With ham, it’s all about that glaze

Bourbon Orange Glazed Ham. Photo from Randalls.
Bourbon Orange Glazed Ham. Photo from Randalls.

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.

— Adapted from a recipe from Randalls

Three cookbooks worth buying this holiday season

Three cookbooks worth buying this holiday season, plus a recipe for pasta with smoked salmon and spinach from one of them.

If you find yourself at a bookstore this weekend (or maybe putting in that last Amazon Prime order), here are the three cookbooks I think you should consider buying for the foodie in your life.


Smoked salmon with spinach on papardelle. Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.
Smoked salmon with spinach on pappardelle. Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.


Pappardelle with Smoked Salmon and Spinach

practicalpantryThis 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.

— From “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” by Cathy Barrow (W. W. Norton & Company, $35)

Austin360Cooks: Piña Colada Muffins

Tis the season for random baking, right?

Earlier this month, I came across this recipe for piña colada muffins in the new cookbook from QVC mega star David Venable. (Don’t believe me? He sells more cookbooks than Giada.)

I mean, who doesn’t dream of a Caribbean vacation this time of year?

If I make these muffins again, I’ll cut the topping in half and go ahead and make the glaze. (I was suffering from coconut fatigue by the time I got to that step.)

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.

— From “Back Around the Table” by David Venable (Ballantine Books, $30)

Dinner Elf cooking service brings helpers into your kitchen

dinnerelffamilyLike 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.

Austin360 Taste Test: Can vegan cookie dough compare to the real thing?

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).

To view all the videos in this series, go to youtube.com/austin360video.


Austin360Eats: Mettle’s pork confit tacos from @shikhalamode

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.

Recipe of the week: Baked Beet Chips

Peppery dill beets that are baked in the oven. Photo from Lark Books.
Peppery dill beets that are baked in the oven. Photo from Lark Books.

Was 2014 the year you tried kale chips?

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.

But why stop at greens? Chris Bryant published a cookbook this year called “Chips: Reinventing a Favorite Food” (Lark Books, $14.95) that covers everything from traditional potato chips to crisps made out of salami, squash, pears or even tofu.

In this recipe, he uses thinly sliced red or purple beets that are baked between two baking sheets to keep them flat and maintain their color. (Yellow or orange beets will brown unattractively, he reports.) Bryant likes to serve these chips with deviled egg dip — deviled eggs that have been mashed together instead of meticulously filled.

Baked Peppery Dill Beets

To get vibrantly colored chips that are uniformly crunchy, sandwich the beet slices between matching baking sheets for the first 20 minutes of cooking. You can skip this step, turning the chips instead midway through baking, and they’ll still be delicious, but the chips will come out a bit darker and not quite as crunchy.

If you don’t have perfectly matched baking sheets, don’t fret — simply improvise with any pair of pans that can be pressed snuggly together. If you can pull together enough pan sets, go ahead and bake two batches of beet chips at a time.

3 to 4 large red beets, about 1 1/2 to 2 lb.
2 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried dill weed, or 2 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds. Line one of the two matching baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (You can bake more per batch if you have enough pans.)

Prepare the beets by removing the root and stem ends. Cut the beets into even 1/16-inch-thick slices — about as thick as a quarter. A mandoline or food processor will help you make uniform slices.

Transfer the beet slices to a mixing bowl, add the oil, pepper, dill, and salt, and then toss to coat. Arrange the beet slices in a single layer on the baking sheet with their edges just touching. Stack the matching baking sheet on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the top baking sheet. The edges of the chips should look dry. Return the chips to the oven uncovered, turning the baking sheet in the opposite direction. Bake them for another 10 to 20 minutes, checking for doneness. The beets will curl and become lighter in color.

Note: The beet chips become crisper as they cool. If you like, sprinkle the chips with more salt when they come out of the oven. Then transfer them to a wide bowl or tray to cool. Serves 6 as an appetizer.

— From “Chips: Reinventing a Favorite Food” (Lark Books, $14.95) by Chris Bryant

Cranberry salsa can spice up your Thanksgiving dinner

This cranberry salsa will spice up your Thanksgiving dinner. Photo by Kalyn Denny of KalynsKitchen.com.
This cranberry salsa will spice up your Thanksgiving dinner. Photo by Kalyn Denny of KalynsKitchen.com.

If your Thanksgiving guests are surprised to find cranberries in a pecan pie, just wait until you serve them cranberry salsa before the big feast. (I also just found this recipe for cranberry sauce ice cream. Yum!)

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.

— Adapted from a recipe by Kalyn Denny, kalynskitchen.com

From the archives: Was the first Thanksgiving held in Texas?

Each spring, a handful of residents from San Elizario, Texas, outside El Paso, gather dressed as conquistadors and native Americans and feast in remembrance of the 'First Thanksgiving' in Texas, 1565. Photo by Lila and Joe Grossinger.
Each spring, a handful of residents from San Elizario, Texas, outside El Paso, gather dressed as conquistadors and native Americans and feast in remembrance of the ‘First Thanksgiving’ in Texas, 1598. Photo by Lila and Joe Grossinger.

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 El Paso 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 El Paso 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 El Paso 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.

abroyles@statesman.com; 912-2504