Sunday, January 16, 2011

A pound (or two) of flesh

It should be noted I am not a prolific cooker of meat. In fact, aside from chicken and fish (OK, a little leeway on "meat," please), I don't really cook it. Partly to blame for my lack of culinary experience in the way of animal foodstuffs is my 4-year old, an incredibly, frustratingly,throw-up-your-hands-in-the-air picky eater. I've been told she consumes more diversely than some of her contemporaries; however, I have yet to meet another child who is so fearful of new foods. So, in terms of protein, we keep it pretty monotonous: chicken, eggs, a handful of lentils pureed and snuck in here or there, Applegate hot dogs, and bacon ( I know, I know, but she claims it makes her happy , and you can't begrudge someone bacon and/or something that makes them happy, can you?). I also cut my dinner-cookin' teeth in college. With the exception of friends who shared hunting spoils and the occasional markdown stew meat, I never cooked much more than bone-in chicken cuts and ground beef because of cost. I preferred liquid meals back in the day, with a food-truck-grease-chaser to help keep it all down.

Now that I have more cash, I have been trying to cook more types of meat. I truly love a great steak or roast, but even now, red meat is a little pricey for me. I choose to only buy free-range meat or from a place I can witness how the livestock enjoyed life before s/he met his demise, so this tends to up the cost of my beef choices. To try and become more proficient in one genre, and also to save some cash and support the local economy, I bought a quarter of a pig from a local farm, Pete and Jen's. I got about 20 lbs. of fresh, apple-orchard-finished pork: chops, ribs, a fresh rolled ham roast. As a rule, ham is not my favorite food. In fact, last year my employer gave us certificates to Honey Baked Ham Company, and I used it to buy tasty mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, green beans, and some pecan pie. The unnatural coral color, the weird skin on the edges, the cloves, all of it just kind of grosses me out. That being said, I am a ham picker: if there is hot, freshly-cooked ham on the counter at my grandmother's house, I will pick a piece or two of the warm meat off the bone and delight in it's salty goodness. Small amounts, I suppose, are superb little morsels in my mouth; a slice or two on my plate, not-so-much.

Well, this morning the ham roast screamed at me from the freezer, "SUNDAY DINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!" I shrugged, why not? I remembered a recipe in Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites, which involved Coca Cola and mustard (two of my favorite things- sweet and savory- and when does one get to combine mustard and Coke???!?!?). I don't know if it was because I didn't have a bone-in ham or that it was fresh and not pre-cooked or if it's not a full-moon or I can't cook with Coke because I don't live in Georgia, but it was terrible. Dry, tough, that weird flaky gross thing pork does when it's cooked incorrectly. I followed the directions to the letter. OK, that's a lie. I never do that. But I did follow them pretty darn close, especially involving time and measurement of the braising in cola. Only on the glaze did I veer, and actually, that part was scrumptious- I scraped it from the top of my rawhide-esque slice and licked it off my fork. Yummmmm, mustard-crystallized-sugar deliciousness.

I also made the recommended corn pudding because what the heck? And I adore Nigella. If she says it's a good match, I trust her. However, Nigella darling has a far greater indulgence of cream and butter than I can handle, so I also subbed some ingredients. I am going to put in parentheses, what I subbed within the recipe, and you can choose. If you're looking for a luxuriously creamy pudding, I would try her version; if you're looking for a richer version of creamed corn with a side dish feel, try mine. Or substitute some more and create your own pudding, Puddin'.

I also served some leftover collard greens (glug of olive oil in a hot pan, simple saute of onions and garlic, add the greens to the pan along with a 1/4 of cup water, cook until greens are tender and all the water has evaporated, season with salt and a squeeze of lemon) and steamed yellow, orange and purple carrots. The veggies were terrific, really pure and clean flavors that I think would compliment a GOOD ham roast. Oh well, they can't all be home runs. To soothe my chapped ego, I beat a tsp of butter, a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and a tablespoon ( or two) of Meyer's rum in a bowl, heated up a slice of my banana bread from earlier this week in a pan a la french toast, and frosted it with my rum "life's-not-so-hard" sauce. The perfect bandaid to my meat mistake, and comforting enough to make me remember I make a mean chicken thigh. Tomorrow, Monday, an exhausting day most weeks, I'll stick to what I'm good at. Sundays are for going big and staying home.

Ham Glaze (for a 2 lb ham)

Handful of cloves
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1tablespoon of molasses
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

This is for a ham that is cooked and hot- just a glaze to finish it off. Heat oven to 500F. Score the ham in a diamond pattern. Stud with cloves. Drizzle molasses over the tops and side. Spread mustard over molasses. Press brown sugar into mustard-molasses mixture. Bake for 10 minutes or until crackling and brown.

Corn Pudding

1 14 oz can of creamed corn
1 18 oz can of fresh sweet corn (subbed 14 oz because that's what I had on hand)
1 1/3 cups of milk (subbed buttermilk because I needed to use it up)
1 1/3 cups of cream (subbed fat-free milk because I have a lot to use up)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 eggs, room temperature

Heat oven to 375F. Beat eggs together until frothy. Add milk and cream (I used my KitchenAid and streamed it in). Add corn and dry ingredients. Butter 12x6 casserole pan (mine holds about 4 cups), and cook for an hour. The pudding should be brown on top and puffed up slightly.

1 comment:

  1. I am a huge corn pudding fan. I have to try your recipe.