Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garner Laurels For Your Cooking!

For years, the pace of my life was so fast that I did a lot of cooking from memory.  After a while, my life slowed enough that I began to enjoy cooking again.  No longer satisfied with my bland rendition of beef stew, I pulled out my mother's Betty Crocker Cook Book to check the recipe.  I went through the ingredient list, checking off each in my head until, eureka, the missing element appeared:  the noble bay leaf.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ham It Up, Honey!

My family really, really likes ham!  I confess, however, that I just cannot bring myself to pay upwards of $8 per pound for the nationally advertised brand.  Hams are super-easy to cook.  Try this recipe!

10-ish pound fresh ham ( I really like Smithfield and MASH )
2 T. pickling spice
1 c. warm local honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Trim skin from ham.  Place fresh ham cut side down in a prepared (spray with Watkins Cooking Spray) roasting pan.  Warm the honey (microwave for a few seconds) then mix in the pickling spice.  Spread over the ham evenly.  Add warm water to the roasting pan to a depth of one inch.  Cover entire pan and ham with foil.  Bake for 17-20 minutes per pound (just under 3 hours for a 10-pound ham).  If you wish a crisper crust, baste with pan drippings about 30 minutes before end of cooking time and remove foil.  When cooking time is over, allow to rest for a while before slicing. 

If you want a glaze, strain the pan drippings (to remove the spice pieces) and cook until slightly thickened.

Serve on a bed of washed fresh kale leaves and garnish with fruit slices.

Beautiful, easy, luscious, and, best of all, $1.50 per pound!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Favorite Foccacia

Favorite Foccacia

Don't let anyone tell you that home-made bread is difficult.  It's pretty easy if you follow the rules:

1.     Use fresh yeast (from a bottle, NOT the little yellow packets).  I keep my yeast in the refrigerator and let it warm to room temperature before using.  I prefer SAF Instant Yeast.
2.     Dissolve the yeast in 100-110 degree water (use a thermometer; this is essential).
3.     Do not add too much flour.
4.     Use unbleached flour.  I cannot tell a difference between unbleached and bread flour.  My cousin swears by King Arthur Flour, but I have had great results with Kroger Unbleached Flour.
4.     Proof your sponge or bread dough in a draft-free, warm location and cover it with a dish cloth (but don't let the cloth touch the dough).  I set mine beside my gas cook stove on warm days and in the cool oven on cold days.
5.     If you have a KitchenAid, use it!  It will make this so much easier.

Favorite Foccacia

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups tepid (100-110 degree) water
2 T. sugar
3/4 c. olive oil
1 t. salt
5 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 cloves garlic, crushed, for topping
1/4 c. olive oil for topping
1 T. whole rosemary for topping
1 T. kosher salt for topping

Dissolve yeast in water in mixer bowl.  Add the sugar, olive oil, and regular salt.  Mix in 3 cups of flour and mix until the dough becomes elastic and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl (about 10 minutes with my KitchenAid). 

Change to dough hook and mix in the remaining flour (slowly lest you create a cloud!), kneading until it is smooth and elastic.  The dough should still be soft. 

Move bowl to proofing location, cover with a tea towel (a non-terrycloth dish towel), allowing to rise until doubled.  Punch down and press into 11x13 baking dish to about 1 inch of thickness. 

Warm olive oil and mix in crushed garlic and rosemary.  Drizzle bread dough and allow to rise until double.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Serve warm, perhaps with a savory tomato soup!

For variety, try other herbs with the garlic and oil.