Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baked Ham Barefoot Contessa style

I hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving this week had a fabulous feast with family and friends and hopefully didn’t eat too much.

Thanksgiving for us this year was a bit unusual. For about as long as I can remember, it’s celebrated at our house and we do all of the cooking. As the big day approaches, we always make certain that everyone we know has a place to go on Thanksgiving. If not, they are always invited to join us. There’s just something about being alone on Thanksgiving that doesn’t seem right to us. I've actually seen tears in people's eyes that were almost strangers when we invited them to our home for Thanksgiving. When we lived in the islands, no one was near their family so everyone became everyone's family. It's a tradition we'll never change.

This year was different. We’re in Florida and Meakin’s brother Jarvis invited us to Thanksgiving dinner at his house, which is down the street from our tiny pied a terre.  If you know either of us, you know the first words out of our mouth after an invitation are, “What can we bring and how can we help?”

After much discussion we settled on a things we could make in advance – a baked ham, my cranberry sauce (which I posted earlier), and an appetizer.

That would free up time for Meakin to arrive early and make his famous gravy. My sister-in-law Carolyn said, “Meakin, I hope you’ll carve the turkeys, because Jarvis would rather clean out the garage than carve anything.” Consider it done Carolyn.

The baked ham recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa and the only changes I made were to cut the recipe in half (hers served 35), and substitute Grand Marnier and gold rum for the orange juice. The little specs you see in the picture are bits of orange marmalade and garlic. The ham was no trouble at all to make. Keep this recipe in mind if you’re looking for something classy for your Christmas buffet that can be served at room temperature.

Baked Ham with orange glaze Barefoot Contessa style
Adapted from the Food Network, courtesy of Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

1 (8 to 10 pound) fully cooked, spiral-cut smoked ham on the bone

Orange glaze:
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 ¼ ounces of orange marmalade
¼ cup of Dijon mustard
½ cup brown sugar packed
Zest of half of an orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon gold rum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the ham in a heavy roasting pan or a heavy-duty disposable aluminum pan.

Put all of the glaze ingredients in a bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Pour the glaze over the ham. If the ham is spiral cut, carefully fan open some of the slices and let the glaze seep in between the slices. Bake for one hour until the ham is fully heated and the glaze is well browned.Garnish with slices of citrus. Serve hot or at room temperature.

This is a simple appetizer that can be put together in a matter of minutes. Bring a round of Saga blue cheese to room temperature. Remove the top rind and cover with pancake syrup, dried cranberries and toasted pecans. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve with assorted crackers.

I know, I know. You're shuttering at the mention of pancake syrup in this. I did too, but the first time I tasted this appetizer, all I could say was, "OMG. Get me away from this. It's much too good and it'll spoil my appetite for dinner."

It was served to us by Betsy, an old friend of ours. She's a very classy lady and really knows her stuff when it comes to food. A member of a prominant family, she's hosted many a fabulous party in her antebellum mansion and was once the mayor of her berg outside of Washington, DC in Virginia. We thought of substituting maple syrup, but decided that it would overpower the wonderful flavor of the blue cheese.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quick and easy homemade cranberry sauce

This homemade French cranberry sauce with red wine uses 5 ingredients and takes about 15 minutes. It can’t get any easier than that. One taste and I guarantee you’ll never ever serve the canned stuff again.

I’ve been making this cranberry sauce for over thirty years and it’s by far the best I’ve ever tasted. A couple of years ago I posted a similar recipe along with ways to use cranberry sauce leftovers, so you may remember that it’s a family favorite. The citrus gives it a very fresh flavor that distinguishes it from the canned stuff. Normally I use navel oranges, but this year I couldn’t resist the cute mesh bag filled with Florida tangerines that I saw in the market. Be sure to zest the tangerines before you squeeze them.

The cinnamon dust is a new idea. Using a microplane rasp style grater, grate a little “dust” from a whole cinnamon stick over the sauce. A big fat stick works best. The dust doesn't actually show on the sauce, but it gives it a little last minute oopmh of cinnamon flavor.

I really love the subtle depth of flavor that red wine brings to this, but feel free to substitute water if you don’t want to use wine. How much sugar to use is up to you. For a sweet cranberry sauce, use up to one and a half cups of sugar. If you prefer a more tart sauce, three quarters of a cup or a little more will be perfect.

This cranberry sauce can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for several days, leaving plenty of time on turkey day to roast the big bird and put together your side dishes.

The smell coming from your kitchen will be very alluring as the cinnamon and citrus simmer on the stove with the wine and cranberries. Perhaps this cranberry sauce with its citrusy touch will become a family favorite for you too.

Homemade French Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine
A citrus twist on a classic 

1 (12 ounce) package of fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw if they're frozen)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup dry red wine, such as a Merlot or Syrah
¾ cup to 1 ½ cups sugar, or to taste
2 tangerines or navel oranges

Put the cranberries in a sauce pan with the cinnamon stick, red wine, and sugar. Zest the tangerines and set aside half of the zest for a garnish. (If you are making the sauce in advance, wait until the last minute to zest the second tangerine, otherwise the zest will dry out.) Add the remaining zest and the juice of one of the tangerines (squeeze juice through a strainer to eliminate the seeds) to the cranberry mixture.

Stir the cranberry mixture well and bring to a boil.  Partially cover the saucepan and simmer about 15 minutes, until the cranberries have burst. Remove from the heat, let cool, and discard the cinnamon stick. The sauce will firm up as it cools. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to five days.

Before serving, using a microplane rasp style grater, grate a little cinnamon “dust” from a cinnamon stick over the cranberry sauce and garnish with the remaining citrus zest. This recipe serves 6 to 8 and is easily doubled or tripled. Serve the sauce at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Squash Soup – an easy make-ahead lunch to serve on Black Friday

November seems to be month of the pumpkin. I’ve seen pumpkin in one form or another in practically every food magazine and on just about everyone’s blog. It’s been the star attraction in fall displays with scarecrows to the main ingredient in hearty soups, rich bisques, individual bread puddings with caramel pecan sauce, cute little mini cakes with rum glaze, and chess pies with praline sauce.

It’s hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving, followed by the frantic shopping sprees that lead up to Christmas. Black Friday is upon us, when thousands of people flood the malls scooping up bargain such as cashmere sweaters on sale and fighting over the last ridiculously low priced flat panel television at the discount store the day after Thanksgiving.

When I saw this recipe in Southern Living magazine I thought it would make an excellent do-ahead soup to serve on Black Friday for a much deserved leisurely lunch after shopping or while watching a football game on television. I plan to serve it with turkey sandwiches to complete the meal. The fact that this soup had an express version that cut the hands-on time in half particularly appealed to me. Roasting a whole pumpkin and dealing with cutting up an acorn squash in the original version sounded like much more work than I wanted to tackle on the week of Thanksgiving. Even the cook deserves a day off, n’est pas?

Pumpkin Squash Soup – Express Version
Adapted from Southern Living – makes about 8 cups
I encourage you to grate your own nutmeg. It tastes so much fresher than the pre-ground stuff.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil or other neutral tasting oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
4 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth (homemade if you have it)
2 - 12 oz cans pumpkin (not the pie filling)
2 - 12oz packages of frozen squash (I used butternut)
½ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground fresh nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
All natural pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted, for garnish

Melt butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté 5 minutes or until tender, taking care that the onion doesn’t brown. Add fresh thyme and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.

Stir in the broth along with the pumpkin and squash pulp. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Process soup, if desired, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the soup to the Dutch oven and stir in the half and half, cider vinegar, ground ginger and ground nutmeg. Cook, over low heat, stirring often, 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Taste for seasonings, then and add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, garnish each serving with toasted pepitas and chopped fresh thyme leaves.

To make ahead: Store it for up to four days in the refrigerator in a container with a tight fitting lid. Bring to room temperature and gently reheat, taking care not to let it burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A perfect late night snack and a winner in the CSN giveaway

First of all I want to thank each of you for the incredible response to my blog's 2nd birthday/anniversary. I am touched by your generosity and kindness in your well wishes. I also wish to thank CSN for hosting the fabulous giveaway.

We have a winner in the $75 giveaway from CSN and it is Lea Ann of Mangos Chili and Z. Congratulations. I know you’ll enjoy spending the $75 at CSN. I know I would. Please send me your email address to me at samhoffer (at) gmail (dot) com so CSN can contact you.

More congratulations are in order for Lea Ann. Her recipe for Scallop Sandwich appetizer is one of the winners of the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest and it is published in their gorgeous new book book – Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook. Why don’t you run on over to Mangos Chili and Z to tell her congratulations. Look around while you are there. She is amazing photographer as well as a fabulous cook.

I have really enjoyed reading your comments on whether you have stools in your kitchen or not. It was divided pretty much 50 -50 on those of you who used stools like I do and those of you who don’t. Some of you like people to visit with you while you cook as I do and others don’t. Our winner Lea Ann left the following comment. “I love stools in the kitchen. My mom always had a couple when I was growing up. Usually my aunt and I would sit there and pester her while she cooked. :-)”

Speaking of visiting with people in the kitchen while you cook, my friend Susan of The Schnitzel and the Trout left a comment that brought back memories. Susan said, “I do not like anyone in my kitchen because I get so involved in conversation that I forget what I am doing.” Susan, you have no idea how right you are and it’s happened to me. Read on…..

Visiting with people while you cook almost turned into a disaster for me when I was the Mississippi finalist in the 40th National Chicken Cooking Contest. It was one of the big three contests and the oldest of its kind. In other words, the National Chicken Cooking Contest was a big deal and the cash prize in 2009 was $50,000. Sadly, because of economic conditions, the contest has been suspended.

As Mississippi’s contestant I was awarded an all expense paid trip to the competition where participants are introduced to the press and audience as the state winner. With a banner draped over your chest, you walked out feeling very much like "Miss America". Everyone had their very own kitchen. A flag was provided that each contestant could raise or lower, indicating whether they were available for conversation and questions while preparing their dish.

My dish was Chicken Breasts stuffed with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Rosemary. Goat cheese in 1993 was a fairly exotic ingredient. Many people stopped by my booth with questions. As you know I like to visit in the kitchen, so I eagerly answered their questions until I glanced down at my watch and realized I had talked away valuable time and I was running out of time to prepare my dish twice - one for the judges to sample and the other for display. I quickly changed my flag and got to work. In other words, I realized that I might not finish on time which would ruin my chances to win. Thankfully I did finish, but Susan, you are so right. You can definitely get involved in conversation while cooking and forget what you’re doing and the results for me could have been disastrous.

I still love goat cheese and use it often. This sandwich would make a great late night after the theater snack or a lovely light lunch. Goat cheese has become increasingly popular. For this dish I can see flavoring the goat cheese with many combinations such as sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil, assorted fresh herbs and garlic, black olive tapenade, or crushed pink peppercorns and herbs de Provence. The combinations for mild creamy goat cheese are almost endless.

Open-faced sandwiches with goat cheese and fried eggs
A perfect late night after the theater snack or a light lunch
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 cup organic spring mix lettuce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices five grain bread or other hardy bread
4 large eggs
4 oz soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, lime juice, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Toss the mixture with the organic baby lettuce mix and set aside.

Toast the bread until your desired degree of doneness.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Crack eggs into pan and cook 2 minutes. Add one tablespoon of water, cover and cook an additional 2 minutes until whites are set and remove from the heat.

Spread the toast with equal portions of the goat cheese, then the dressed spring lettuce mix, and top with a fried egg. Sprinkle the eggs with chopped fresh thyme, a pinch of sea salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Serve a little extra sea salt alongside for those who like a bit more salt and crunch.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To celebrate my blog’s second birthday/anniversary I’m hosting a fabulous giveaway from CSN

It’s hard to believe it’s only been two short years since I started My Carolina Kitchen. Someone once said that “time really flies when you’re having fun” and that certainly has been the case for me.

When I first started blogging I wondered if anyone would even notice me, much less take the time to leave a comment. I can’t begin to tell you how much your feedback and encouraging comments have meant to me. Many of you have helped me when I’ve run into stumbling blocks or had problems. Others have shared photography, lighting and set-up secrets. Some of you have invited me to your home where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting other bloggers. I’ve saved your recipes and decorating tips and may never need to buy a book again (shh, please don’t tell my husband; you know I’m addicted to books). All in all it’s been a fabulous two years and you my friends are the ones to thank.

Last year to celebrate my first blog birthday/anniversary I took you on an imaginary airplane ride (you got to sit in the window seat) to a gorgeous tropical island out in the Atlantic Ocean called Abaco, a place in the Bahamas that we called home for ten years.

Friends were holding a table for us at one of our favorite restaurants in Marsh Harbour - Wally’s - which is located in a lovely pink colonial building overlooking the beautiful harbor. We had a great celebration and indulged in a rich chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream that had a candle on top.

This year to celebrate my second year and to thank you for taking the time to read My Carolina Kitchen I’m hosting a fabulous giveaway with a gift certificate offered by the great folks at CSN.

The gift certificate is for $75 (does not include shipping, but many of their items do include free shipping). The offer is valid for only US, Canadian, UK and German readers. The $75 will be converted to £50 and €60, respectively, depending on the country of the winner.

CSN has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from a counter stool for your kitchen to an All Clad stainless roasting pan for this year’s Thanksgiving turkey.

One of the items that they offer that I find extremely handy to have in my kitchen is a counter stool. Actually I have two of them. When I’m ready to cook I give my guests a glass of wine and encourage them to sit at the counter and visit with me while I work in the kitchen. I don’t like many people in my kitchen with me, but I do like to visit while I cook.

What about you? Do you allow guests to help in your kitchen or do you encourage them to sit and visit on a counter stool while you cook like I do?

Please leave a comment and tell me if you use a counter stool in your kitchen for your guests. If you’re in the market for one, check out all of the cool ones CSN has to offer and let me know which one you like in your comment.

You don’t have to use the gift certificate for a counter stool. You can choose any item you like from among the thousands CSN offers. Also please do not post on the CSN Facebook Wall about this giveaway, as it is in violation of the Facebook Corporate Page regulations. .

My favorite counter stool from CSN is this one with the rush seat. It comes in a set of two for only $74.99 and includes free shipping.

If you are currently a follower or become a follower, you are eligible for two chances to win the $75 gift certificate. Just leave a second comment saying that you are a follower. Don’t forget, the offer is valid only for US, Canadian, UK and German readers.

Giveaway ends Friday, November 12. Winner will be announced on Saturday, November 13, 2010.

You can use your gift certificate for anything at their online stores. CSN has many of the great name brands we know and love such as Le Creuset, All-Clad, Calphalon, Cuisinart, Staub, Emile Henry, Wusthof, Kitchenaid, Royal Doulton, Wedgewood, and many, many more. Their stores have everything from kitchen and dining to home decor, furniture, rugs, bed & bath, home improvement, patio & garden, lightening, baby & kids and more. All with hassle free returns and free shipping on many items.

Good luck to all.