Thursday, December 29, 2011

Leftover Christmas Ham, Day 3: Quiche

Quiche, quiche, beautiful quiche, how I've missed you!

I was just going to double up my recipe for Spinach-Bacon Quiche (with leftover Christmas Ham instead of bacon, of course!), but I only had enough spinach for one quiche. However, I also had a beautiful bunch of red chard that I just purchased as a new member of PCC Natural Markets, so why not combine both into something even more flavorful?

Christmas Ham Quiche with Spinach and Chard
Makes 2 quiches
1 stick butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch ribbons
1 bunch green onions, chopped
10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry with cheesecloth or paper towels
8 eggs
3 3/4 cups whole milk
3 cups grated Gruyere
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Paprika, for garnish

Melt butter in a large pan. Add garlic, stir around until it starts to smell, about 30 second, then add chard and saute for a couple of minutes, until it begins to wilt. Add the green onions and continue stirring until the liquid starts to evaporate, another couple of minutes. Add the spinach and stir until well combined, for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in the milk, Gruyere, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare crusts for two quiches. Add spinach-chard mixture to the egg-milk mixture and combine well. Pour the mixture evenly into each of the crusts. Top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, until you shake it and it doesn't jiggle.

Serve with a salad if you're healthy, or potato wedges fried in bacon grease if you're not!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Leftover Christmas Ham, Day 2: Mac-n-Cheese

Now this is the dish we've been waiting for: Connie's Mac-n-Cheese, spiked with leftover Christmas ham, peas and sprinkled with goat cheese.

I asked Bryan to make it because his just always turns out better. It's so good, in fact, that our friend Leslie gave him a shoutout on her Seattle Weekly "Wino" blog after he cooked her up a batch while she was laid up with a broken shoulder.

We used whole milk to make this creamy deliciousness even more creamy, and for added flavor mixed in a bit of asiago with the cheddar, in addition to the goat cheese that contributed to the crispy topping.

And not to worry, Mom, heeding your wisdom on eating soup before a meal, I whipped up a pot of Stracciatella Soup to help keep our passageways from turning into cheese.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Prime Rib, hot off the rotisserie!

Although Bryan and I spent Christmas Eve alone, we headed to Mom and Charlie's for Christmas Day, where we were greeted by the scent of a prime rib slowly roasting in Mom's rotisserie.

In the past, the rotisserie has "lived" outside, next to the barbecue, which has left much more to the imagination for the olfactory glands. Moving the rotisserie indoors was a welcome surprise on the stormy day that sent us rushing over to Mom's after our power had gone out.

But the prime rib was just the beginning of our Christmas scentsasion!

After I burned my tongue on the baby bok choy Mom told me to try, which convinced her I didn't know how to cook because I should have known it was too hot to put in my mouth, she made me help her make the Brussels sprouts.

Similar to the Brussels sprouts I had made for our own Christmas Eve feast, Mom had parboiled these for 5 minutes, then sliced them in halves or quarters. But instead of roasting hers, we first cooked up two slices of bacon, then added a shallot, then the Brussels sprouts for a quick stir-fry. They were equally delicious, even if Mom thought they were too greasy from the bacon. More for us to take home, woo-hoo!

Mom rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes, gravy and beets, giving it just enough traditional fare to keep it in the Christmas family, but still keeping it Mom style with her version of healthy Chinese cooking.

Honestly, who wouldn't want bok choy as part of their Christmas meal? Thanks Mom, for always being unpredictable!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Leftover Christmas Ham, Day 1: Scrambled Eggs

It's Christmas Day, and we're already digging into our leftover Christmas Ham!

Although we're heading over to Mom's later today for a prime rib dinner, I decided a healthy meal of oatmeal just wasn't going to cut it when we have pounds and pounds of leftover ham calling out to us.

Mom asked me to bring over pretzels, my only contribution to our Christmas feast, so I got up early to get the dough started, then got cooking on the following Christmas Ham Scramble, served with Stephen's roasted potatoes:

Christmas Ham Scramble
1/2 cup ham, cut in small pieces
2 green onions, sliced
1 T. bacon grease or butter
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. Cougar Gold, grated

Saute ham and white parts of green onion in a large skillet until heated through. Remove and set aside, then place bacon grease or butter in same skillet and add eggs. Scramble until about halfway cooked, then add ham and green onions back to the skillet and fold together to incorporate. After eggs are cooked as desired, place onto serving plates, then top with Cougar Gold or any other cheese of your choice. Place in the oven to melt the cheese before serving, if desired.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 pounds of Christmas ham (for 2!)

For holiday meals in the past, I've purchased a small ham for just Bryan and me, thinking a bigger one would just be excessive for anything less than a large family. But we've since discovered how much we love having leftover ham for myriad dishes, including quiche and mac-n-cheese, so this time I went ahead and purchased a 12-pound ham for just the two of us.

This also meant I had to give the side dishes some thought, since normally I'd just serve savory mac-n-cheese or quiche with a honeyed-up ham. But since those dishes will definitely be appearing on our table later this week, starring said leftover ham, it was time to hit my ridiculous stack of cooking magazines for some inspiration.

Baked Spinach and Gruyere was a first choice, but besides the fact it was too similar to quiche, I had just purchased a bottle of white truffle oil that was calling out for potatoes and mushrooms. The solution?: Potato Gratin with Mushrooms and Gruyere from Bon Appetit's November 2010 issue.

For the mushrooms, I used a combination of fresh king oyster and shitake mushrooms purchased during my first outing to Seafood City (which, as a lover of Asian fruits and vegetables, I'm afraid to say did not impress me as much as other area Asian stores). And although I didn't actually cook with the truffle oil in order to preserve its flavor, Bryan and I both enjoyed drizzling just a bit over the potatoes.

Served with Brussels sprouts that I parboiled for 5 minutes, then sliced in half and roasted for another 5 minutes, it was a Christmas Eve dinner I'll never forget (it's quite possible the 2007 Pedestal Merlot - the most expensive bottle of wine Bryan and I have ever purchased - might have played a role!).

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mom's White Papaya Soup for the Soul

I know I said my Twice-Baked Potatoes are worthy of a meal on their own, but, well, we're pigs. Or maybe we just prefer flavor explosions. Needless to say, I actually paired last night's Twice-Baked Potatoes with a plethora of dishes, including the last two leftover pieces of Lemon Chicken from Greg Atkins' "West Coast Cooking," collard greens with bacon and garlic (prepared like Sauteed Kale), and a first attempt at making one of Mom's amazing soups.

Stephen has been bugging me for months, possibly years, to finally share some of Mom's Chinese soups here, but after last night's attempt I'm reminded of why I've been hesitant to go there. As with everything Mom makes, she does not use a recipe for her soups, but rather just uses what she has, much of which I wouldn't even recognize if I saw it in a store.

Luckily, she dumbed this one down for me, because the only ingredient that really matters in her White Papaya Soup is the white papaya, which gives the broth a sweet and smoky flavor. Every time Mom serves this soup, its additional ingredients vary, from Chinese mushrooms and crunchy Chinese peanuts that add nutty deliciousness to many of her soups, to tofu cut in chunks and oozing with the soup's flavor or a chewy bean curd.

However, in addition to the optional ingredients being a bit difficult to locate, finding the main ingredient for this soup isn't so easy either. I've only ever seen white papaya at Asian stores, and even with the photo at right, I'm not 100 percent sure I could find it again, unless by some small miracle the produce is correctly marked in English!

Like your typical, orange-fleshed papaya, white papaya also aids digestion, and Mom serves it or some other vegetable soup every day before dinner to help get the digestion process going. It probably has something to do with the whole yin-yang cycle, but to Mom, it's just common sense to start the meal with a belly-warming soup.

White Papaya Soup
1 white papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups chicken broth

Add papaya chunks and carrots to chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender and broth has sweetened from the papaya. Add salt to taste before serving.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Twice-Baked Potato Season

There's something about foggy days and being surrounded by sick people that just create a craving for Twice-Baked Potatoes, an ultimate comfort food that is worthy of a meal on its own.

(Not that we would dare eat only one dish during a meal, but I'll share more on that later!)

Twice-Baked Potatoes
2 large Russet potatoes
1 small head broccoli
sprinkling of garlic salt
2-3 T. butter
about 1/2 cup sour cream, more to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3-4 green onions, sliced
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
3 slices bacon, chopped and cooked (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place potatoes right on the rack for about 45 minutes to an hour, until they start to soften. Then poke them all over with a fork to keep them from exploding. Bake for another 15 minutes to 30 minutes, until skin begins to wrinkle.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a microwave-safe container with a couple of tablespoons of water and a sprinkling of garlic salt. Cover and microwave for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes so broccoli is still firm but slightly cooked.

When potatoes are cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Cut a slit in the top, then carefully scrape out the flesh into a large bowl. Mash the potatoes with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. Add more sour cream if needed to create the right consistency.

Stir in broccoli, green onions and about two-thirds of the cheddar cheese, then carefully spoon mixture back into the potato skins. Top with bacon, if using, and cheese. Return to oven and back for 20-30 minutes. To brown up the cheese, turn on broiler for last 5 minutes or so.