Apricot, Ham, Cheddar, and Chicken Sandwich

I cannot remember when I started making this open-faced sandwich but it was an immediate favorite in this house. It seems odd at first, but it really works when you think about all the flavors mixed together. A little tart from the vinegar, some mustard, apricot jam for sweetness, then ham (pork is never bad in any form) and a sharp cheddar. It is a very special combination. And heats up well as a left over in the oven – or in my case in the toaster oven at the office – work lunch hack – woo hoo. If I can get it – usually the MotH and the Boy do not let me get much in the way of leftovers. But I guess that just means they like it  – a lot. And so do I.

D&D_21211/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 French bread, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves – way more than that.
1/3 pound thinly sliced tavern ham, yes, specify tavern ham – I’ve tried others and this is the best.
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, deli sliced

Between two pieces of plastic wrap or inside a gallon plastic zip-top bag, pound the chicken slightly until it is more even. It does not need to be super thin, just a little more even. Makes for easier (quicker) marinade and more even cooking. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add vinegar, mustard, and chicken. I don’t even measure at this point any more. Once you do this enough, and once you taste it you will, you will get the hang of it.  You can also add a mashed garlic clove, but I have given up on that little bit trouble – not necessary in the taste department, to us anyway. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator. Over night is best, but not much longer than that.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil,  turning at least once until opaque throughout. Check by cutting into chicken to see if it cooked through. Transfer chicken to work surface and discard foil. Reline the baking sheet with new foil.

Place baguette on baking sheet, cut side up (duh). Spread each piece with apricot preserves, layer with chicken, ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Source: Martha Stewart with my modifications.

My refrigerator… and ham salad.

So I didn’t go to the grocery store like I should have today, and now I feel like making something but I have to make do with what’s in my refrigerator. And here is what I have to work with: Boursin, chutney (not homemade, boo), puff pastry, dates, bleu cheese dressing, a lemon, eggs, butter, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie, Kerry Gold Reserve Cheddar, and Hormel ham steak.

What should I make? What can I make? It is a weekend and I will get to the Publix at some point and then I have a whole other list of things to make for my work week lunches.

So here is what we are going to try and make work – we shall see how it goes. I feel confident that it will not be a disappointment. At least I hope not. We shall see.

Another no recipe recipe. That is not a bad thing when you get right down to it. D&D_2093

8 oz smoked ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge (what is that?), and cube it. Into the food processor it goes for 8-10 pulses.

3 Tbs sweet relish, drained like you would do for deviled eggs.  Totally subjective – add more or less to your taste, but do make sure you drain it. I like relish in my ham salad.

Yellow or Vidalia Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater and make sure you get all the onion juice – that is really important. Or if you are like me, you can use the food processor for this too – no need to clean it since the ham and onions are going in together.

Freshly ground black pepper. A great spice in my opinion. But it must be freshly ground – I think that goes without saying.

Duke’s Mayo* – just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last. 2-3 Tbs seems to work, though to be honest, I don’t measure, I just wing it.

This must site for at least a day or two. Same thing with chicken salad – do not try to eat it the day you make it – it just do not work. ~

*No substitutions, I mean, if you live in the South anyways. Not sure what the rest of you do for Mayo – sad to say.

~The same thing can be said for hummus too. The flavors need to come together to really work.

Prep for Christmas – in all its forms.

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving which I enjoyed, but I am glad Christmas is going to be an all-out family party. I love the way my brother-in-law fries a turkey. No matter how many times I roast one (thank you AB for the best roasted turkey of all time! And I should add, the first turkey I ever made in my life), I still prefer a fried turkey, but do not have the nerve (or equipment) to do it myself. Very glad he does.

So here are my plans for the upcoming holidays:

Christmas Eve – just an aside – This is my favorite part of Christmas because growing up we had a smorgasbord (sorry lacking the umlauts and accents). Or at least my eleven year-old version of it. Why my mom let me kind of take over to a degree – although she still did most of the cooking, I have no idea. But that is what happened in my family. Christmas Eve we opened presents from each other and munched on a buffet of all kinds of things that my mom made and a few that I dreamed up. At the time, I realized I wanted to be a caterer, so it is not surprising that I went into event management – not really.

So for me Christmas Eve is meant to be relaxed. Our new tradition from a few year ago is to have Cheddar fondue night with all the things that go with it. In our case, that is apples, pears, grapes, baguette, and to gild the lily, some Boursin (for the baguette, not the fondue). Maybe some Brie or, well, who knows.  I always shop on Christmas Eve to get the freshest things I can find. It is so simple and it can be scaled for however many people you have. In our case, it is small – typically four of us, but fun nonetheless. I am just a bit too excited about this. Oh, and then there is dessert. Whatever kind of cookie I make for the next day – but we hit it anyway. Although after a bunch of fruit and cheese I do not have tons of room. Well, that is what I tell people.

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Sausage Balls – A Southern & a family tradition

Christmas Day – Morning. I am kind of going easy this year. I have my mom’s Banana Nut Bread that I will slice and broil until crunchy and smear with great salted European butter. I probably could just do with that. But I want something else, but something simple. This year, not sausage balls (which are a huge tradition in my family), or latkes which I love more than words, and yes, I might just be being a bit lazy in this department. But there may be just the two of us so I am going with sautéed hot breakfast sausage that I then add scrambled eggs. So the eggs cook in the sausage grease – it is amazing. That was the only way I ate eggs as a kid (long story – see: allergies).

Then the plan is to bake my stuffed mushrooms which you will see and reheat my Sunday Sweet Potatoes which you have seen way too many times, for Christmas with the family. I will have the third batch of Cranberry Horseradish Relish made by then and have more bags of cranberries in the freezer than make sense.  And have put up the pecan/walnut tassies as well – again things that people seem to really like.

So on the 28th, we are having another family thing on the beach – super cool! I plan to make my (yes, you’ve seen it here) sweet potato biscuits with something in them. May try to change this up this year. Probably will not, but … I might. You never know what happens.

I am dreading going to the grocery store today. I have put it off since it’s been raining for days. And the forecast does not get any better until, well maybe if we get really lucky – not likely, Friday for Christmas Day. That said, it will be in the 70’s. Not any kind of Christmas weather and certainly not any kind of candy making weather. Guess I am waiting for January for cold and dry to make Vanilla Taffy or English toffee, or Divinity or even Peanut Brittle. Nothing too unusual in the grand scheme of things. But irksome.

 

Pre – Thanksgiving – Sweet Potato Biscuits

I always seem to make too many sweet potatoes for my most requested Sunday Sweet DD_0184Potatoes  – I just never know how many potatoes makes how many cups. Or how many sweet potatoes make a pound or whatever. I suppose one day I will have to figure that out. Ugh – math. Oh, and in November / December sweet potatoes are really inexpensive. Like .49 cents per pound – hello, just buy lots. If I remember correctly, they are also a local crop for us. Cool.

Our dogs love mashed sweet potatoes. Yes, they do. The Big Dog was a huge fan. They also keep for a good while so you can surprise the pups with them through January and February. I always did almost anything to make the Big Dog happy.

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Duke – The Big Dog – Best GSD. Ever.

Another thing is to make sweet potato biscuits. Sublime things, that are stupidly simple.

I was living in Chapel Hill, NC the first time I had sweet potato biscuits and they were served just like this – with salty ham and horseradish cream. Heavenly. The caterer for my job (love you JW) was the one that introduced me to it. I cannot believe, being a kind-of* Southern girl, that I had never had them. My mom made biscuits often, although if you asked me to re-create them, I would not be able to, but she’d never made sweet potato biscuits of any kind, even though she was from NC. Not sure where the “lost in translation” bit happened. I will just be grateful I found these when I did.

 

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

5 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
2 Tbsp. salted European butter, melted – spend the little bit extra.

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato in a large measuring cup. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over work this – I think it will affect the rise.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once (Do not twist cutter – this is way more important than you may think, but biscuits are a bit fussy about things like this – just don’t do it. The won’t rise well if you twist.). Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted  (salted) butter – do this.. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 dozen.

Source: Foster’s Market – Foster’s is on the 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. It is a fanciful place that does so many things well. I miss it greatly, but I loved going there. Sara Foster is gifted in a way not many people are and it was a great joy to be able to frequent the shop/restaurant/coffee shop/whatever. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is the ONLY signed cookbook I have. Ms. Foster is charming, engaging, and lovely.

Made a half recipe this time, but they were excellent.

Had been using Emeril’s recipe for sweet potato biscuits for years – a dozen or so, but I think the Foster’s Market version rose a bit better. I do like the use of ground pecans in Emeril’s recipe. Need to figure out how to combine the two. Both recipes are now in my Thanksgiving binder, so that means something

*You have to put the “kind-of” in front of Southern if you are raised in Jacksonville. Sigh. Even if your parents are really Southern.

Fall / Thanksgiving planning

I guess it is time to start thinking about the fall baking/cooking season and, dum dum dum … Thanksgiving. It seems that Thanksgiving always sneaks up on me. Because it does not get cold here, really, until after January. I’m still wearing opened toe sandals for heavens’ sake.  I can’t imagine doing Canadian Thanksgiving – October 12th. Too soon for us in the South, but not too soon for them, I suppose. Good on you!

And here are the things I am thinking about:

Down-sizing recipes – for a few of us that is what will happen. How do you scale down cornbread dressing? I have no idea. Depending on what family stays, what family and friends are coming into town, and what family goes to others out of town, it makes a difference in planning. But there are certain things that just must happen for Thanksgiving. Cranberry relish – yes!

Why not biscuits for Thanksgiving? Hello, we are in the south – yep. Drop biscuits are my favorite. Sour Cream drop biscuits instead of my usual Parker House rolls.

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Sweet Potato Biscuits with ham and horseradish cream

I think I need a new filling for my sweet potato biscuits. I love them the way they are, (with ham and horseradish cream} but I think I must come up with something new. But I do think horseradish will be involved. It is a stupidly great combination.

Something with corn – I’m thinking a corn soufflé which could be really cool.

Some kind of apple dessert – slab pie, maybe? Or this apple cake “Tatin” thing?  Did that this month, and … so amazing. You can read about here.

A Fall Salad – with apples, pecans, some spinach and, in my perfect world, mandarin oranges. Yep.

Do hate all the pumpkin crap,,, Guess that is, mostly, because everyone goes all pumpkin crazy beginning in August. It is just way over kill. And the taste is largely meh. But apparently I’m in the minority on this one. I just don’t get it.

Apricot and Cheddar Chicken Melt

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Chicken, Ham, Apricot, Cheddar sandwich

I totally had a fit about this sandwich for, well, at least a year.  And it’s been at least two years since I made it and now it’s in the rotation again. I don’t want to over do it, but it’s pretty simple if you plan ahead (marinating) and it’s amazing.

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, chopped (optional in my opinion but I like them)
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6-8 ozs)
1 baguette, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves
4 ozs thinly sliced tavern ham
4 ozs sharp white cheddar, grated (1 cup)

Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound the chicken slightly until it is more even. It does not need to be super thin, just a little more even. Makes for easier (quicker) marinade and more even cooking. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add vinegar, mustard, garlic, and chicken. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil without turning until opaque throughout. Transfer chicken to work surface and discard foil. Reline the baking sheet with new foil.

Place baguette on baking sheet, cut side up (duh). Spread each piece with apricot preserves, layer with chicken, ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Source: Martha Stewart with my modifications.

Sweet Potato Biscuits – Foster’s Market

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Foster’s Market Sweet Potato Biscuits with tavern ham and horseradish cream

I always seem to make too many sweet potatoes for my most requested Sunday Sweet Potatoes dish for Thanksgiving. So there are two things you do with excess sweet potatoes. Oh, and in November / December they are really inexpensive.

1 – feed dogs mashed sweet potatoes – they totally love it. And then they start to expect it – spoiled puppies. But I love them – probably way too much.

2 – make sweet potato biscuits. A sublime thing, that is stupidly, simple.

I was living in Chapel Hill, NC the first time I had sweet potato biscuits and they were served just like this – with salty ham and horseradish cream. Heavenly.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

  • 5 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once. (Do not twist cutter.) Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 dozen.

Foster’s Market

Made a half recipe this time, but they were excellent.

Had been using Emeril’s recipe for sweet potato biscuits, but I think the Foster’s Market version rose a bit better. I do like the use of ground pecans in Emeril’s recipe. Need to figure out how to combine the two.