Cooking For A Crowd; Sandwiches for Super Bowl Sunday

January 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Sandwiches | 36 Comments
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I had really big cooking plans for this weekend…and I mean really big. (You’ve got to fold your arms high across your chest and say that last “really big” in your best Ed Sullivan voice.)

My post for the Chef Paul Sliders had me in the mood for more Cajun. I bookmarked a Red Beans and Rice recipe which was to slow cook for hours with ham hocks and andouille sausage in an array of brightly seasoned Cajun spices. Spooned over some hot steaming white rice the whole thing was then to be slathered in some Brown Cajun Gravy. Oh but wait…there’s more. Sunday morning leftovers were to be used for Eggs Basin Street. Milk and flour were to be added to the leftover rice and molded into cakes and fried. The rice cakes were to be topped with a scoop of the leftover red beans and a poached egg and the whole thing drizzled with a Cajun béarnaise sauce. Now doesn’t that sound wonderful?

My plans were foiled Friday evening when I ended up with a stomach bug. Even the sound of Hubs clanging dishes around in the kitchen sent me grabbing for pillows to cover my ears. I even ordered all cooking magazines, gleaming with their beautiful glossy food photos, out of my sight. Saturday night a bowl of clear beef broth tasted wonderful and I could have cared less about Chef Paul and his “feast”.

So, with all that said, let’s take a look at a platter of sandwiches I made a couple of months back for a potluck event. Easy and so packed with flavor you might want to consider them for next weekend’s food event. Not really a recipe, let’s take a look:

Pita Roll-Ups:

  • 1 package of pocketless pitas
  • 1 package Boursin Cheese
  • 1 pound Mortadella
  • 1 pound Pastrami or any of your favorite deli meat
  • Tarragon
  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Pepperoncini

Lay out your pita rounds and spread on a good layer of the Boursin cheese. Top with a few nice layers of the deli meats. Sprinkle on some basil, tarragon and chives. Add a layer of thin-sliced radishes and slivered sun-dried tomatoes. Roll them up. Slice them in half on the diagonal. Secure each half with a toothpick which has been speared with a small pepporncini. Tasty.

As you can see, it’s not really a recipe. It is flexible enough to be easy to match your own tastes. By using a different brand of flavored spreadable cheese, different sandwich meat and spices and you can make this your own.

Pita Roll-Ups…It’s What Could be for Super Bowl.

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Sean’s Chocolate Chile Cupcakes

January 24, 2011 at 6:43 am | Posted in dessert | 48 Comments
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Last weekend we were invited over to son Sean and daughter-in-law Stacey’s house for lunch.

For Christmas we gave them a bright red KitchenAid stand mixer so after a tasty lunch of Pepita Spinach Salad…

and a bowl of Rick Bayless Tortilla Soup…

Sean whipped up a great little cupcake creation.  Let’s take a look.

What makes these cupcakes special is that Sean dry pan roasted a dried New Mexico chile pod, then crushed it into flakes. He sprinkled flakes into the chocolate batter before baking and then also sprinkled the flakes over the cream cheese frosting before serving. Topped with a slice of pickled jalapeno and you’ve got a flirtatious combination of chocolate and heat. We loved it! 

Moist, spicy and delicious, these cupcakes were a hit with us. He followed a cupcake recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and a cream cheese frosting recipe from Ina’s new cookbook. And believe me, that New Mexico chile pod packed a wallop of heat that made that creamy chocolate flavor stand up and salute! As far as I’m concerned this officially earns Sean the designation of an original recipe creation and its own name. 

Sean’s Chile Chocolate Cupcakes…It’s What’s For Dessert.

Feeding A Crowd; Cajun Meatloaf Sliders for the Super Bowl

January 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Sandwiches | 43 Comments
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Whether you’re traveling or hosting a party at home, here are some more food ideas for the upcoming event. Throw in your rowdy friends, lots of cold beer, a good football game, funny commercials and a halftime extravaganza show and you’ve got a good Super Bowl Party. 

Speaking of halftime extravaganzas, remember when Diana Ross entered the stadium dangling from the bottom rung of a helicopter ladder? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

On a more positive note..remember when Paul McCartney performed the year following the Janet Jackson fiasco with the memorable “Hey Jude” sing along? Remember when Prince performed Purple Rain in the rain and the guitar shadow was noticably on the phallic side? The Rolling Stones performed for the first time in television delay mode because the network feared “you never know what they might pull“.  ??? 

What’s your favorite halftime extravaganza memorable moment?

Super Bowl is always a great excuse for a food event. Too bad the Saints aren’t in this year, but we can still serve up some Cajun just in case the Black Eyed Peas offer up a halftime moment.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Meatloaf recipe. I’ve been making it and savoring it for years. It’s a wonderful combination of bold spices that come together in a tasty treat for the palate. For a real thrill, you might even try Chef Paul’s Cajun sauce that he recommends you serve over the meatloaf. I’ve prepared the sauce once and I must say it was memorable…in a fire extinguisher sort of way.  But for now, let’s take a look at my cold meatloaf sandwich version.

Last fall, when asked to provide food for a Realtor open house, I put on my thinking cap and since that cap is always preloaded with a slider recipe, decided to make some changes and create a Paul Prudhomme meatloaf slider. 

Following the recipe, I simply baked the meatloaf mixture pressed flat in 9 x 11 casserole pan instead of the meatloaf shape. As you can see, the loaf was about two inches thick. After baking, I let cool to room temperature and went to work to build my little sliders. Cutting the meat into squares that would fit on my favorite Sara Lee Original Rolls, I simply slathered some mayo on the bottom half of the bun and some Cajun mustard on the top. 

The sandwich dressed with a slice of  sweet and spicy flavored Dave’s Famous Signature Spicy Pickle Chips  disappeared quicker than the shot of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. Oh c’mon admit it, how many times did you have to rewind to actually see something?

Served with a big bowl of beautiful Louisiana Sunburst Salad

My standby Best Pasta Salad Ever

A big relish tray complete with pickled asparagus…

Finish with a tray of my mom’s Orange Slice Bars   

Recipes are below or linked.

A Cajun Theme, minus the Saints…It’s What’s For Superbowl.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Meat Loaf, Louisiana Kitchen Cookbook:

Seasoning Mix:

2 Whole bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons Unsalted butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup catsup
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup very fine dry bread crumbs

Very Hot Cajun Sauce for Beef (see below)

Combine the seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in a one quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, tabasco, Worcestershire and seasoning mix. Saute until mixture starts sticking excessively, about six minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom well. Stir in the milk and catsup. Continue cooking for about two minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

Place the ground beef and pork in an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Add the eggs, the cooked vegetable mixture and the bread crumbs, remove the bay leaves. Mix by hand until thoroughly combined. In the center of the pan, shape the mixture into a loaf that is about 1-1/2 inches high, 6 inches wide and 12 inches long. Bake uncovered at 350°F for 25 minutes, then raise heat to 400°F and continue cooking until done, about 35 minutes longer.

Serve immediately as is or with Very Hot Cajun Sauce for Beef.

Very Hot Cajun Sauce For Beef

This sauce is excellent with Cajun Meat Loaf, roast beef, sandwiches hamburgers, post roast and Cajun Shepard’s Pie.

3/4 cup chopped onions

  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/4 chop chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves 1/4 cup minced jalapeno peppers
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 cups Basic Beef Stock

NOTE: Fresh Jalapenos are preferred; if you have to use pickled ones, rinse
as much vinegar from them as possible.

Combine the onions, bell peppers and celery in a small bowl and set aside while you start the roux. Unlike the roux in most other recipes in this book, the roux we use here is light brown. Therefore, instead of heating the oil to the smoking stage, we heat it to only 250°F; this prevents the roux from getting too brown.

In a heavy two-quart saucepan heat the oil over medium-low heat to about 250°F. With a metal whisk, whisk in the flour a little at a time until smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until roux is light brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Be careful not to let the roux scorch or splash on your skin. Remove from heat and with a spoon immediately stir in the vegetable mixture and the red, white and black peppers; return pan to high heat and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the bay leave, jalapeno peppers and garlic, stirring well. Continue cooking about 2
minutes, stirring constantly. (We’re cooking the seasonings and vegetables in the light roux and the mixture should, therefore, be pasty). Remove from heat.

In a separate two-quart saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add the roux mixture by spoonfuls to the boiling stock, stirring until dissolved between each addition. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce reduces to 3 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Skim any oil from the top and serve immediately.

Feeding A Crowd: Paris Hotel, Mon Ami Gabi Restaurant Cheese And Marinara Appetizer…and a Winner

January 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Appetizers | 32 Comments
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First the recipe. I got this from a coworker, Beth, who dined at the bistro-style restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi, at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. She ordered this appetizer off the menu, loved it so much that she begged, pleaded and threatened the server until he gave up the recipe. And speaking of Beth and before we get to this recipe, Beth Avedis is also an extremely talented singer and artist.  Take a look at her website http://www.bethavedis.com/biography.html

I’ve served this twice now. Once on New Year’s Day over at Greg and Cauleen’s house, and the other night for our monthly gathering which we’ve named Wine Time. Both offerings turned out to be wildly popular.  This photo was taken before it was baked and staged with a couple of Carr Water Crackers. I transported this dish to Cauleen’s and baked it there, then served with crackers lining the rim of the pasta bowl.

This photo is from the second time I prepared it. It’s been baked and as you can see, I’ve added a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper and served it with sliced french bread. I don’t know what kind of crackers the restaurant used, but I have to admit, I liked the offering of French bread better than the water crackers.

Beth’s Mon Ami Gabi Cheese and Marinara Appetizer

  • 1 package herbed Boursin Cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces peppered goat cheese
  • Marinara sauce

Let the cheeses come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, mix all cheeses together and form into a ball. Slather the marinara sauce in an ovenproof shallow pasta bowl. Place the ball of cheese in the middle. Bake until bubbly.  About twenty minutes.  Serve hot with crackers or bread.

AND THE WINNER of my Sticky Brand Sauce give away is Chris over at Nibble Me This

“Well you just KNOW my choice would be the Ghost Pepper BBQ sauce, right? I can imagine how scorching hot that is, I remember watching Adam Richman sweating bullets after eating something with Jolokia Bhuta in it.”

Congratulations Chris and I’ll get those sauces into your sticky hands as soon as I have your mailing address.  Thanks to all who participated.

Beth’s Cheese And Marinara Appetizer…It’s What’s For Superbowl.

The Fort Restaurant’s Pickled Jalapenos Stuffed with Peanut Butter

January 15, 2011 at 9:31 am | Posted in Appetizers | 38 Comments
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I pickled my own jalapenos…..

So I could make The Fort Restaurant’s Pickled Jalapenos Stuffed with Peanut Butter appetizer recipe.

Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk a little about the restaurant. The Fort Restaurant is a Denver landmark full of western culture, history, charm and western food. Do Rattlesnake, Quail Eggs Wrapped in Buffalo Sausage, Rocky Mountain Oysters and Bone Marrow get your attention?

For as long as I’ve lived here, (30 years) it’s been “the place” to take out-of-town guests for a taste of the Wild West. With its unique menu items and servers dressed like Kit Carson, The Fort reflects the years when trappers, settlers and Army explorers first traveled the Santa Fe Trail to our region.

It all began in 1961 when amateur historians Bay and Sam Arnold set out to build an adobe style home in the country west of Denver. They modeled the home after  Bent’s Fort which is  located in southeast Colorado which was built in 1833 and was famous as a fur trade destination.

Hiring a top Santa Fe architect and a contractor from Taos 22 men puddled over 80,000 mud and straw bricks, weighing 40 pounds each, to construct the main building. When the costs of construction exceeded the budget, the bank suggested a business be placed in the “fort”.  Sam turned to Bay and said, “You can cook!” and then she said to Sam, “Well, you can cook!” and The Fort Restaurant was born. Throw in the adoption of a Canadian black bear cub named “Sissy” who became a family pet and who was taught to belly up to the bar and drink with patrons, and the rest is history. The Fort has had its share of famous visitors, President Clinton hosted a G8 Summit Dinner there and Julia Child’s favorite dish was the Buffalo Tongue.

Both the Arnold’s have now passed on and their daughter Holly runs the restaurant. She has recently published a cookbook “Shinin’ Times at The Fort”. It’s a beautiful book full of house recipes, stories, celebrations and history about the restaurant. 

Sam Arnold got this appetizer recipe from Lucy Delgado who was a well-known New Mexican cook in the 1960’s. Sam thought they sounded “stranger than five-legged buffalo”, but gave them a try. He served them to Bryant Gumbel on NBC’s  Today Show. Gumbel couldn’t stop eating them. Arnold added them to the The Fort menu where they have been a mainstay appetizer since.

Let’s take a look.

Following the recipe from the cookbook, pickling jalapenos was an extremely easy task:

Fort-style Pickled Jalapenos:

  • 1 pound medium size fresh jalapenos (12 – 16)
  • 3 1/2 C. cider vinegar
  • 1 3/4 C. water
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 1/2 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. pickling spice
  • 3/4 C. coarsely chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 c. coarsely chopped carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, whole

Rinse the jalapenos and trim off the woody end from the stems. In a 4 – 6 quart stainless steel or enameled pot, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, sesame oil and pickling spice. Add the jalapenos, onion, carrot, and garlic. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat.

While still hot, transfer the jalapenos and pickling juice to a sterilized 2 – 3 quart canning  jar or other glass container. Cover tightly with lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one week before using.

Making the Pickled Jalapenos Stuffed With Peanut Butter was even easier:

  • 1/4 C. peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 2 T. Mango Chutney

Slice the pickled jalapenos in half lengthwise not quite all the way through, leaving the two halves attached at the stem end. Using a knife or spoon, remove and discard the seeds and ribs. In a small mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter chutney. Stuff the chiles with the peanut butter mixture and press the halves back together. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Now, there are rules to eating this appetizer.  Be sure to warn guests to put the whole chili (except the stem) in the mouth before chewing, to get 70 percent  peanut butter and 30 percent jalapeno.  A nibbler squeezes out the peanut butter which changes the percentages and makes it very hot indeed.

I served this at a happy hour gathering and we decided to go the civilized route and slice them.

The jalapenos stuffed with peanut butter were served alongside the snack-sized bag of Cheetos that Dan brought, which were quickly transferred to a cut glass serving bowl to avoid a party foul, the delicious hummus and vegetables that Teri brought and my cheese marinara dish.  I thought they made an excellent, tasty and conversation piece appetizer. Throw in a couple bottles of wonderful wine and a lively arguement discussion on our favorite fast food joints and fare; tacos, fries and Bic Macs… and you’ve got a great little party.  Be brave and consider bringing these to your upcoming Super Bowl gathering.

Pickled Jalapenos Stuffed With Peanut Butter….It’s What’s For An Appetizer!

Holy Jolokia! This Is a Great Shrimp Appetizer Recipe…..And a Give-Away

January 7, 2011 at 7:37 am | Posted in Appetizers, Seafood | 42 Comments
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No…no…no…Hub’s camera, I said I wanted the background blurred, not the foreground. I swear, these cameras have a mind of their own!

This is a delicious appetizer, a riff on a Buffalo Chicken Wing recipe. It comes together in a snap and I could have eaten about two dozen.

The shrimp are breaded in a cayenne and  flour breading, sautéed in a Buffalo-style butter and hot wing sauce combo, then stand tall in blue cheese dressing. Served alongside a battalion of cool crunchy celery… this dish equals a delicious bite after bite of hot..crunch..cool..blue cheesy delight. But first let’s talk about the Hot Wing Sauce I used in this recipe. A sauce that’s made from the Hottest Pepper In The World!

Sticky Brand Sauces is a local Colorado company that makes some very tasty Chicken Wing and BBQ Sauces.  And I mean TASTY. Curiosity got the best of me when, at a product demonstration at Tony’s Market, a company representative told me about their highly flavorful hot wing sauce made from the mysterious Jolokia pepper (also called the Ghost Pepper). From India, he added, “It’s the hottest pepper in the world”.

Of course I bought some. How could I resist the triple-dog-dare nuance. It’s interesting to taste this sauce straight from the bottle. When it first hit my tongue I went into survival mode. With watering eyes, short of breath and the kitchen sink in sight, I ran for the phone in case I needed to call 911,  but almost immediately, and to my pleasant surprise, the heat faded into a warm peppery tingle. A pleasant flavorful pepper flavor followed. I wanted to do it all over again. Like a fine wine, it had a long long finish…in a barbed-wire sort of way.

Am I glad I bought it? Yes! And going forward I knew I would use this sauce with delightful caution and would no longer be afraid of well-crafted hot pepper sauces.

So here’s the fun part. Rob over at Sticky Brand Sauces has agreed to give one lucky winner a bottle of this very special Ghost Pepper Sauce along with a bottle of the sauce of your choice. Simple rules. Just head over to the Sticky Brand Sauce website and take a look around. Choose  one other sauce besides the Jolokia Sauce that you’d like to receive.  Leave that selection in the comment section of my blog.  That’s right the winner will get two bottles…a bottle of  Holy Jolokia and the bottle of your choice.  Sticky Brand Sauces.  So head on over and Pick Your Sticky.

Winner will be selected randomly and deadline for this contest is January 16

Easy Enough?  Fair enough?  Any questions?  Thanks Rob over at Sticky Brand Sauces.  Now let’s take a look at this great recipe.

Holy Jolokia Buffalo Shrimp (adapted from Food.com)

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 ounces Maytag blue cheese (about 1 cup crumbled)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 dozen large shrimp shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sticky Brand Sauce Holy Jolokia Wing Sauce (or your favorite wing sauce) 

In a bowl, combine first six ingredients to make blue cheese dip. Cover and refrigerate. 

In a shallow bowl, combine flour salt and cayenne pepper. Pat shrimp dry and toss in the flour mixture, coating well. In a large skillet heat oil, butter and 1 – 2 teaspoons hot sauce. Amount depends on how much heat and flavor you want. Add shrimp and cook about 4-5 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Pour a little of the sauce over the shrimp while browning.

Place dollops of the blue cheese dressing on a platter. Stand a piece of shrimp in each dollop and serve with celery sticks.

Adding a little bit at a time and tasting as I went, I used probably just over one teaspoon of this very hot sauce and it seemed to deliver the perfect flavor and heat. Showy and delicious with great flavors, I will make this appetizer over and over. 

Holy Jolokia! Buffalo Shrimp…It’s What’s for a Delicious Appetizer.

The Best Classic Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

January 3, 2011 at 7:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 44 Comments
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One of my New Year’s Resolutions, along with perfecting a good red chili sauce, is to learn to make bread. Dave over at Year On The Grill is pounding his head against the wall right now over that statement because he’s taken so much time to send me detailed instructions and words of encouragement time and again…and that was over a year ago.  Well Dave, it’s in writing now…there’s no backing out.

While Christmas shopping at Sur La Table, I walked past this box and I swear I heard Angels sing. I love English Muffins and I’m an Eggs Benedict freak so you can imagine how quickly this ended up in my basket.

I mean look at it! The rings appear to be floating on heavenly clouds and they’re urging me to make my own and they’ll be fresh and scrumptious.  Recipes on back? …I’m in.

Being doughaphobic, I  have to admit I’m pretty proud of these.  Even though they’re not perfect, if you look close enough you might see a couple Thomas-worthy nooks and crannies. After I made these, I headed over to the King Arthur web site and will try one of their recipes next. I’m a little confused. The dough on these was incredibly sticky and I’ve read a couple of places that the stickiness is what makes the nooks and crannies. Any experts out there?

They were quickly made into Eggs Benedict for Sunday breakfast.

Speaking of being in Heaven, look at that runny poached egg…yum. And the Hollandaise sauce is a new recipe for me and I love it…butter laden and all. The best part about this sauce besides the perfect flavor is that you  use the double boiler method…as soon as you take the sauce off the water you can turn up the heat, add some vinegar and poach those eggs.  Everything comes together nicely.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce (my apologies, I didn’t indicate in my database where this recipe came from, so can’t give credit where credit is due..but thanks to whomever)

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs boiling water
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

1. Melt the butter and keep it warm. Heat the lemon juice until just warmed. Have small saucepan with boiling water and a measuring spoon ready.

2. Place the top of a double boiler, or a medium bowl, over hot water. Place egg yolks in the double boiler and whisk until they begin to thicken. Add one tablespoon boiling water. Continue to beat the sauce until it begins to thicken. Repeat with the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time, whisking the mixture after each addition. Keep the heat low enough so the eggs don’t begin to scramble. Remove the double boiler from the heat.

3. Whisk in the warmed lemon juice. Beat the sauce like crazy with a wire whisk as you slowly pour in the melted butter. Add the salt and cayenne and beat until sauce is thick. Serve immediately.

4. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in hot water, one tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. If the sauce begins to separate you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream and beat with a whisk until it is smooth again.

5. Serve this decadently rich sauce over vegetables, fish or Eggs Benedict. It takes only minutes to make and is more than worth all the frantic mixing. I like to pile asparagus spears on a slice of toasted bread (I might even add a very thin slice of ham) and spoon some of this luscious, lemony sauce over the top. What could possibly be more delicious than that!

Eggs Benedict with the Perfect Hollandaise Sauce and Homemade English Muffins…It’s What’s for Sunday Brunch.

Delicious Ham and Scalloped Potato Recipe

January 2, 2011 at 8:20 am | Posted in pork, Potatoes | 32 Comments
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First of all, I refuse to have dinner on the table at 3:30 in the afternoon just so I have good light for my blog photos. That’s right, with 14,000 foot Mt. Evans as a back drop in our Western sky, we start losing light at 4:30 during our Winter months. 

So, I’ve dug out Hub’s (bigger, more cumbersome, neck strapped, has lots of settings, you have to know about apertures and shutter speeds, more complicated, standard grey colored, makes a cool shutter noise when it takes a photo)  better camera.  

I love my little scratched up Canon point and shoot, which I ordered in a color to match by blog…bless it’s little wrist-strapped heart.  But I have to admit, it doesn’t perform well for me in dim light. In addition, my kitchen is well…my kitchen, and I haven’t designated a corner to be a mini photo studio with any special lights or backdrops. 

So, that’s why so many blog photos look better than mine and that’s why I’m trying out a better camera over the winter months. My first subject, turned out his lame Scalloped Potato photo, so I think I better get out the owner’s manual and study up. HORrible photo. And it was the best one out of six…can  you imagine the others?

Second of all, I would like to admit that I’ve been watching Oprah during all of these holiday vacation days. I didn’t realize that Oprah had so many AH HA moments. With all that said, about ten years ago I had an AH HA moment regarding Ham and Scalloped Potatoes. I said to myself “AH HA, I bet Ham and Scalloped Potatoes could actually be made without using a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup”. 

You’d probably have to work pretty hard to screw up Ham and Scalloped Potatoes experiments and after a few delicious batches, I came up with a perfect (for us) creamy consistency and the recipe is now a permanent fixture in my database.  Nothing special, but I do like my addition of thyme. And after my first experiment I did remove the finely chopped fresh mushrooms. Not necessary, I decided. 

Ham and Scalloped potatoes are so good that I wonder why I reserve it for a once a year event to use up my holiday ham. Let’s take a look.

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes:

6 T. unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 t. dried parsley
1  t.  thyme
3 C. milk (I usually use 2%)
6-8 potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 C. cooked and chopped ham
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

In a saucepan melt the butter and add chopped onion. Saute until onion is tender. Add in the flour and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring constantly until well blended and smooth.

Add parsley and thyme and stir until also well blended. To the bubbly mixture gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Let bubble until thickened. That’s about five minutes. At this point I gently salt and pepper.  The ham can add enough salt, so be careful.

In a greased cassarole dish, layer 1/2 of the potatoes ham and onion.  Pour some sauce over the first layer and then top with the remaining potatoes, ham and onion and drizzle on the remaining sauce.

Cover and bake at 375 for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how thick cut your potatoes are. I used a thin setting on the mandolin, so my casserole was ready to go in just over an hour. Turn off the heat and let the casserole rest for about 15 minutes in the hot oven to let it set up.  Two servings.  HA…it’s so good we could have eaten the whole thing in one setting, but it’s probably about 6 – 8 servings.

Happy New Year! 

Cream of  Mushroom Soupless Ham and Scalloped Potatoes…It’s What’s For Dinner!

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