Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ham Loaf with Mustard Brown Sugar Glaze

When I posted photos of my ham loaf on Facebook I had lots of comments which ranged from 'gosh I haven't had that since I was a child" to "what's a ham loaf?"  I was rather surprised as I thought everyone knew what they were and made them regularly. After all, we usually all have left over ham scraps from holiday hams and this is a perfect way to use them.

Julian's Classic Ham Loaf
Now as you may know, I'm from Ohio originally and that's right next door to Pennsylvania. Both states have a large community of "Pennsylvania Dutch" and they seem to have the claim to inventing ham loaf. Visit Lancaster County, PA or the central valley and Amish country of Ohio and the savory loaf is everywhere. In fact, just 50 miles from the Ohio border resides one of the only two commercial ham loaf makers in the USA who ship it nationwide. If you are looking to simply order one online go to Gahr's Ham Loaf Company where you will find plenty of information on ham loaf, and tackle the controversial issue of the traditional glaze. (smile)

Moist and Delicious ~ Nothing Tastes Quite Like It
It really is the glaze that makes the ham loaf spectacular and below I give you my favorite recipe. Also note you can make ham loaf balls using this same recipe which make an excellent appetizer dish for parties.

Julian Grinding the Ham
Unless you live in 'ham loaf country' you'll likely have to grind your own ham. While ground pork is readily available everywhere, ground ham is not and it's a 50/50 proposition. Save up about a pound of ham pieces from the holiday ham. Freeze it if you like and when you are ready to make this wonderful dish, thaw and grind it using a meat grinder. I used my grinder attachment on the KitchenAid mixer, and I selected the large grind blade. It makes quick and easy work of the job.

Ground pork and ham.
1 pound ground pork (approx)
1 pound ground ham (approx)
3 eggs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
10 saltine crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
Ready to Loaf
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
4-5 grinds fresh black pepper
1-4 tablespoons milk

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Mix all of the ham loaf ingredients together, except the milk, in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. The mixture should be sticky and soft and just hold a shape. If it is dry, mix in milk until you get the proper consistency. Do not use the milk if not required. Shape into a loaf shape as shown with a flat end at front and back (not football shaped.)  Place in a baking dish without a rack.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Over medium-low heat, cook stirring regularly the glaze ingredients.  When the sugar is dissolved and the mustard combined, remove from heat. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons over the ham loaf. Cover the loaf with foil or a lid. Place in the preheated oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil and baste with drippings and add spoon more glaze over the loaf. Return to oven uncovered and bake for 30 minutes more, glazing the loaf with drippings and the pan glaze every 10 minutes.

Resting Before Cutting
Remove from oven and let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Ready to Serve

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

If you like a great little cookie to go with your coffee, consider this no-fail recipe for biscotti. This is one of my favorites because the pistachios and lemon go well together and these cookies are not overly sweet.

Julian's Biscotti - Lemon Pistachio on the Right Side
Thanks to my sister for the recipe and for the lesson in making them. My notes below include all of her tips and tricks to get perfection every time.

Julian with his sister, Frances.
Biscotti was originally made for the Roman Legions and as such had to last a long time. It was very dry and contained no fats and was also used by most travelers at that time. The second round in the oven is specifically used to draw out the excess moisture to help preserve the cookie. While we still do this today, modern biscotti has changed quite a bit, but it still lasts a long time. As such I make several batches at once.

1/3 cup salted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 cups pistachio nuts

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-3 teaspoons lemon juice

Frances Preparing to Kneed the Dough
Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with silicon pads.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30-45 seconds with the standard mixing paddle attachment. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla extra, lemon zest and juice. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Mix in the flour a little at a time until combined. Add and mix in the nuts.

Just a few turns are necessary to bring the dough together.
Sprinkle a work surface with a little sugar and flour. Dump the dough on to the work surface and combine with the heal of your hand, turning it several times until combined and formed into a disk. Sprinkle with extra flour/sugar if sticky. Separate the dough into two equal parts.

Shape each portion into an 8-inch long roll. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and straighten so they are approximately three inches apart. Slightly flatten the tops of each roll with your fingers until the rolls are about 2 1/2 inches wide.

Roll Into Logs
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are lightly brown, cracked and almost firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and turn off.  Let the rolls sit on the baking sheet for 3-5 minutes until just cool enough to handle with your bare hands. Transfer to a cooling rack being careful not to break the rolls. Let cool 30 minutes until just slightly warm.

Shape and Flatten Slightly
Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Transfer to a cutting surface and using a sharp serrated knife or electric knife, cut each roll diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Use your fingers to hold the log together close to the cutting edge, taking care not to cut your fingers. This helps to support the sides and stop breakage that make occur otherwise.

Place cut side down on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for eight minutes, remove from oven and turn each piece over. Bake an additional 8 minutes on the second side and remove from the oven. Cool on the baking sheets, to permit some additional baking time out of the oven. When cool add the lemon glaze below.

Cut On the Angle - Support Log while Cutting
Lemon Glaze
In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and lemon peel. Stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice at a time. Add milk to thin until it is a drizzle consistency. Place the tips of your fingers into the glaze and shake them across the biscotti in the same direction. (See image below.)  Continue doing this until the biscotti are glazed to your liking.

Drizzles with Lemon Glaze
Biscotti can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 months if kept in a cool, dry place.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mardi Gras Favorite - Spicy Sausage, Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya or Étouffée

With Mardi-Gras upon us, I found this recipe at a fellow food blog (the Cozy Apron) which sounded like both a great way to celebrate and to warm up the winter. As is usual, I found it necessary to make a few modifications to the recipe and present my revised version below.

Julian's Jambalaya
This recipe is really a combination of jambalaya, gumbo and étouffée. It's not exactly any one of these.

Jambalaya is usually meat and/or shellfish along with vegetables (with or without tomatoes).  The rice is simmered into the mixture before serving making it closer to the Spanish paella. Gumbo is also a mix of vegetables and meat and/or shellfish but it is thinner and served as a soup alongside rice that's cooked separately. Étouffée is a main course (not a soup), made of one type of shellfish (usually crawfish or shrimp) that's been smothered in a thick sauce and served ladled over rice. So mine is rather a combo version.

Is this Creole or Cajun?  Creole gumbo uses okra for flavor and thickening and I include it in my recipe too. Cajun gumbo uses file powder for thickening and flavor and is more based on chicken, sausages and game, though seafood can be an ingredient.  I suggest you purchase either spice blend based on availability at your local store. If they have both, I prefer the Creole spice to the Cajun.

However you prepare it with whatever spice you choose, it's quite delicious on a cold winter night. If you prefer a more classic jambalaya, then simply cook the rice in the broth about 30-40 minutes prior to serving time.

Ingredients (Serves 6):

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced*
2 skinless/boneless chicken breasts halves
       cut into bite-size pieces
Pinch Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons, tomato paste
1/2 pound okra, sliced into 1/4 - 1/2" slices
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock, hot
1/2 pound peeled and cleaned, medium size shrimp (raw)
1-2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Garlic Rice (recipe below)

Note: If you can't get Andouille sausage then consider any other tight, spicy sausage you have available. If you prefer a non-spicy dish, then go with a smoked sausage.

In the pot ready to serve.

Cut the meats and chop the vegetables as noted above. I used a food processor to get a fine chop on the vegetables with little effort.

Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sliced sausage and cook, stirring regularly until brown on all sides. Remove the sausage from the pot and set aside. Add the cut chicken pieces into the pot along with a sprinkle of the Cajun or Creole seasoning and brown in the oil/sausage drippings (about 5 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add the chopped celery, onion and bell pepper, and cook stirring regularly in the oil and drippings about five minutes. Add the bay leaves, the Creole/Cajun seasoning, the cayenne pepper, another pinch of salt and black pepper, and stir to combine.  Stir in the garlic for another minute or two. Add the tomato paste, and cook for about 1 minute then add the sliced okra, diced tomatoes with juice, hot chicken stock, and the browned sausage and chicken.  Stir to combine and allow the stew to simmer gently on low uncovered 1-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Replace the lid if it's getting to thick. You may turn off the heat and hold the dish at this stage for several hours. If you do, return the dish to mid-high heat and when warm, move to the next step.

Prepare the rice (see below).

Add the shrimp and simmer for 2-3 minutes so as not overcook the shrimp.  Finish by stirring in the chopped cilantro, and serve over the rice.  Taste and if you prefer it more spicy, add hot sauce, red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, if desired. This can be done individually at each bowl as well.

Rice in cooker ready to cook.
Garlic Rice
Prepare 3 cups of dry white rice according to your rice cooker instructions or the instructions on the package, except add 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic to the rice at the start of cooking.  Cook until tender (about 30 minutes) and serve with the Jambalaya spooned over top.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies ~ A Valentine Treat

Nothing says love quite like baked goods, and your loved one is sure to enjoy this silky indulgence.

Julian's Valentine Treat
There's something about chocolate masquerading as red velvet that is irresistible on its own, but when the sweet creamy cheese layer is added, even the pastry chef from New York City's famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was spell bound.

The recipe is quick and easy to prepare and you likely have all of the ingredients in the house already. I only had to pick up the cream cheese. You might find the addition of the vinegar odd, but it was common in early baking as the reaction of acidic vinegar tends to better reveal the red in cocoa and keeps the cake moist.

Julian's Red Velvet Brownies Ready for Serving
So here's my wish that cupid returns when you and your loved one dine on this special dessert!


Red Velvet:
1 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 stick) melted
Two Batters
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon (approx) red food coloring
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour

Cream Cheese:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter an 8 x 8 inch cake pan.

Brownie layer: Add melted butter to a large bowl and one by one, stir in sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar. In a small dish, beat the egg lightly with a fork. Whisk the eggs into the cocoa mix. Stir in the flour until combined. Reserve 1/3 cup of the batter and pour the remainder into the prepared baking pan.

Cream cheese layer: Using an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl. (Can be done by hand if you don't have a mixer.) Spread the cream cheese on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Pour the reserved cocoa batter over the cream cheese layer. Using the tip of a knife, swirl through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern. As it was Valentine's day, I made a little heart at the end. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Baked and Cooling
Although one batch is likely to guarantee none are left, if you do wish to store them, put in an air-tight container or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The recipe doubles without a problem.