A spiral-cut ham will grace many Christmas tables this week, and not a few of them will end up closer to ham jerky than the succulent slices of our holiday dreams.
That won’t be the case with the right glaze and cooking technique. This year, the editors at Cook’s Illustrated released a comprehensive guide to cooking meat called “The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book” (Cook’s Illustrated, $40) that comes in handy for moments like these.
They suggest bringing the plastic-wrapped ham to room temperature by soaking it in a warm water bath, which will reduce the total cooking time and moisture loss in the oven. A turkey roasting bag also will help keep in the moisture and cut down on cooking time; a roasting pan covered tightly with aluminum foil will help the ham heat evenly without drying out.
For the glaze, you can use everything from Coca Cola — a beloved tradition in a least a few families I know — to a fancy reduction of port wine, black pepper and brown sugar. Because glazes usually have quite a bit of sugar, brush on the glaze toward the end of the cooking time, not at the beginning, to avoid burning.
Glazing a ham is a great excuse to pull out a jar of jam you made over the summer. Cook’s Illustrated recommends cherry preserves, apple jelly or, as in this recipe from the culinary team at Randalls, orange marmalade. (The mayonnaise helps keep the ham even more moist.)
Bourbon-Orange Glazed Ham
1 (3 to 4 lb.) spiral-cut ham
1 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place the ham cut-side down in a roasting pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. (Or place the ham inside a roasting bag and seal.) Cook for about 10 minutes a pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 100 degrees.
Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.
Increase the heat to 350 degrees. Peel off the foil or roasting bag and brush on glaze. Cook for 10 minutes and brush again with glaze. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Allow the ham to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8.
“The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals” (Clarkson Potter, $27): Eugenia Bone wants you to think differently about how you cook. Not just to be open minded about new recipes, but to change how you think about making one dish whose components might fit into another, or how to enjoy one season’s bounty while you’re in it and preserve some of it to incorporate back into your — to her use word — ecosystem a few months later.
This is a comforting meal, ready in just a few minutes. If you don’t have cream, substitute sour cream or cream cheese. If you don’t have smoked salmon, substitute smoked trout or even tuna. No spinach? Use kale. No kale? Use peas. Or even steamed carrots, if that’s all you have. Add toasted chopped nuts to the bread crumbs if you want more crunch. Once you’ve made this a few times, it will become a go-to solution for a satisfying dinner. It is a perfect example of the practical pantry at work, and it is the dinner I crave on many cold, rainy Sundays.
— Cathy Barrow
3 to 4 cups baby spinach (or one 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
12 oz. smoked salmon, flaked
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. fresh or dried pappardelle
1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh chives
1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Fill a large deep, pot with water, salt well, and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, if using fresh spinach, fill a 3-quart saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Insert a steamer basket (or use a colander or sieve), add the spinach, cover, and steam until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool, then squeeze the excess moisture out, pressing the spinach against the steamer or colander walls. Chop well and set aside.
In a large dry skillet, toast the bread crumbs until dry and golden brown. Remove and set aside.
Heat the butter in the same skillet until foaming, then add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the cream, stock, spinach, white pepper, and nutmeg and simmer, stirring gently, until the
sauce thickens slightly. Add the salmon, stir well, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
Meanwhile, drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss gently to coat. Add the cooking water if the mixture seems dry. Serve piping hot, with a scattering of the toasted bread crumbs and chopped chives and parsley. Serves 4.
The muffins were a hit without it, but the pineapple I used wasn’t quite sweet enough to stand up to all that coconut. I also used whiskey instead of rum extract because I was out of the latter. But even with these changes, the muffins passed the impress-the-co-worker test with flying colors.
(Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing cooking-at-home series called Austin360Cooks in which anyone can share what’s cooking in their home by adding #Austin360Cooks to their posts on social media. You can find a gallery of recently submitted pics at the end of this post, and you can follow me on Instagram at @broylesa.)
Piña Colada Muffins
For the topping:
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the muffins:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder, sifted
1/2 tsp. baking soda, sifted
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup Coco Lopez coconut cream
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (1/4-inch) cubes fresh pineapple
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. coconut milk
1/4 tsp. rum extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
To make the topping, combine the coconut, flour, and sugar in a bowl. Using a fork, stir in the melted butter. The mixture will be slightly lumpy.
To make the muffins, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, coconut milk, coconut cream, butter, rum extract, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture. Using a fork, mix the batter together until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the pineapple cubes and flaked coconut.
Evenly divide the muffin batter among the muffin cups. Divide the topping among the muffins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes before turning out the muffins. Completely cool the muffins on the wire rack.
To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, coconut milk, and rum extract until no lumps remain. If the glaze is too thick to drizzle, whisk in 1/4 teaspoon water to thin it out. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled muffins. Makes 12 to 24 muffins, depending on the size of your tin.
Like many Austin parents, Nicole and Jesse Vickey were having a hard time getting dinner on the table.
They have two kids and full-time jobs and were tired of the traditional options of take-out and delivery or even those new meal kits that proportion out ingredients but still require you to do the cooking.
They wanted something similar to a personal chef service, but one that was less expensive and more akin to a cleaning or nanny company. With these needs in mind, they created Dinner Elf, a cooking company whose “elves” who bring ingredients and prepare meals (not to mention clean up the mess) at the customers’ houses.
“We’re trying to give working families back that time they’d spend at the grocery store, cooking and cleaning so they have that extra bit of quality time,” Nicole Vickey says. The “elves” cook three meals all in one session, leaving reheating instructions for each of the dishes. (She notes that some customers choose to be there while the “elves” are cooking, while others are happy to let them prepare the food while they are away from home.)
Vickey says they are always looking for cooks who are interested in using their skills to prepare meals for others, from culinary school graduates to “grandmothers who have cooked for their families for decades and want a flexible job.”
In addition to everyday dishes, such as vegetarian or meaty shepherd’s pie, lasagna, pan-seared tilapia, lemon garlic turkey tenderloin or mashed potatoes that cost between $17 and $36 each, Dinner Elf offers seasonal holiday dinners for a crowd, starting $139. You can sign up for a two-meal trial ($44), book a regular session or buy gift certificates on the website, dinnerelf.com.
In this week’s Austin360 Taste Test video, cookie dough lover Courtney Sebesta, who runs our websites, and I tried Celeste’s Best Cookie Dough, a shelf-stable vegan chocolate chip cookie dough that you can eat raw because it doesn’t have any eggs (or butter, for that matter).
UPDATE: I found out this morning that the dough *is* supposed to be refrigerated but that you are supposed to let it come to room temperature so you can scoop it for baking. Apparently you can leave it unrefrigerated for the reasons I mentioned in the video, but that storage technique isn’t officially recommended.
Owner Celeste Caswell’s baked vegan treats are available at many area coffeeshops, but you can find the cookie dough Wheatsville, Costco, Central Market and Farm to Market, as well as the online grocer Rabbit Food Grocery (rabbitfoodgrocery.com).
Shikha Kaiwar (@shikhalamode on Instagram) doesn’t live in Texas, but she’s familiar enough with the Austin food scene not only to find her way to a place like Mettle but also to add our #Austin360Eats hashtag to her photo so we could show it off here.
Bridget Dunlap’s trendy East Austin eatery serves all kinds of dishes, but when in taco territory, one must eat tacos, so the San Francisco-based Kaiwar went with Mettle’s pork confit tacos, served with pickled red onions, cotija cheese, cilantro and poblano cream. You can read more about her adventures, including the recap of her visit to Mettle, at shikhalamode.com.
To share photos of what you’re enjoying at Central Texas restaurants, cafes, food trucks and food stands, add the #Austin360Eats hashtag to your posts on social media.
I’m not a big fan of the commercially prepared kale chips, but homemade crisps made from leafy greens aren’t the worst way to work through the bounty of kale (or broccoli, mustard or collard greens) in your garden or CSA.
I stumbled upon this recipe on Kalyn Denny’s hugely popular blog, Kalyn’s Kitchen. I met Denny years ago at my first South by Southwest, where we were on a panel about food blogging, and in the years since, I’ve watched her site grow into one of the Web’s more rewarding destinations for health-conscious but supremely satisfying recipes.
Yes, this salsa recipe calls for added sugar to help balance out the sweetness of the cranberries, but just think about it as slightly spicy, cilantro-flecked (and therefore Texas-friendly) alternative to cranberry sauce that would make a killer spread on your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.
Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro, Lime, and Jalapeño
1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup Splenda, Stevia In the Raw Granulated or sugar
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 to 2 fresh jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped (use more if you like it spicy)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Put the cranberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until they are partly chopped. Add sweetener of your choice and pulse a few times more to combine. Add green onions, cilantro, jalapeños (1 or 2, depending on your tolerance for heat), olive oil and lime juice and pulse until all ingredients are chopped and the mixture is well combined.
Put mixture into a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and chill for several hours or overnight. Makes about 2 cups salsa.
Thanksgiving, at least the Thanksgiving we celebrate now, has its roots in Plymouth Rock, but both Texas and Florida have made their cases, to varying degrees of intensity, you’ll read below, that the first Thanksgiving feast was actually held in their respective states.
I wrote this column four years ago, and the subject of Texas hosting the first Thanksgiving recently came up in a taping of this week’s Statesman Shots podcast, which is all about Thanksgiving and will publish sometime tomorrow.
Ahead of that podcast, here’s the original story that ran on Nov. 21, 2011:
Was the first Thanksgiving feast really held in Texas?
There’s little debate that Thanksgiving as we know it stems from a dinner in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag celebrating the newcomers’ first successful harvest, but historians have plenty of proof that this wasn’t the first feast of thanksgiving shared between Europeans who’d come to settle the New World and American Indians who were already living here.
Way back in 1565, more than 50 years before the Pilgrims left England on the Mayflower, Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the Timucua Indians shared a meal of thanks – and oysters, clams and garbanzo bean soup – in St. Augustine, Fla.
Texas’ first Thanksgiving claim doesn’t go back quite that far, but close.
In spring of 1598, Juan de Oñate led more than 400 men, women and children almost 400 miles across the Chihuahuan Desert to claim the northern Rio Grande Valley for Spain. On the final days of the trip, the travelers ran out of food and water, so when they finally reached the Rio Grande, there was cause for much celebration.
After spending 10 days in the shade of the cottonwood trees along the river recuperating, Oñate ordered a day of thanksgiving that featured a mass, a reading of La Toma, which declared the land a possession of King Philip II of Spain, and a great meal, with duck and geese that the Spaniards had hunted and fish from the native population.
“We built a great bonfire and roasted the meat and fish, and then all sat down to a repast the like of which we had never enjoyed before,” a member of the expedition wrote. “We were happy that our trials were over; as happy as were the passengers in the Ark when they saw the dove returning with the olive branch in his beak, bringing tidings that the deluge had subsided.”
Every year, on the fourth Saturday in April, people in San Elizario, the small town outside ElPaso where Oñate’s meal took place, mark the occasion with a re-enactment and speakers talking about the importance of the event, says Eloisa Levario, who runs the Los Portales museum in San Elizario that features an exhibit on the first Texas Thanksgiving.
Few in San Elizario go so far as to re-create the meal itself, but Levario says it’s important to keep the Oñate story alive. “We celebrate the regular pilgrims’ Thanksgiving, ” she says. But the first Thanksgiving event “brings in a lot of folks and it takes them back to the era of what it would have been like if they had been there.”
Gov. Ann Richards thrust the Texas Thanksgiving into the national spotlight 20 years ago when she signed a proclamation declaring Texas as the home of the first true Thanksgiving, which triggered an lively but mostly good-natured back-and-forth between promoters of both the Massachusetts Thanksgiving and the Texas one.
Dressed as conquistadors, members of the ElPaso Mission Trail Association traveled to Plymouth, Mass., in November 1992 to debate a group of people dressed as Pilgrims over who held the first Thanksgiving. According to news reports of the exchanges, the Plymouth County sheriff “arrested” the Texans on charges of “blasphemy and spreading false rumors” and held a mock trial.
The next year, a group of Massachusetts residents dressed as Pilgrims and traveled to ElPaso and San Elizario, where they were (fake) arrested, charged with spying, thrown in jail and threatened with hanging.
Elizabeth Engelhardt, professor of American history at the University of Texas, says it’s no surprise that there’s an emotional backlash against long-held cultural traditions. “People just really want to figure out what was the first, ” she says. “But for me, it’s not so much about which one of those stories is true, but what are you telling me about yourself when you care about those stories.”
Thanksgiving is such an intimate holiday, she says, that telling and retelling stories, especially of where our Thanksgiving traditions come from, are as important as the meal. “Memory is so much a part of it, ” she says, and history – the whole spectrum of historical record, both what actually happened and the history that the winners chose to record – is nothing if not a collection of memories. (It’s also worth noting that what we chose to forget says much about us, too. We like to remember the spirit of sharing and common good celebrated at these meals between conquerors and the soon-to-be-conquered, but it’s less comfortable to acknowledge the hundreds of years of violent strife throughout the country that followed.)
“There was always a certain amount of tongue and cheek involved, ” says food writer (and former Austinite) Robb Walsh, who wrote about Texas’ first Thanksgiving in his 2004 book, “The Tex-Mex Cookbook, ” of Richards’ proclamation and the subsequent exchanges between Texans and Bay Staters.
Most of the rest of the country learns the New England version of American history, which greatly overlooks the colonization that happened in the South and Southwest before the American Revolution, but “Texans look at their history from a Texas point of view, ” he says. “To say that American history started with the Pilgrim, what sense does that make?”
Even the most vocal advocates of Texas’ first Thanksgiving acknowledge that Thanksgiving as we know it is an extension of the Pilgrim tradition, but too often, we let cultural traditions like turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce alter how we think of American history. “Just so we don’t get too full of the idea that the Pilgrims started America, ” Walsh says. “It’s good to remember that other people were giving thanks before them.”
So how does he celebrate the Texas Thanksgiving? By stuffing his Pilgrim Thanksgiving turkey with tamales.