Double duty

When ever you make pasta sauce save 1/4 -1/2 cup and freeze it. Most pasta sauces make excellent pizza sauce and having them on hand makes a delicious, quick meal. Last night we had Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto and Brie Pizza. The roasted red pepper sauce was served on a nice pasta a few weeks back. Just thaw and spread on a naan crust, top with brie (boursin or a tangy goat cheese as well as a creamy ricotta would also work) and bake. The pesto comes from this recipe.

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Pasta Sauce Reborn 4Tonight we thawed a puttanesca sauce (cooked down a bit to thicken) for a pizza topped with some sauteed, wild-caught Gulf shrimp and some Parmesan cheese. You can replace the jalapeno in this recipe with a teaspoon of chili flakes.

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Red Eye Gravy!

Woke up this morning with an appetite after an hour of snowshoeing in the Gatineaus last evening. While I took the dog out for her morning constitutional, Rob fried up last weeks left over ham, made flaky biscuits (pillsbury :P. He’s not that good), eggs and red eye gravy.

I first encountered red eye gravy at Puckett’s in Nashville, Tennessee, where I declared I could drink a mug of this deliciousness. There is not a lot of info on where this simple, Southern classic originated but I can only think it was born of necessity from scraps on hand. I imagine a scenario where a cowboy is at morning camp on his range far from home. He has fried up some ham and doesn’t want to waste the leavings. He needs some liquid to scrape up the caramelized porky bits and all he has is the dregs in his coffee cup. He tosses that in and creates the holy trinity of of Southern cooking. Sweet, Salty and Fat!

This mornings gravy is a bit sweet as our ham leavings include the drippings from our New Year’s Day ham. These were full of the glaze, which was prepared with bourbon laced maple syrup, so there is no way this can go wrong.

As with any very traditional dish, there are hundreds of variations in the recipes for making red eye gravy, but they all have a couple things in common. With our version, we were lucky to have delicious drippings from baking the ham earlier in the week. Without them, we would have made it this way.

Ham with Red-eye gravy
Melt I tbsp. butter in a pan and add ham. When ham is cooked, remove it to plate.
Add 1/2 cup black coffee to ham drippings, deglazing any brown bits on the bottom of the pan
Add 1/2 cup water
Add 1 tsp brown sugar if desired
Bring to boil. Serve on ham, or for dipping.

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New Year’s Ham & Beans

Welcome 2013! Happy New Year Everybody. Today signals the end of the holiday season. Tomorrow we head back to school and work and ugh…those resolutions we made to better  ourselves. To ring in the year, we decided to make a family dinner that echos a Southern US New Year’s tradition. Black-eyed peas, traditionally cooked with a pork product, diced onion and served with pepper vinegar is a dish thought to bring prosperity for the coming year. Wikipedia posits that this tradition dates back to the civil war era when Union troops sweeping through the south took all edible food stuffs they could find but left the peas that they considered animal fodder.

Today’s dinner will stray a bit from that tradition and reflect my family’s Canadian roots. Dinner this New Year’s Day is baked beans and ham. Beans require a long cooking time and despite using the same recipe time and again they do not always turn out the same. The texture can be more toothsome or soft, and the colour can be dark or less so. I am not sure what makes this difference but can only surmise that it lies with the beans themselves. Sunday dinners growing up often included a crock of beans and would not be complete without my mom declaring the beans “ruined”.  She was serious and I am still unclear what constituted ruined beans, but ruined they were, and delicious. Ruined beans have become a family joke.

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The ham was a small, bone-in ham that needed to be baked.  With 30 minutes left to go, we scored the outer skin of the ham and brushed on a glaze made from a wonderful maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels, grainy mustard and thyme.

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With a nod to Southern classics and our travels, leftovers will end up in a breakfast of ham, biscuits and red eye gravy made from the drippings of tonight’s ham. Stay tuned next week.

Baked Beans (Ruined)

3 cups white pea beans
1/4 pound salt pork, fatback or salted pork belly, cut in 4 peices
2 cups chopped onions
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 28 ounce can tomatoes

Servings/Yield: 8 servings
1. Rinse beans and discard blemished ones.
2. In a dutch oven, cover beans with three times their volume of water. Bring to a boil; boil gently fro 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain, discard liquid.
3. Return soaked beans to pot along with 3 times their volume of fresh water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered for 45 minutes. Drain reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.*
4. In a 16 cup casserole, combine beans,  pork, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, molasses, sugar, mustard, and pepper.
5. Bake covered in a 300℉ oven for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover and bake for 1 1/2 hours longer.

*Check on the beans periodically and add some or all of the reserved water if necessary or if you prefer looser beans.

I do not know where this recipe originated but it has been transcribed over at least three recipe scrapbooks for close to thirty years. It is quite simple and I like it because it does not require overnight soaking of the beans.

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