Sunday, April 12, 2009

New traditions

Last year I attended my first Passover meal; it wasn't a Seder, but we made all kosher for Passover foods. (My newly honed label reading techniques and knowledge of cross-contamination was an added bonus in the kitchen.) We made coconut encrusted tilapia, quinoa and mango salad and had an almond tart with fresh fruit for dessert.
This year, I did not make it to a friend's for Passover, but did co-host Easter at my place and the memory of the almond tart inspired an on-the-fly addition to Easter dinner. (SmittenKitchen posted a flurry of Passover-friendly dessert ideas this year, many gluten free)

In the midst of keeping an eye on the ham* and greeting fellow diners, I through together what I thought would be a pastry crust: almond meal, chopped pecans, sugar, butter, potato starch flour, millet flour and some salt. The finished product came out more like a lacy-oatmeal-tasting cookie... but in a good way.

One person just came back from a trip to New Orleans and was inspired to attempt calas, a rice-based fritter, and maque choux, a corn and vegetable dish cooked in bacon grease. Chives just starting coming up in her gardern, so they were part of the inspiration for the maque chos that included okra, shrimp, corn, bell peppers, onions and bacon, served over grits. The calas are a creole tradition, where cooked rice is mixed into a sweet batter and fried then topped with powdered sugar. I was really unsure about these. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of how they would hold together or taste, but I showed her I housed the gluten-free flours and with a sprinkling of potato starch and a good dose of millet flour mixed together with eggs, cooked jasmine rice, nutmeg, vanilla and sugar... well these fried treats were amazing.

The evening started off with Scotch eggs, hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and deep fried. Hands-down the best egg-shaped thing I have ever eaten. It tasted, as one dinner put it, "like eating breakfast." We boiled the eggs, let them cool, peeled them and then rolled them in millet flour so the sausage would adhere better. Then the eggs were covered in a combination of breakfast and sweet Italian sausage (removed from the casings and mixed together). The sausage covered eggs were then rolled in a raw egg mixture then in gluten free breadcrumbs. The oval jewels then took a 5 minute bath in 350F oil till they were golden brown and delicious. Quartered and served as the pre-meal appetiser, Scotch eggs started the meal off right.

While noshing on Scottland's finest creation, the ham was cooling while red-eye gravy (pan drippings and strong coffee cooked down with cornstarch) was being made to top the mashed potatoes and green beans were tossed with lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.
The meal came together fantastically because of good cooks and great friends.

Scotch eggs:
Scotch eggs quartered:

Lemon Green Beans & Cheese w/Pears:

Red-eye Gravy tops the whole meal:

Calas, Tart and Fresh Berries:

*The ham is a bit of a funny story.
I have never cooked a ham before, and considering I had hoped to grill lamb for Easter (the weather choosing not to cooperate prevented that from going through) I was at first not thrilled about the idea. The walk home in the pouring rain carrying a 17lbs ham in my backpack... well lets call it a bit delicious salt in the wound. Sunday morning was a new day and I started out by spiking the cola (yes, I am adapting more Alton Brown recipes) with allspice berries, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, and a dash of ground celery seeds. I poured the mixture into the bottom of the pan containing the scored ham, and tented aluminum foil over the ham and let it cook slowly. For the last hour of cooking, I removed most of the excess fat off the top of the ham, and covering it with a spiced mustard paste (brown mustard, honey, cloves, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar) and then topping that with dark brown sugar and returned the ham to the over to cook uncovered.

The verdict: the best ham I have ever eaten. It only gets better knowing that in addition to left overs, I have a giant bone to flavor soups and greens for the rest of the week!

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