Ham Salad – here I am attempting again … ugh, am I destined for failure?

I know I say my favorite (only) ham salad is from the Apple Market, but it is true. And then I look at the list of ingredients and see this: chopped ham. sweet relish, mayonnaise, onions, and black pepper.

D&D_2041And that really kind of makes me grumpy. Why can I not make a great ham salad out of simple ingredients. I do it with chicken salad, so what is the difference?? Makes me slightly crazy.

I do know I am going to have a ham salad sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. Yes, I eat all kind of random things for breakfast – cold tofu pad thai, pasta, cold pizza – and then some traditional things – peanut butter toast, toast with really good salted butter and apple jelly, toast with really good salted butter and local honey. Yes, toast seems to be a thing. Pop Tarts – specifically blueberry or brown sugar.

Okay, after wondering far afield, let us get back to ham salad.

1st – what kind of ham to buy and what to do with it. In the Apple Market version is seems more than just chopped as I know it. Almost minced. Maybe run through a food mill, or pulsed a few times in a food processor?  Wonder who at Apple Market I can bribe to find out the answer?

So what I did was buy an 8oz ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge, and cube it. Then I put it in the food processor for 8-10 pulses, until it looked like what I thought would work best. 

2nd – The sweet relish always made sense to me, but you should not go overboard, nor should you make it to liquidy – drain that relish for the most part, just like you do with deviled eggs.

This ended up to be about 3 Tbs, but that is a subjective thing – more or less if you would like.

3rd – Mayonnaise, Duke’s specifically, needs to be 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.

It was only 2 Tbs and that was almost too much, but in the end, it worked out well.

4th – 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.  Again, it’s the – how much – that’s the issue.

Tasting as I go along will be key. I took a small onion and instead of grating on a box grated, used the food processor to pulse it to very small pieces and kept the juice and used it too – about 3 Tbs total when it came down to it. I’d say 3/4 of a small yellow onion.

5th – Seasoning with black pepper should not be a problem. I love black pepper.

Now the question is do I just make it or do I have some Apple Market ham salad to compare. Is that wise? Perhaps or perhaps not.

Also, I must let this sit for at least a day or two. It tasted okay as I was going along, but I know I won’t really have a good idea for how it will work until it has sat in the fridge for at least, I’m thinking, two days.

It did make a difference. I had been worried I put too much mayonnaise , but after a days rest in the fridge, it worked well. Actually might have needed a bit more.

Cornbread Dressing

I think I have finally found the closest recipe to my mom’s dressing. Either way, I am pleased beyond words on this Thanksgiving night. I have my mom’s recipe via phone from a few years ago, but I really do not have the recipe – just bits and pieces. Things you just listen to and sort of write down. But not really.

This is a recurring theme for me. I know, there are just so many questions that I have unanswered. It is frustrating – very. Well, at least this year I feel I have made progress and that is something.

So here is the 2016 version of dressing. And it was really amazing. There were no left overs after of a couple of days – that should tell you something.dd_1661

1 Tbs olive oil
2 smallish yellow onion, chopped*
5 ribs of celery, peeled**, chopped
10 cups broken up cornbread^
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth, or more as needed
3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and toast cornbread for an hour rotating half way through. Increase oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a 12 inch skillet, saute onions and celery until soft, but do not let them brown. Add some water now and then, like my mom did, to steam the vegetables. These smells are Thanksgiving to me and that is what you need to wake up to on Thanksgiving day.

In a really big bowl, mix together vegetables, cornbread, rosemary, thyme, 2 cups of broth and 2 Tbs melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Important fact – taste this now and adjust seasonings. Then add eggs. My mom’s paranoid ideas about raw eggs.

Spoon into prepared dish. Top with the last Tbs of butter. Bake until lightly browned, about 40 minutes or so.

Source: Modified lots from Taste of the South

* Baseball-sized yellow onion, I hate when a recipe does not give a size. It is annoying.

** Peeled, we, and by that I mean you, do not want strings on you celery. No you do not. At all.

^ bake 2 9″ x 9″ pans of simple plain cornbread – Jiffy mix will work in a pinch. A pinch which I have been in a Thanksgiving or two. But it totally works. It seems like a sell-0ut. Once again, I over think things. Yep

Baked Beans

I do realize that I have (probably – mostly) posted about this before. It is one of those not-recipe recipes. This is a mix of my mom’s baked beans and my former mother-in-law’s baked beans. But it really is something special. I am glad to be the one who mixed these two recipes together.  And I am really glad that that had a great mom and one of the best mother-in-laws. And for many years I have had another mother-in-law that I love like a mom.  D&D_1442

It is kind of stupid, but also ironic, that I use Bush’s* vegetarian beans but top them lots and lots (and lots) of bacon. I do kind of like that the vegetarian beans are kind of neutral so I get to flavor them the the way I want. That means lots of brown sugar, mustard (yellow = more vinegar), yellow onion,  Worcestershire sauce, and baking it slow and easy. That is how baked beans work. This is not something you can rush at all. Nope.

When the Boy and I had a Wednesday Night Cooking Class about this, the most important thing I could tell him about this is test the flavors before you put this in the oven. Figure out the balance – do you need more of something to balance this out. Because if you cannot figure that out before putting it in the oven, you will not be happy. Baking only concentrates the flavors. But when you top the whole thing with lots of bacon, that somehow fixes everything.

* My favorite brand of beans. Dog not withstanding. He’s cute, but …

 

Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

It is, to me, really nice to find a recipe that I haven’t made in a while that really stands the test of time. I made this the first time over 8 years ago. Had set it aside for 6 years for no particular reason – just didn’t think to make it and a few weeks ago I had some stuffed mushrooms at an event and thought, Why haven’t I made any of these lately? No particular reason.  So I looked through the recipes I had and noticed all my notes about this recipe – things like, “easy” and “vg” (my shorthand, thanks to Bridget Jones’s Diary — the book, very good), and that both the MotH and his father liked it. So I thought what the hell, but let’s see if we can prep one day or so ahead and bake the day I wanted them. I know they are good warm or room temperature. Most stuffed mushrooms are – they are forgiving if nothing else. Notes of how to do this ahead of time below – dead simple. D&D_1060

1 lb button or crimini mushrooms, or a mix of both- this time crimini
5 Tbs unsalted butter / divided / 3 & 2
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely fresh bread crumbs – 1 slice of bread whirred in the food pross monster*
Salt / freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees – if you are baking immediately.

Wash mushrooms**, let dry on paper towels. Remove stems and finely chop them.

Finely chop walnuts and parsley and add to a medium bowl. Mix in bread crumbs and cheese. Season with freshly cracked black pepper.

Heat 3 Tbs of butter on medium and add onion and shallot. Sauté for a few minutes. When aromatics are starting to get soft, add mushroom stems and a nice pinch of salt and cook until liquid is release and the pan begins to dry just a bit. Let cool.  Add cheese / bread crumb mixture.

Here is where I deviated a bit and hopes it works – update – it did. I put the mushroom caps in a zip top bag with a couple of paper towels and plan to hold them there for a day and a half. I let all the stuffing pieces come to room temperature and then refrigerated it to stuff the mushrooms for Christmas Day appetizer.

The plan is to put the mushrooms on a baking dish, brush the with butter as in the original recipe then fill them or stuff them,  as it were, with the cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Source: No earthly idea – long before I started keeping up with those sorts of things. Or blogging about food.

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Update – So took the stuffing mix out of the fridge for about 30 minutes. I did put the mushroom caps on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and filled them pretty well, but totally forgot to brush with butter. It was not a problem at all. That step, in my opinion, can be skipped unless you just want to do that.

* Had not thought of this phrase in ages. When I used to make things in the food processor, I would prepare the Boy by saying I was about to use the food pross monster. How that, in and of itself, didn’t scare him, I don’t know, but the noise didn’t bother him because he knew it was coming. That was my sad little 4 cup food processor, but it did what I needed at the time. Things you forget.

** AB says it is okay to rinse mushrooms. And I do it and have never had a problem with it. Just rinse them in a colander and dry them on paper towels.

Christmas Eve 2007 – SR / WR liked, very easy

16 August 2008

10 May 2009 – Mom’s day w/ W & J

25 December 2015  – v.g.

 

Baked Beans – not a recipe at all.

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My cobbled together baked bean

This is not a recipe. Consider it a guide line of sorts because that’s really all it is. This is a comforting food to me. It reminds me of many things all at once. This started largely on my mom’s recipe, but modified into more of my former mother-in-law’s recipe. Loura used to serve it as part of Thanksgiving in her special bean pot. The bean pot was kind of a robin’s egg blue – really pretty. I had never knew anyone who made baked beans for Thanksgiving, but it totally works. I mean it. Really.

These beans are tangy, sweet, mustardy, oniony, and smokey with bacon. But for many years I did a vegetarian version and still do when I don’t happen to have bacon in the fridge. I buy Bush’s vegetarian baked beans to start because they are blank canvas-ish (they were on sale this week, buy one get one – yeah!) and then doctor it up with the favors I like best.

So here are the ingredients:
28 ozs can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans (a pantry staple)
Small to medium yellow onion, minced – I happen to like lots of onion in my baked beans
Worcestershire sauce – required – well, pretty much everything here is required. It is.
Brown sugar
Mustard, yellow or Dijon – I prefer Dijon now, but either will do.
Bacon – not necessary, but really good.

Set oven to 350 degrees. Bake the mac n cheese first. Oh yeah these two things go together well. Anyway. That’s another recipe for another time. Another family recipe.

In a baking dish – I use a blue ceramic baking dish from Portugal that’s about 10″ by 7″ that I purchased in a Stein Mart in Durham, NC, and one can of beans works perfectly. I just mix everything else in there, but not the bacon – that’s for the top – again not a recipe. Here’s the thing though – you really have to taste it after mixing the beans, Worcestershire, brown sugar, onion, and mustard together and decide if you like the flavor  – is it well balanced? If you don’t like it then – well, you won’t like it any better when it’s become more intense after baking. So taste and adjust. It’s pretty important.

I wish I could give you an exact recipe, but sometimes you just can’t and that means you’re just making food you love. Is there anything wrong with that? I think not.  Thanks to Becky and Loura. Great inspirations.

Sloppy Joes

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Sloppy Joes

I know this was originally a Rachel Ray recipe (30 minute meals, I think), from at least ten years ago, probably more, but I’ve messed with it so much that it is not recognizable as such. This is what The Boy will inevitably request when I ask what he wants for dinner and for leftovers. He makes good use of leftovers after he gets home from work or from hanging out with his friends. I honestly have to hide some if I want leftovers for lunch myself.

1 pound ground chuck (easy to scale up)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs Macormick “Montreal” seasoning
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
14 oz can tomato sauce

In a large skillet, heat a couple Tbs olive oil, add onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Add ground chuck and break up as the meat cooks until it is no longer pink and onions are soft.
Add vinegar, seasoning, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to beef. Season with salt to taste. Let this simmer for a few minutes and taste for balance. This is key and I still do it every time.  It’s important to do that now before adding the tomato sauce because all those flavors intensify and if you like them now, you’ll like them better later. Then just let is simmer for about an half an hour.

I tend to make this a day ahead, because like spaghetti sauce or chili, it’s so much better the next day. Some times I make cole slaw with this, sort of the BBQ/cole slaw sandwich thing going on and it really works. But I guess you have to be raised with the BBQ/cole slaw thing as part of your life to get it. I was raised on Eastern NC (vinegar-based) BBQ because both my parents are from there. And every summer when we went to NC, we would come home with a cooler of Revels BBQ. Damn – that was amazing stuff and I still think about it – probably too often.

Mushroom Pate

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Mushroom Watercress Pate, toast and lime

For many years, I was a vegetarian. I enjoyed it and I still enjoy making recipes that don’t include meat.

Now, that does not mean I’m forsaking bacon or steak at this point, but I dig some veggie pasta (as long as there is cheese and cream included – I’m not crazy) or a veggie (guess I need to learn how to spell vegetable at some point – woo hoo! I did it correctly – for once, maybe) appetizer. One of my favorite appetizers, vegetarian or not, is mushroom watercress pate. It’s kind of stupidly simple, but here it is. I found the original recipe out of a vegetarian cookbook that my older sister gave me for Christmas because, I’m sure, she couldn’t think of anything else for me at that point. You know that age.

Here ’tis

  • olive oil
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced – button or crimini
  • small yellow onion or bunch of scallions, chopped
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • large bunch or bag of watercress, rinsed and end of stems removed
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz cream cheese, soft(ish)
  • limes
  • toast or hearty crackers

Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in pan, and when shimmering, add mushrooms. Cook until they have released their juices and add onions/scallions. When all is soft, turn up heat a bit and add balsamic vinegar and deglaze the pan. Add watercress and mix to wilt.

In the food processor, add cream cheese in large pieces and then include the mixture from the pan. Add salt and pepper. Mix in food processor until smooth. Place in ceramic ramekin and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

To serve, toast bread (or use sturdy cracker) and top with pate and a squeeze of lime juice (this is totally necessary and not to be skipped).

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Mushroom Watercress Pate

The Boy grew up eating this and makes sandwiches out of it. It’s a great idea and works so well. The bitterness in the watercress is what makes it – well, that and the balsamic vinegar (which was NOT in the original recipe – yay me).

It’s not pretty. I totally get that, but just try it once – really just once and you’ll be hooked. That, I know, for sure.