Vermonts-giving

A Very New England Thanksgiving starring B and G

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

We’ve got a holiday treat for you, dear readers.  A joint post about a joint meal!  B and I cooked this one when I visited her in Vermont.  I did sort of demand a ham for my visit.  B, being awesome, was happy to oblige.

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Mmmm….ham…  I wish ham was a Thanksgiving thing for my family.  sigh.  I’ll let B describe how to make the ham.  I will have to add that we almost didn’t make the ham at all because the pilot went out in B and the bear’s oven, and we couldn’t figure out how to get it lit.  D figured it out via text message.  Good thing, too.  I googled how to cook ham in a slow cooker, but I wasn’t very optimistic…  Oh, B!  How do you make that ham of yours?

B here!  D is a handy guy!  G didn’t mention this, but in addition to not being thrilled about the crockpot ham options, our ham also did not fit into  the crockpot so we could have had to do some pre-cooked carving.  Let’s just say, disaster averted.  Thanks for the help, D!

So ham. Not being a beef eater, I have a thing for ham.  A big thing for ham.  It is one of the reasons I ended my days as a vegetarian.  The other reason was bacon… so same thing in the end.  The bear’s mother makes an awesome ham.  She uses an old school recipe from an old school cookbook called Yankee Magazine’s Favorite New England Recipes.  

Basically, you put the ham, cut side down,  in a pan lined with foil, making a little bowl around the base of the ham.  Then you pour in a cup or so of apple cider, or Coke, or ginger ale.  Then you cover it with another bit of foil and seal it together with the other piece of foil so the ham sort of steams in the sweet liquid.  I can usually fit the ham in my dutch oven and still fit the lid on so I often do that instead of the foil. Then you let it bake at 325 for hours, 20 minutes per lb of ham.  At the very end, you crank the heat up to 400 0r 450 and you glaze it.  To glaze you have to take the ham out and carefully score the skin in a diamond pattern so that glaze can stick.  Then mix up about a cup of brown sugar, a couple table spoons of dijon mustard and just a little splash of apple cider.  The glaze should be really thick, just wet to the point where the sugar is starting to dissolve a bit and stick together.  It’s really just a splash or two, maybe 2 -3 tablespoons tops.  Then drizzle it on and put the ham back in the oven to get awesome.

G also mentioned a gravy… Once the ham is out of the oven there will be a ton of liquid.  Some drippings that have come out of the ham and a lot of the cider left from cooking.  Additionally, some of the brown sugar and mustard from the glaze has gotten into it so the flavor gets pretty awesome.  I usually start the gravy in a brand new pan and just get the drippings into it however you know how.  I usually use a turkey baster.  Get some heat going underneath it, not too high.  And slowly whisk in several tablespoons of flour or corn starch.  It varies depending on how much drippings you have.  If you don’t whisk and slowly add the flour in you are going to get lumps.  You can also make a slurry if needed of your flour in some more cider instead, which should help with your lumping.  And there you have it.  Ham.  Ham gravy.  Good stuff.

On to the sides!

Spinach-and-Cheese puff

puff in B's lovely Le Cruset

puff in B’s lovely Le Cruset

G here.  The spinach puff was basically a way to make creamed spinach for a crowd.  It has nutmeg in it, which reminded us of how Rachael Ray always says that’s the secret to all of her spinach recipes.  Is it, Rach?  You tell us constantly.  The secret is out.  At this point, the secret would be to omit nutmeg.  Oh, and I have to recommend assigning a towel in your kitchen to be your “spinach towel.”  Otherwise, you can wind up with a random green-stained towel.  The first time I saw anyone on TV wring out spinach with a towel, it was a green towel.  That could not have been a coincidence.  Anything to add, Ms. B?

B here! I enjoyed the spinach puff, although I did sort of expect it to be a little bit more puff…  As in more soufflé like.  But it was a nice texture as is.  And it’s nice being able to eat spinach without a giant puddle of spinach liquid pooling on the plate around it.

Herbed mashed potatoes

maybe not the greatest picture.

maybe not the greatest picture.

G’s back.  The mashed potatoes were pretty much B’s gig.  I really liked the herbs.  I thought it made for brighter mashed potatoes.  The challenge with Thanksgiving foods is to cut through all the richness.  At some point gravy tastes like turkey tastes like stuffing tastes like potatoes.  If you don’t mix it up a little, it’s so rich it’s bland.  The herbs play that role here.  I loved these potatoes.  How was it to cook them, B?

B again.  It was like cooking… mashed potatoes.  Since we had the spinach puff on our table we opted to go with milk rather than half and half to cut the richness of the meal just a little bit.  Don’t worry, I still used the butter!  Also, since we had the scallions for the radicchio slaw… we used those instead of chives.  These taters were good!  Even better when smothered in gravy!

G again.  Well, we don’t need to belabor the point about how nasty the radicchio slaw was.  That’s been handled elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that that cider gravy will cover all manner of sins.

Oh, and the wine was a 2011 Cakebreads Chardonnay.  Cakebreads is hard to find in the Midwest.  This was not only available, it was only $40!  I think D and I paid double that the last time we bought a bottle.  Ah, Vermont.

Finally, there was dessert.  Having come all the way to the ancestral homeland of Ben and Jerry’s, I had to indulge.  So I tried many, many flavors.  My favorite flavor is Coffee Caramel Buzz (formerly known as Bonaroo Buzz), but my favorite combo is Phish Food and Peanut Brittle.  Since returning to Chicago, I’ve learned that you can only get one of those three, Phish Food, in town.  Sigh.  Guess I’d better go back to Vermont…  Will you have me, B?

B says… Maybe… I suppose I could pencil you in for 2014… 🙂

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