Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Ham Book" & "Insatiable" - Glazed Ham Ring with Red Devil Sauce and Macaroni and Cheese

Date I made these recipes: April 24, 2011 (Easter Sunday)

The Ham Book by Monette R. Harrel and Robert W. Harrel, Jr.
Published by: Donning Company Publishers
ISBN: 0-915442-14-0
Recipe: Glazed Ham Ring with Red Devil Sauce – p. 136-137

Insatiable – Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
by Gael Greene
Published by: Warner Books
ISBN: 0-446-57699-9
Recipe: Almost Like Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese – p. 19-20

People, you would think that having a book called The Ham Book would make Easter planning a walk in the park but you’d be wrong!

The first recipe in this book is for a traditional southern ham weighing 10-12 pounds. Let’s pause here for a moment: I do not have access to southern ham (nor do I need to one) and there are only two of us in this household so we didn’t need that big of a ham. I’m not even sure my oven could handle that puppy!! Besides, ham is expensive and we would have practically bankrupted ourselves had we gone with that recipe. So that was out.

Also out was canned ham as called for in many of the entrée recipes. Aside from chuckling over one of this season’s Mad Men episodes where Pete and Peggy have to advertise a canned ham, there’s nothing about a canned ham to recommend itself to me. If you’re going to go canned, go with SPAM. (Note to the good people at SPAM – Call me! I think I have a new jingle for you!!)

Lucky for me, I found a ham ring (i.e. loaf) recipe that was pretty easy and did not call for canned ham. And there was much rejoicing.

I have to say, though, that my husband looked less than enthusiastic when I told him we were having ham ring and even less so when I said it was topped with Red Devil Sauce. Silly rabbit – he was probably thinking that this would be spicy given the name but as we know, ketchup is not a spice…unless you live in Minnesota.

So, I got out my Cusinart, chopped the ham, added there rest of the ingredients, got out my ring (Jell-O) mold and holy cow – talk about overflow. The instructions said to gently pack but even if I would have really jammed it in there, we are talking too much meat. I could have easily have made two ham rings. And okay, sure, they said it the recipe would serve 8-10 but did they really think all that meat mixture would fit in one ring mold? Hardly! So I resorted to Plan B and plopped the mixture on a baking sheet (with the 1” sides as directed) and made a huge, and I do mean HUGE ham ring. It came out just fine.

The sauce was pretty easy to make although I must say the color was off-putting. Remember mixing your ketchup and mustard together on a plate and then dipping your meatloaf in it? (Well, at least I did!). Well, that’s the look we had going on. But it was tasty and that was all that mattered.

And so in the end, The Ham Book redeemed itself but alas, it gets put back on the shelf, never to be used for the blog again. Rules are rules. One recipe only, not exceptions unless I decide to make one; I feel I’m good as is.

In a complete about face from my usual scalloped potatoes, I decided I was in the mood for macaroni and cheese and remembered that Gael Greene’s book had a recipe that sounded yummy. (Thought for the day: Is it because I was deprived of mac and cheese as a child that I am so fixated on it?) And indeed, the recipe turned out to be fantastic. But oh my word, reading her book to get to the recipes was another story.

For those of you who don’t know, Gael Greene was a well-known food writer/critic for the New York magazine. Well, perhaps it was a stretch to say “well-known” since she tried to remain anonymous as much as possible and is famous for her many hats that hid her face from inquiring restaurant servers. Gael also spent two seasons as a judge on Top Chef Masters, a show I far prefer to the original, Top Chef (although careful readers will note that I watch the original show all the same). This year they changed the format and so Gael will only guest star. Bummer, that. (P.S. - Gael still writes about food - check out her Insatiable Critic blog -

Anyway, back to her book. It’s been a while since I read it but back in her youth she was known more for… well…shall we say sexual exploits than her culinary skills (thus the title)? Not that I’m a prude but I’m not always comfortable with books like this because I feel like a peeping Tom (or rather a peeping Ann). My best advice to Gael and to Paula Dean (who also wrote a similar book) is “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I’ll forgive Gael though since the mac and cheese was exactly what I wanted.

And there you have it, Easter 2011. Questions?

Glazed Ham Ring with Red Devil Sauce – 8-10 servings
Ham ring
About 1 pound ground cooked ham
1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
¾ cup fine cracker crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ ten-ounce can tomato soup
½ ten-ounce can tomato soup
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the ingredients for the ham ring and mix well. Pack lightly into a ring mold or form in a ring on an inch deep baking sheet or pack lightly into a 9 ½ x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Brush with Red Devil sauce before and during backing. Bake for about 1 hour. Pour off excess fat and let stand 5 minutes, then turn out on a platter. Fill the center of the ring with warm potato salad, whipped potatoes or green peas with small potatoes. Serve with Red Devil Sauce. (But caution: if you plan to serve the sauce on the side, make sure to put it in a separate bowl, otherwise you will cross-contaminate your food!)

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. I used medium heat.

Almost Like Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese – serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish…or just me!

Olive oil spray or ½ tbsp mild-flavored olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for tossing later
½ lb small elbow macaroni
1 tbsp salt
2 ½ cups shredded or chopped firm cheese (Gael notes “Needless to say, my mother used Velveeta, but I make this with sharp cheddar and Emmentaler, half and half. Once I threw in some leftover Brie, a triple crème from France, and a half cup of crème fraiche and the result was celestial.”)
Optional: ½ cup chopped baked ham or snipped crisp bacon
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
4 tbsp fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray the bottom and sides of a shallow 6-cup metal baking dish with olive oil spray. Bring several quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add tablespoon salt. Boil macaroni until just tender: Drain well. Immediately turn macaroni into baking dish (a flat baking pan gives more crispiness than a loaf pan). Use a pan that can go under the broiler later. Toss macaroni with tablespoon of olive oil. Then add (cheddar) cheese, optional ham or bacon, milk, salt and freshly ground pepper and mix well.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove from oven, close oven door, and stir. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle fresh bread crumbs and grated Parmigiano on top. Bake another 15 minutes. If there is still some milk in the bottom, return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. If topping has not browned and crisped like Mom’s used to, stick it under the broiler (three or four inches away from heat) and brown, watching so it doesn’t burn.

No comments: