Saturday night – 03/28/2015

Another week without a vegetarian led to something a little different.

Menu
Lasagna Bolognese, Simplified
Steamed Green Beans and Peppers
Homemade bread

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Butter frosting

Notes under the cut

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Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup

When we enjoy baked ham I typically turn the bone over to my mom who turns it into tasty split pea soup. I figured I’d return the favor this time around, picked up a package of green split peas and followed the basic recipe on the back of the package. I omitted the “ham-flavor seasoning package” included with the dried peas in favor of actual ham.
[Split Pea Soup]
I added the ham in two phases, some while cooking and the bulk after cooking. The pressure cooker will draw every bit of flavor from the ham; the second addition ensures that some of the ham you eat will actually taste as it should.

Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 lg (or 2 sm) cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 lbs. cooked ham, cut into 1/2″ pieces, divided
  • 8 cups water or ham stock
  • the bone from a baked ham (optional but so worth it)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Special equipment:

  • pressure cooker

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in the pressure cooker. Add all the fresh veggies, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and stir to coat with oil. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the garlic, stir into the rest of the veggies and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the split peas, 1/2 lb. of ham and the water/stock. Stir once or twice two mix things up. Add the ham bone. Bring to a boil.
  4. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and lock. Bring up to pressure until steam is being released. Lower the heat to maintain pressure; a small hiss of steam should still escape the cooker.
  5. Cook for 20 minutes. Use the quick release to dump the pressure built up in the cooker.
  6. Use tongs to remove the bones from the pot. The bulk of the peas have probably settled on the bottom of the pot. Stir well until your spoon no longer brings up clumps of pea puree. Stir in the remaining ham and allow to sit for 10 minute.
  7. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired. I like mine with lots of freshly ground black pepper. A bit of olive oil would be nice too.

Notes:
As an experiment I cooked the ham bone in 16 cups of water on low in my slower cooker for 9 hours while I was at work. It yielded a very weak stock. I used it to make the soup however I’ll probably just use water next time.

This soup will thicken while it sits. When I transferred the leftovers to a container it was basically a blob. Worry not; add a bit of water, reheat and it will be lovely soup again.

Baked Ham

Baked ham can be delicious. Unfortunately it often comes out dry. I came across a technique in Cook’s Illustrated a few years ago and it has held up across multiple testings. It makes use of an oven bag, you should be able to find them with the foils and plastic wrap in your local mega-mart.

Bake Ham
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 90 minutes
Total time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 bone-in ham, preferably shank, 8-10 lbs.

Special Equipment:

  • 1 container large enough to hold the ham (I use a stock pot)
  • 1 large oven bag

Directions:

  1. Place the ham, still wrapped in factory plastic, in the large container of your choice. Fill the container with hot tap water until you cover the ham. Cover and rest for 90 minutes. Drain water and repeat for a second 90 minute cycle.
  2. Set an oven rack in the lowest spot in your oven, removing any other racks. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  3. Drain water, transfer ham to a cutting board and remove the plastic wrapping. Look for, and remove if present, a plastic disk over the bone on the cut end of the ham.
  4. Trim excess fat, leaving an 1/8″ layer. Transfer the ham to the oven bag, remove excess air and cinch the top with the provided bag tie. Trim any excess plastic above the tie. Place the bag in a 13″x9″ glass baking dish.
  5. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for ~90 minutes, rotating dish every 30 minutes.
  6. Check the temperature of the ham after 90 minutes. If it has reached 100°F. remove from the oven and allow to rest, in the bag. If not then continue to cook.
  7. Allow to rest 15 minutes before carving.

Notes:
I go back and forth on whether a spiral cut ham works as well as non-precut ham. Spiral is convenient and provides a more picturesque result. Personally I like thicker pieces of ham than you get with a non-precut ham though.

Family tradition states that ham is served with a glaze/sauce made from brown sugar, yellow mustard and a small amount of pineapple juice. I find the ham tasty enough without the excess sweetness.

Saturday night – 03/14/2015

This week we enjoyed a riff on the standard New England boiled dinner. Well, OK, we had the components of a boiled dinner and the corned beef was, in fact, boiled. The rest of the fixin’s were prepped on the side.

Plus we honored Pi Day with, shocking, pie. Thanks to J and A for the tasty desserts.

Menu
Corned Beef
Potato and Cabbage Casserole
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Irish Soda Bread

Banana Cream pie with caramel drizzle and whipped cream
Pumpkin pie

Notes under the cut

Bread that is not a king cake

A few weeks back my husband Ted, who is in charge of the bread baking in our home, made a delicious braided bread that was flecked with golden raisins and dried sour cherries, with sesame seeds and finishing sugar too. It was a slightly odd addition to the dinner menu however the taste was excellent and, honestly, just look at it.
[bread that is not a king cake]
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Slow-Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup

I love a lazy Sunday however most of them are packed with to-dos and running around. It’s nice to be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes prepping something with the sure knowledge that you’ll have a taste meal at the end of the day.

Slow Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 7 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. country-style pork ribs, excess fat removed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can canned small white beans, undrained
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine broth, fennel, onion, garlic, pork and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, on low, for 6 hours.
  2. Bump the slow cooker up to high. Add the spinach, tomatoes and beans to the cooker. Recover and cook for an hour.
  3. Remove the pork (and bones) from the pot. Chop or shred into smaller pieces and return to the cooker. Add the vinegar, stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as desired.

Notes:
This soup is based on one from Campbell’s. I added a few things to bump up the flavor and reworked the instructions a bit as well.

My frozen spinach didn’t thaw much after 6 hours in the fridge. I took a chance and added the mostly solid spinach brick to the slow cooker. It heated up fine and the soup seemed no worse for wear.