Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"The Cramped Quarters Cookbook" & "Soul Food" - Glazed Ham A L'Orange and Macaroni and Cheese (Ham Dinner - part 2)

Date I made these recipes: Easter Sunday (April 8, 2007)

The Cramped Quarters Cookbook – The Art of Dining Elegantly No Matter How Little Space You Have by Bob Reinhart and Dick Woods
Published by: David McKay Company
© 1973
Recipe: Glazed Ham A L’Orange – p. 80-81

Soul Food – Recipes and Reflections from African-American Churches by Joyce White
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0-06-018716-6
© 1998
Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese – p. 86-87

People, I don’t want to sound like a lush, but the fact that the glaze for today’s ham recipe had brandy in it did a lot to recommend the recipe to me. That, and the fact that I only needed to buy a 3-4 pound ham. The recipe said to use canned ham but there were plenty of smaller hams available for the taking that didn’t involve a can opener.

But first, let’s talk about the name – The Cramped Quarters Cookbook. Not that I want to brag, but when we were first married, my husband and I cooked some delectable dinners in a kitchen so small that it made NY kitchens, famous for being tiny, look like cocktail lounges. Two people were almost two people too many in our kitchen. We had no counter space whatsoever (and so had to figure out how to create one), a tiny Frigidaire refrigerator with a shoebox of a freezer and a handle that looked like it belonged on a Vegas slot machine, and a teeny tiny stove with teeny tiny burners that looked like it belonged in a Winnebago. So I know all about “Cramped Quarter Cooking.”

This recipe really doesn’t reflect cooking in cramped quarters because there’s not a lot of slicing, dicing, sashaying or otherwise going on in closed quarters but it tasted great and didn’t require a lot of effort.

If you don’t want to add the required brandy (or, in my case, Courvoisier because that’s what I had in stock), I’m sure the recipe will turn out just fine. But let’s just say that it was way more flavorful with it included!

Turning out attention to the Macaroni and Cheese recipe…I never, ever grew up with macaroni and cheese, not even the Kraft kind, so why on earth I was obsessing about having “mac and cheese” with my ham is beyond me. Nonetheless, I had to have it. So I consulted my whole battery of southern cookbooks as there is hardly a one without a recipe for macaroni and cheese, and decided on Joyce White’s recipe because it had mustard and cayenne pepper, ingredients that I like and that appear from time to time in recipes deemed to be “the best macaroni and cheese.” So, what the heck, who am I to argue with macaroni and cheese greatness?! I think you’ll like this recipe. It says “serves 4” but seriously, after I got through with it, it was really me and…me.

Glazed Ham A L’Orange – serves 6
3-4 lb. canned ham
1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup dark pancake syrup
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tbsp. brandy
¼ tsp. ground ginger
Whole cloves
1 1-lb can home-style peach halves, drained (I didn’t use these as they were only “garnish”)

The directions say to preheat oven to 325 and bake the ham for 1.25 hours but the instructions for my ham said to heat oven to 275 and cook the ham for 15 minutes per pound, in my case, 48 minutes. I’d follow along with your package directions.

While the ham is baking, combine in a small saucepan all the other ingredients except for the cloves and peaches. Heat and set aside.

Remove ham from the pan and pour off and discard the drippings (my ham didn’t have any). Score top of ham and insert cloves. Place the peach halves around the base of the ham. Brush half the orange sauce over the ham and peaches and return to oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, basting often. Reheat remaining sauce and pass at table.

Macaroni and Cheese – serves 4
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound uncooked elbow macaroni
1 finely chopped onion
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
1 ½ tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 1 ½-quart ovenproof casserole and set aside.

Fill a large stockpot with at least 6 quarts of water. Add one tablespoon of the vegetable oil to the water, so as to keep the macaroni from sticking together during cooking. Place the pot on high heat and bring to a rolling boil.

Add the macaroni and cook for the length of time specified on the package, making sure not to overcook the pasta. Drain immediately and rinse the pasta with cold, running water. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 4 or 5 minutes or until tender and translucent. NOTE: watch these onions like a hawk. I turned my back on the pan and in mere seconds, my beautiful, finely chopped onion pieces were incinerated. I threw the lot out and started again.

Stir in the nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, salt, mustard and flour and sauté 3 or 4 minutes longer.

Let’s pause a minute and talk about the above instruction. The few times I’ve been told to add flour to an onion mixture, the whole thing ended up being a whole big blob of near-glue. I’m never sure if this is what’s supposed to happen or not and so I feel it’s rather silly to continue to sauté a flour blob for 3-4 more minutes, but that’s just me. I did it, but I’m not sure what I gained from the exercise.

Add the milk and 1 cup of cheese. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes longer or until the sauce thickens.

And so another note: I did as directed but thought the sauce had a rather grainy look and texture to it. It could have been it looked that way because of the pepper flecks…or it could be that I did something wrong. If you experienced mac and cheese makers have any idea, please let me know.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the well-drained macaroni. Pour the mixture into the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the macaroni with the remaining cheese.

Place the dish on the middle shelf of the hot oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.

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