberries start to come in. Can't wait!
Next Sunday (which happens to be tomorrow - got this wrapped up just in time!) Mark will join me in the kitchen and we'll lend our ham fisted American hands to Chinese food! It should go without saying that none of these foods will be traditional, and there is also a great likelihood that they will not be remotely Chinese in origin.

Yay dinner!


  1. Okay, that was hilarious. Keep writing these. :)

  2. Oh god. I cannot even tell you how many times I laughed loud enough to get funny looks from the kids. Even J.D. came running in to read with me.

  3. I gotta tell you, after looking at your pictures of ham, I made my husband go out and buy a ham for dinner this past weekend. So, well done!

  4. Awesome!

    Also, yay ham!

    I put the bone and some uncarvable ham bits in the freezer. I'm not sure if I want to turn that into bean or pea soup. I have both!