Hold your ham

Abbondanza.My mother agonizes over each dish at each meal served at her table.  An Italian girl from Jersey, she was raised with “Mangia!” (Eat up!), and “Abbondanza!” (abundance).  The burning question in her mind is, will there be enough?

I offer this advice for all first time diners at Chez Mom.

If you want a lot more, tell her you only want a little.  If you want a little more, tell her you’re full.  If you truly can’t eat another bite; then run, run like the wind, Grasshopper.  But she’ll be ready and waiting for you at her door with a doggy bag large enough to feed you and your entire family until the cows come home, milk themselves, and buy a Dairy Queen franchise.So, there are regularly large quantities of leftovers at my parents’ house.

In my kitchen, except for sauces and gravies, which for some reason I always make too much of, we rarely have leftovers, except by design.  Either I have a plan to transform them into something different, it’s something we really like and relish eating again, or the nature of the dish works better made in quantity; like chili or soup.  Then they get packed up and frozen or are purloined by The Kid.

Throwing away food, to me is a personal failure. Image result for big easter hamAnyway, for holiday meals, my contribution is the ham.  It makes a big impact, feeds a lot of mouths, but is deceptively easy to prepare.  This year it was a 17-pounder.

When the last person took their last bite of dinner, there was at least ten or twelve pounds of ham left.  Everyone got a porcine parting gift.  And I got requests for recipes using that ham.

This has the elements of chicken Cordon Bleu but comes together easier.  You can make one large dish, or multiple smaller dishes, and freeze.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Rice bakecordon bleu rice bakeThe meat from ½ rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

2 cups leftover ham, in bite-size pieces

2-6 or 7 ounce boxes long grain and wild rice, made according to directions

5 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons for breadcrumbs

½ yellow onion, chopped

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups low-fat milk

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese + ½ cup for breadcrumbs

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  When rice is done, let sit covered until sauce is ready.

For cheese sauce melt 5 tablespoons butter in large heavy saucepan.  Add onion, season, and cook until it’s lightly golden, has released its liquid which has cooked off.  Add flour, and stir.  Cook on medium-low for five minutes to cook out raw flour taste.  Whisk in milk.  Cook on medium, whisking continuously, just until it begins to boil.  Stir in mustard, then cheese, a little at a time until it’s all in.  Season, check, and re-season if necessary.

For breadcrumb topping, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, and mix with ½ cup Swiss and breadcrumbs.  Season.

Stir together chicken, ham, rice, parsley, and sauce.  Pour into greased dish, cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Uncover, top with breadcrumb mixture, and bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.Let sit 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 8.

While sandwiches are great, that leftover meat can be put to much more exciting uses.  And if you have any leftover Easter chocolate, give me a yell, and I can take it off your hands.

Just saying.Thanks for your time.

Tempest of Taste

In the end, we were lucky; we didn’t lose power.But two weeks ago it was a distinct possibility.  It only takes a little ice on the wrong line or tree limb and we would’ve been in the dark and the cold.

So, last Friday, we went by Harris Teeter to pick up a few items that might keep us from starvation and the ensuing cannibalism should we lose electricity.

And of course, the store was a study in madness.We got some chips and then headed to the deli counter.  Petey chose ham, I picked corned beef, and in case The Kid came over, I bought some roast beef.

So, we went home with enough supplies to keep us alive even if we were eating in the dark.

Like I said, the electricity stayed on.  And, The Kid never came over.

But there was no way that I was going to waste expensive lunch meat.  So, Saturday night, even though it was literally freezing cold, we had sandwiches.  Sunday we had hot food, but Monday we ate more sandwiches because we had more meat, and the roast beef needed to be eaten.

About thirty years ago or so, Petey and I rented a cottage in Nags Head.This was before I had interest or skill in cooking, so we bought copious amounts of sandwich ingredients.  One of them was roast beef.  And there on the outer banks, I invented a new sandwich.

I spread a very, very thick layer of mayo on one side.  On the other side I put about an inch and a half of cream cheese.  I then added a healthy stack of roast beef, a couple slices of ripe summer tomatoes and plenty of crispy bacon.

When years later I ordered it from a sandwich shop, the nice lady who made it said it was one weirdo of a sandwich.  The name stuck, and my creation became “The Weirdo”.marmalade-mayoOn that frozen Monday I planned on a simple roast beef and horseradish mayo on sourdough.  But when I opened the fridge to retrieve the mayonnaise, I spied some homemade onion marmalade.  Into the mayo it went.  I also seasoned it with some coffee salt I had just made (the recipe’s in Salting the Salt Away Daily Dispatch-7/6/2016).

It was at this point I made the decision to make for myself a new version of a  Wierdo.

But I was three decades older, and fifty pounds lighter.  I wanted the flavors, but in a package that wasn’t so cardiac-crushingly rich, heavy, and caloric.

On one slice of bread I spread the horseradish mayo.  But instead of half a pound of full fat cream cheese, I’d make a lighter spread.

Smoked sun-dried tomato cream cheesesmoked-sun-dried-cr-cheese

½ cup whipped light cream cheese

2-3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, rinsed, patted dry, and diced

5 or 6 drops liquid smoke

Pinch of thyme

Salt and pepper

Throw everything except salt & pepper into a small food chopper and mix until it’s fully mixed and a pale orange in color.  Taste and season.

Makes enough for 2 or 3 sandwiches.

To this updated sandwich I added shaved red onion to counterbalance the sweet caramelized onion and a handful of pea shoots for crispy freshness.

You can use my cream cheese spread on all kinds of food—I think it would be earth shaking on a burger or a BLT.

But if you like the occasional roast beef sandwich, I hope you’ll try my Weirdo 2.0.Thanks for your time.