Saturday, December 9, 2017

Baked Ham ~ A Holiday Classic

Baked ham is served on many American holiday tables. Today there are many options when purchasing your ham, from the cut, to curing method and of course optional spiral slicing.

Julian's Christmas Ham Dinner
with green beans, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. 
In most supermarkets, cured hams come in five forms: boneless, semiboneless, bone-in, whole, and half. Each of these types is available unsliced or “spiral-sliced”. In my many years of experience, a bone-in ham is always most flavorful, and I also do not prefer them sliced. I enjoy a meatier ham with a thicker slice, which you only get if you carve the ham yourself. If however you are putting the ham on a buffet for an evening of eating at leisure, then a spiral sliced ham that is thinly cut will do, especially if people are making sandwiches. You generally need about 1/2 pound of ham per person for a bone-in ham. When purchasing you're looking for a ham with natural juices and no water added.

Julian's Glazed Christmas Ham
Rarely do you need to purchase a whole ham. They feed a small army.  Half hams are available in two cuts: shank end and rump/butt end. If labeling is unclear, it’s easy to identify half hams by their shape—shank hams have a pointed end much smaller than the larger end, whereas the sirloin (or butt) end is rounded. Butt/rump (sometimes called sirloin) end is preferred because it is meatier and less fatty. It is slightly more difficult to carve, but the flavor and texture is worth the effort.

The ham you buy is ready to eat. Technically it doesn't require warming. But when serving it for dinner, most Americans prefer to heat it and often add a glaze. Your goal is to gently warm the ham through until it is between 110F and 120F degrees. Cooking the ham to a higher internal temperature dries out the the meat. To achieve this, bring a ham to room temperature by letting it rest on the counter for 90 minutes before cooking. Then roast the ham in a 250F degree oven covered or in a roasting bag.

Once the internal temperature of the ham reaches 100 degrees, uncover the ham (or cut open the bag) and increase the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Apply the glaze and bake the ham for 10 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven, apply more glaze, and then make a quick sauce with the remaining glaze and the drippings in the oven bag. Allow the ham to rest covered with foil for 15 minutes before serving.

The below glaze recipes are from the great cooks at Cook's Illustrated.

Maple-Orange Glaze
¾ cup maple syrup
½ cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

To Make Maple-Orange Glaze: Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

Cherry-Port Glaze
½ cup ruby port
½ cup cherry preserves
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

To Make Cherry-Port Glaze: Simmer port in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Southern Pan-Fried Cabbage with Bacon

Cabbage is a great fall and winter dish as it's always plentiful. I've made this dish many times and when it showed up next to corned beef last year here on the blog, several asked why I didn't provide the recipe.

Julian's Southern Pan-Fried Cabbage with Bacon
I guess I thought I had done so previously or more likely that everyone made this and didn't need a recipe. In any case, I'm glad to provide my version. It's quick and simple and I usually try to find a small whole head of regular green cabbage for this recipe. This seems like a lot and when you cut up the cabbage it seems like even more. But it does cook down and we also like it leftover.

Southern Pan-Fried Cabbage with Bacon

Cabbage cooking in my wok.

12 oz bacon, diced raw
1 head green cabbage, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic granules or powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
black pepper to taste

Add chopped bacon to a large pot or wok. Cook over medium heat until extra crispy. Remove bacon and reserve the drippings. Add onion and stirring regularly, cook until tender about 3-4 minutes.

Working in batches, add cabbage a handful at a time and cook over medium-high heat stirring the cabbage until it reduced a bit in volume. Continue adding and stirring until all the cabbage is in the pot, usually about 10 minutes in all.  Add Worcestershire, apple cider vinegar, garlic and brown sugar. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Add cooked bacon to cabbage and black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve. Makes an excellent side dish for pork or corned beef.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pumpkin Bread - Cream Cheese or Cinnamon Filling

Today I'm making two versions of this fall favorite pumpkin bread. My loaf is not overly sweet because I usually include one of these fillings which is more sweet. I love these for breakfast right through the winter.

Julian's Pumpking Bread Fresh from the Oven
My standard loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches. When I use that pan I do the optional streusel topping. When I'm using my fancy pumpkin molded pan, the topping isn't possible as it turns out upside down. This recipe is based on the technique from Cooks Illustrated, although I have modified it to add fillings.

Loaf/cake Ingredients (2 loaves)
Ingredients and Fancy Pan
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
4 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine (optional)

Cinnamon Filling Ingredients (for 2 loaves)
Making the Struesel Topping

1 cup Baker's Cinnamon Filling
4 tablespoon water
     or substitute
     1 cup granulated sugar
     1/3 cup dark brown sugar
     1/4 cup cinnamon
     4 tablespoon water, more as needed

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients (for 2 loaves)
1 package (8-ounces) cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons orange zest (finely grated)

Optional Streusel Topping Ingredients
Loaf with Topping Oven Ready

    for 2 Standard Loaves
5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
finely chopped toasted walnuts (about 1/2 cup)


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F degrees. Grease two loaf pans with food release or vegetable oil or butter. Whisk four, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan (large enough to eventually hold the dry ingredients as well) over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no cream cheese pieces remain and mixture is well combined.

Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine. Stir the flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined. Fold in the optional walnuts.

Combine the ingredients for the Cinnamon Filling or Cream Cheese Filling. I typically use a hand-held mixer for the cream cheese filling, but you can do it by hand.

Pour half the loaf/cake batter into two loaf pans. Top with the filling of your choice. Today I'm making one of each. For the cinnamon filling I typically swirl it a bit with a knife into the pumpkin loaf/cake batter. Top the filling with the remaining loaf/cake mixture.

If using a standard, non-decorative pan, prepare the streusel topping below and sprinkle on the loaves before baking. As I'm using one decorative loaf pan today, the bottom of my pan will be on top so I will not use the streusel on that one. So I will dust decorative pumpkin loaf with powdered sugar just prior to serving.

Bake 45 to 60 minutes until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean.. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes after removing from oven. Remove loaves from pans and let cool for at least
2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with optional powdered sugar.

Julian's Pumpkin Breads with Fillings
Streusel Topping Instructions
Mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chicken or Turkey Pot Pies

This is my simple, fast recipe for homemade pot pies. We love them in fall and winter and serve them as comfort food. Works great if you have some left over turkey or rotisserie chicken. If you are tired of either as you just had them, freeze the pieces and use in this dish when you are ready to enjoy.

Julian's Chicken Pot Pie - Individual Size
As you will see below, I'm using a store bought pie crust, but you could make your own if you prefer. As I said, this recipe is made for speed. After Thanksgiving I don't want to do more cooking.  I've also used a store bought puff pastry dough, which works equally well if you just want a top crust.

Fresh from the oven.
My recipe below is for a standard 9-inch pie. But you can also make individual sizes if you have the smaller pie pans, like I do.


Ready for Top Crust
1 box refrigerated pie crusts
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed


Heat oven to 425F degrees. Remove pie crusts from box and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Line the bottom of a 9-inch glass pie pan with one crust. Set the other crust aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Add the white wine and cook 3-4 minutes until reduced by half. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cinnamon Bundt Cake

You won't find a cake with a better cinnamon flavor. The taste is bold and goes great with a cup of coffee. This is a recipe of my own making. Usually you see a yellow cake with a cinnamon swirl. This is a bit different as it's all about cinnamon.

Julian's Cinnamon Cake
I use Cinnamon Sweet Bits from King Arthur Flour rather than the larger standard cinnamon chips, as they aren't noticeable in the cake but add great flavor (i.e., you never bite into a big piece). But you could substitute. I also use their Baker's Cinnamon Filling for the swirl, but I've provided you with a substitute should you not have it on hand. With all that said, I am not pushing their products, but simply like using them because I get a great result. I pay for their products just like everyone else and get nothing to promote their brands.

Cake Ingredients 
Click to Enlarge
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup heavy milk or half/half
1/3 cup cinnamon bits, plus more for garnish

Cinnamon Swirl Ingredients
1/2 to 1 cup Baker's Cinnamon Filling
Click to Enlarge
2 tablespoon water  for 1/2 cup
     or substitute
     2/3 cup sugar
     4 tablespoons cinnamon
     2 tablespoon water

Cinnamon Glaze Ingredients
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your Bundt pan.  You can either butter and flour your pan, or use a flour spray, or use a standard food release spray (Pam) with a thin layer of pecan flour (this is my preferred method, as it leaves a nice brown nutty outer layer instead of some white flour dust.)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. To the butter mix, add 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 of the cream. Repeat until all combined. Stir in the cinnamon bits.

Then in a separate bowl combine the cinnamon swirl ingredients. 

Finally, assemble the cake. Spread half of the cake batter in the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan. Then add half the cinnamon swirl mixture evenly around the cake. Use a fork to gently swirl it into the cake batter just a little.  Add the rest of the batter and top with the remaining cinnamon sugar swirl mixture and again stir in slightly with a fork.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then turn the cake out onto a a cooling rack.

When the cake is cook, use a basting brush to brush off the loose (pecan) flour and make the glaze: Stir together confectioners' sugar, milk and cinnamon until smooth. It will seem thick but must be this way so too much doesn't run off the cake. Spoon glaze over cake nudging it along as necessary with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with a few more cinnamon bits to decorate the cake.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

If you are having a small gathering or if you just have the taste for turkey any time of the year, consider roasting a breast. The all-white meat breast is the most popular part of the turkey in most households and they are much smaller and easier to cook than the whole bird.

Julian's Juicy Roasted Turkey Breast
Turkey Selection
If you can get a fresh bone-in breast (not frozen) that's always best. American white turkeys are bred to have large breasts so they typically come in big sizes. A typical breast half makes four adult portions with no left overs. A 5-7 pound whole breast serves 4-6 adults with left overs.

Julian's Plated Turkey Dinner
If you are using supermarket (non-local) turkeys, look for free-range, non-GMO birds. Vegetarian diets are preferred without antibiotics. All of these characteristics make for the best tasting turkeys in the Cook's Illustrated "Best Supermarket Turkey" tasting.  Also avoid birds injected with a salt-based saline solution. This 'pre-brining' as they sometimes call it, causes the tissues to break down and you end up with meat that has texture issues. Whether buying a whole supermarket turkey or just the breast, I would recommend the Bell and Evans, Plaineville Farms and Marry's Free-Range as among the very best. Today I'm using a fresh breast from my local butcher who gets them at a farm here in Illinois, so they are always flavorful and free range. Fresh is always preferred over frozen. 

Salted and Ready to Refrigerate for 24-hours
Advance Preparation (24 hours before cooking)
Roasting the whole breast in your oven is challenging as it wants to fall over. Therefore, it's best to cut it in half and remove the backbone and use that for gravy base. Today I'm only doing a half breast, so this isn't an issue. Like all poultry, I use a dry salt rub 24 hours in advance of roasting, as this dry brine technique insures a juicy result. It does not make the turkey salty tasting.To do this, place the turkey breast, skin side up on a cutting board. Using your fingers, carefully loosen and separate the turkey skin from the breast(s) without removing or damaging it. Then rub 1-2 teaspoons of course salt all over the meat, under the skin. Turn the breast(s) over and salt the rib cage side. Lastly sprinkle a light dusting of salt onto the skin and put the breasts on a plate in the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours.

Julian's Roasted Half Turkey Breast
Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Place the turkey breast(s) in a shallow pan, oven-safe dish or skillet. The breast should cover most of the surface without touching the sides. Do not use a deep roasting pan and do not put the breasts on a rack, as these will all for evaporation and burning of the drippings. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Brush melted butter evenly over the turkey and sprinkle with salt, pepper or other favorite seasonings.Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Roast until the breast is 130F degrees, about 1 hour.

Optional Stock: If you are planning to make gravy, now is the time to get that started. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan and brown the turkey back you removed from the whole breast. Add onion, carrot and celery (one small each, chopped) along with 4-5 cups of water to cover the bones. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for the remainder of the turkey breast roasting time (about 1 hour). Strain through a sieve and reserve the broth off heat but not refrigerated.

Remove the 130F degree turkey breast(s) from the oven and increase temperature to 500F degrees. When temperature is reached, put the turkey back into the oven and roast until skin is brown and crispy and internal temperature is about 160F degrees.   Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes.

Optional Gravy:  While the turkey rests, use the fat drippings from the turkey to make the gravy. To do this, you will need about 1/4 cup drippings. If the turkey didn't render this much fat, then add vegetable oil until you have 1/4 cup. Place the drippings in a skillet or sauce pan and heat until shimmering. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour evenlythe fat and cooking, whisking constantly until flour is coated with fat and browned, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup dry white wine, whisking to scrape up any bits and cook until wine has evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in stock prepared previously and cook over medium-high heat until it is reduced to about 2 cups (which takes about 20 minutes.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slicing the Breast

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Roasted Guinea Fowl

Nothing says fall like rarely prepared game birds on the dinner table, so today I am roasting a guinea hen.

Julian's Roasted Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl are the bird of choice in most of Europe, and much preferred over chicken. These birds resemble partridges, but with featherless heads. Guinea fowl meat is drier and leaner than chicken meat and has a more flavor. Most American chicken, as you may know, is pretty flavorless.

I purchase my guinea hens at D'Artagnan, which are farm raised. They really are quite delicious and I'm doing this one on the rotisserie, but you could do it just the same in the oven. The trick to a great outcome is the advance preparation.

Guinea fowl/hen

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
pinch of grated fresh or dried lemon peel
dried rosemary, finely chopped
course salt, about 2 tablespoons total
freshly ground pepper
fresh rosemary springs
butchers twine (for binding)

24 hours in advance, open the package (thawed if previously frozen) of the bird and wash and pat dry inside and out. Using your hand, gently separate the skin (slide your hand under) the two breasts and around the legs.

Mix together 4 tablespoons of the butter, the mustard, lemon peel, dried rosemary, 1 pinch of the salt and 4-5 grinds of fresh black pepper. Rub this mixture under the skin onto the breasts and legs using all of the mixture. Tie the legs together loosely and put on a plate and sprinkle the outside of the bird generously with more salt. It may look like a lot of salt, but this provides a dry brine. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for about 24 hours.

Remove the dry-brined bird from the refrigerator and let set at room temperature for about 40-60 minutes. Place the fresh rosemary sprigs inside the cavity and truss the bird so no parts will move around during cooking and stay tight to the body (provides even cooking.) Rub the bird with the remaining two tablespoons of soft butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little more dried rosemary.

Prehead the oven or grill to approximately 375F-400F degrees. Place the bird on a rotisserie spit or on a rack with a backing tray or pan underneath. Roast the bird until it is nicely browned and the meat thermometer reads 170-175F degrees when inserted into the the thickest part of the thigh. Remove and let rest for 20 minutes before caring and serving.

Julian's plated guinea fowl served with rice.