Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Virginia ham, and related notes by Edna Lewis

In further pursuit of the illusive but enchanting Virginia ham as perfected by Edna Lewis (famed Southern cook, cookbook author, and native Virginian), please find the recipes referred to today at Blushing Hostess.

Virginia Ham (from raw cure state)
In Pursuit of Flavor, Edna Lewis
Serves 30, give or take

One 13 to 15 pound uncooked Virginia ham

Take the ham from the protective bag. If the ham has a moldy outer covering, scrub it brusquely under cold running water. when the moldy outer covering has been removed, rinse the ham well and put it in the pot. Cover it with cold water and leave it in a cool spot for three days. You do not have to refrigerate it. Change the water every day.

On the morning of the third day, drain off the soaking liquid and cover the ham again with clear, cold water. Put a lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil. Watch the pot closely and the minute the water nears to a boil, turn down the heat low enough that the water just shows a bubble. Cook the ham for approximately five hours, watching it to make sure the water does not get any hotter or cooler than this bubbling point. After 4 1/2 hours, lift the ham up out of the water to see if the skin is bubbled and soft. If not, let the ham cook until the ham is soft and bubbled and ready to be remove the ham from the cooking water.

Cool the ham in a shallow pan. When cool enough to handle, cut the skin off with a sharp knife. AS you remove the skin, trim a bit of fat but leave a thin coating of fat to help hold in moisture. An edge of fat looks nice on pieces of sliced ham.

Mustard with Brown Sugar
8 servings, will keep for one month refrigerated

5 tablespoons dry mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
5 tablespoons corn oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 firmly packed brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix well for 4 or 5 minutes. Set the bowl in a pan of boiling water and cook over medium heat, stirring for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the graininess disappears. Spoon the mustard into a glass jar and let it cool. Screw the lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least a week before using.

Country Ham with Baked Pineapple
Serves 4

Ms. Lewis served one large slice of country ham for this dish, I use many medium slices in the same preparation cooked in the over for 45 minutes.

One large slice of Virginia ham, 2" thick, cut from the center of the ham
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry ginger
Four or five 1/2" thick slices fresh pineapple
1 cup water

Place the ham in a wide skillet and add enough water to cover. Bring to a near-simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Lift the ham from the water and pat dry - this is important, if you fail to do this, the end result of the dish will be ham sludge). Put the ham in a buttered baking dish and brush the top with honey. Combine the softened butter, mustard, and ginger in a bowl and paint the ham with this mixture. Lay the pineapple slices on top of the ham and add the water gently around the ham. Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. Arrange the ham and pineapple slices on a platter and gently spoon the pan juices over.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Still searching in darkness

In response to a recent question on the Blushing Hostess website, kind reader SLE requested I post the chili recipe from the above photo.

This is a long story which I will abridge before you all un-follow and move on to a riveting food site (if you find one, let me know). I lived in Texas for a while and chili is more of a cadence for me than a recipe. Some onion, some garlic, chunks of beef, seasoning, tomato, beef stock and or beer, beans. Not that this list, nor the cadence with which I make chili is anything to write to Texans about. I know good chili: I have been in the presence of some of the greats, but I am really a lackluster example of a mediocre chili maker and I am not pretending to the chili throne. And, there was this issue of a pregnancy addiction to Frito Pie which lead me down some very bad chili path's even in Texas. Consequently, I do not really have a taster for it any longer and do not pursue the prince of chili recipes. Not when in the Southwest right now, there are some fast gun chili makers already awake with Dutch oven being readied to make a world beater of a chili and I have only been able to reach a state of assuredness that mine is, at the very least, safe to consume.

But Josh wanted chili, and knowing full well I cannot touch his Mama's, was willing to tolerate my failings in this regard to get the chili above, which was just fine but nothing more.

So, if you have a chili recipe a Texan would be proud to call their own, kindly save my Husband future disappointment by sending it to me. A native Kansan will thank you heartily.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Edna Lewis's Cheese Custard

After kicking around in the pages of one of the road maps of southern cooking for another purpose, I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe which I had missed in several previous readings. The events which preceded this custard's actual appearance on my table, admittedly, had more to do with not getting out to get another form of protein, laziness, and it having been later than I thought. Should this ever happen to you, as surely it does not, I can only hope you remember this recipe as it is unlikely cheese souffle with all of its bowls and mess and process is making a return to my home any time soon; it has been happily replaced.

I serve it with a big salad and crusty hot rolls. Julia Child surely would have suggested a French white wine as she always did for egg dishes, but I say drink what you love. I recently had this custard with a Cote de Provence and salad with fig vinaigrette. It was perfect. But sometimes you might like a touch of sweet tea in honor of Ms. Lewis.

Cheese Custard
adapted from In Pursuit of Flavor, Edna Lewis
serves 4 (easily doubled)

The recipe calls for 5 egg yolks and that would indeed be in the tradition of souffle, but honestly, I have no use for 2 whites on most days and I am not whipping up meringues in my spare time. Consequently, I often use the entire egg which does make the custard less rich but goes further. I like the Gruyere only marginally and swap in literally anything that melts and is a hard cheese. I have had success with cheddar, Colby, jack, Parmesan, although cheddar with a little extra cayenne has worked best.

One medium potato, peeled and julienned, about 2/3 cup
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese or comparable (see above)

Preheat the over to 350 and butter a small ovenproof casserole dish, set aside.

Drop the potato julienne in a sauce pan of boiling water for 3 minutes until just translucent. Drain well, place on a paper towel-lined plate and gently pat dry. The potatoes should still be firm to the touch, if not, begin again.

Put the cream in a mixing bowl with the egg yolks, salt, and cayenne. Mix well but do not beat too much air into this mixture; mix only until evenly combined. Spread the grated cheese over the bottom of the buttered casserole. Spread the blanched julienne potatoes over the top of the cheese. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the potatoes. I like to dust the top with paprika for color, this is up to you.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the custard is set and buttery cream color. Do not overcook or it will become rubbery and tough.