Sunday, March 31, 2013

Buttermilk Potato Gratin

I've only had potato gratin once and it turned me right off - it was soupy. But you know how some things change over time, things you didn't like are enjoyable, things you loved are gross? Maybe that would be the case with potato gratins. Mostly though I selected this one because I had buttermilk to use.

My biggest dilemma was determining whether I needed to buy a 1-quart gratin dish as specified in the original recipe. Instead I used the 9" pie plate, the one that is good for a pie or a tart or maybe a clafoutis. It couldn't have worked out any better.

Buttermilk Potato Gratin
from Cooking Club of America
click to print

1 lb. red-skinned potatoes, peeled
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c whole milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Dash ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp butter

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and sides of 9" pie dish.

Cut potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick slices; place in large saucepan. Add buttermilk, milk, garlic, salt, white pepper, nutmeg and ground red pepper.

Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. (Buttermilk will curdle, but potato starch will thicken and smooth the liquid as it cooks.) Cook 5 minutes.

Pour into gratin dish. Press potatoes into even layer, making sure all potatoes are covered with liquid.

That whole "cover the potatoes with liquid" thing didn't work like it was supposed to but I pressed on.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese; dot with butter.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender. Serve warm.

The potatoes looked absolutely gorgeous! The buttermilk sure is tangy, almost too tangy. Every other bite, I thought I should've made the buttermilk:milk ratio 1:1. Then I'd have a bite with cheese. The cheese is a perfect balance for that tang. The potatoes are perfect - tender but not too much so and wound up a very nice contrast to the rest of my fruity-sweet plate. Unfortunately, while not incredibly soupy, I exactly fond of how wet they were. Moist = good, wet = wet.

Total: $2.65 or about $0.66 for each of four big servings.

Carrots, Parsnips and Plums with Fresh Ginger

I picked this one because it would be easy to prep while the ham is in the oven and fast to finish on the stove-top. While plums don't belong in anything but cake, I thought maybe this would prove me wrong.

Carrots, Parsnips and Plums with Fresh Ginger
from Cooking Club of America
click to print

2 tbsp butter
1/2 lb. carrots (3 medium), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. parsnips (3 medium), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. plums (2 to 3), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 green onions, sliced (1/4 inch)
1/4 c water

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add carrots, parsnips, ginger, salt and pepper; cook 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.

Stir in plums, green onions and water.

Cover and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are just tender, adding additional water if pan seems dry.

Hesitant about the plums, I am glad I tried this. This side dish is drastically different from what I am accustomed to. The plums disintegrated quickly, though, within 5 minutes, which sort of made them a little pasty and it was weird to see the little plum skins just hanging out. The ginger was intriguing and I'd take care not to get too heavy-handed with it. The carrots and parsnips were excellent.

The biggest disappointment with this recipe is that I chose to try it with the Raspberry-Mustard Glazed Ham. There is too much of a battle between sweet-tart of the plums and sweet-sweet of the ham. It's like eating an orange after brushing your teeth.

  • butter: $0.14
  • carrots: $0.30
  • parsnips: $1.36
  • fresh ginger: $0.54
  • plums: $2.35
  • green onions: $0.20
$4.89 or $0.82 for each of 6 tiny servings.

Raspberry-Mustard Glazed Ham with Warm Berry Compote

Spiral-cut ham wasn't specified for this recipe but since it's a matter of heating it through and glazing the ham, it shouldn't much matter. With the majority of the slicing work done, they are a million times easier to serve and I'm all about avoiding mangling my main course.

This recipe was chosen for it's simplicity. After getting started, I saw how much compote there would be and only used half the reserved quantity. The other half-cup of reserved preserves, mustard, and juice mix went down the drain, which is a damn shame since the stuff is kind of expensive. The modified recipe below takes that into consideration; everything but the ham is halved.

Raspberry-Mustard Glazed Ham with Warm Berry Compote
from Cooking Club of America
click to print

1/2 c raspberry preserves
1/4 c Dijon mustard
2 tbsp cranberry-raspberry juice blend
1 (6 ½- to 8½-pound) bone-in half ham
1 c fresh raspberries
1 c fresh blackberries
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Heat oven to 350°F.

Stir preserves, mustard and juice in medium bowl until combined; reserve 1/2 cup for the Compote.

This quantity is per the original recipe. I should've cut this in half as written in the list above. 

Place roasting rack in large shallow roasting pan; place ham on rack. Brush with remaining preserves mixture.

Bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 140°F., brushing with preserves mixture every 20 minutes. Remove ham. Cover loosely with foil; let stand 15 minutes.

Starting at the top and moving left to right: the ham baked 20 minutes and brushed, baked 40 minutes total and brushed, baked 60 minutes total and brushed, baked 80 minutes, ham brushed one final time, and the ham covered with foil.

Meanwhile, place reserved 1/2 cup preserves mixture in large saucepan; add raspberries, blackberries and thyme.

Cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes or until berries are soft and sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve compote over sliced ham.

Ham is sweet anyway, but this raspberry-mustard glaze nearly puts it in the candy category. Top it with the compote and who needs dessert? I'm glad I cut the compote quantity in half. The remaining berries I'd purchased will go to another effort. Even the majority of the compote I did make will be waste. If you have a thing for super sweet pork, you'll want to load up on this stuff - it does taste good. For me though, a little goes a long way.

I do think the compote would be great on sandwiches. Imagine a ham sandwich with compote with an amazing likeness to Monica Geller's Turkey Sandwich (minus the moist-maker).

A little sidetracked, let's talk ham. I wouldn't say it was overcooked but it wasn't quite as juicy as ham should be. Ok, so it was a little overcooked. I'd allowed to cook so long that it started to all apart!

Will I do this same recipe again? Likely not. I'm not sure I'll do an 8.5 lb ham again - it's a lot for one.

TOTAL: $35.94 or about $3.59 for each of 10 servings.

Farmer John Spiral-Sliced Ham

There's a recipe I want to try and it calls for ham. This is the smallest one I could find.

If I didn't have a recipe, I'd probably try this brown sugar glaze recommendation. The ingredients are not completely crazy and it sounds really easy. My glaze packet went into the garbage. I hate to waste, but couldn't see myself ever using it if I saved it.

In case you want to try it, here's the ham label you want to look for. On the backside, there's instructions for the ham as well as the glaze.

I don't know if you'll be able to see the ingredients even if you click the picture, so:
cured with water, sugar, salt, 2% or less of sodium lactate, corn syrup, modified food starch, dextrose, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, flavorings.

When the package is opened, you'll find a bone guard on the bone. I'm pretty sure it's not to protect the bone, but to protect the package from the bone. Regardless, remove it.

And now you can eat it as is, or warm it up. Ham is awesome that way.

Farmer John Spiral-Sliced Ham available in the meat coolers at Ralph's for $2.99/lb. The smallest one at the store came in at 8.39 lbs. That's still a lot of ham.

Kenmore Elite Basting Brush

I was at KMart for a shower curtain. While there, I looked for a basting brush made out of something besides real hair.

The brush I have, a boars bristle brush (similar to this), is fantastic for brushing and basting. But I started using it to apply thin coats of oil to cast iron and I cannot get that brush completely clean to save my life. It's now the cast-iron-oiling brush.

All the brushes were Made in China.

A means to mitigate that circumstance from ever happening again is silicone. Particularly one that says "easy to clean" right on it.

Judging by the spaces between the bristles, it should fit the bill.

Kenmore Elite Silicone/Stainless Steel Basting Brush in the kitchen section of KMart for about $10.

I have not used this brush a whole ton since I bought it. I hate it now. It works fine but it holds water, which is the utmost of grossness. After hand-washing because I don't have a dishwasher, I put it in the dish drainer thing bristle side up so the part I use to touch food isn't sitting in stagnant drain water. Not that there's a ton, but there is some. And then after it's dry, I put it bristle-side up in the tool caddy thing on the counter. When I went to use it the last two times, water poured out. If you look at the last picture above, you can see where the bristles are one plastic piece and it's inserted into the plastic piece that makes up the bottom of the handle. That's where the water gets in and stays. I'm gonna get a new brush, and when I do I'll be inspecting them for water-retention potentials and then select the best of the bunch.