Category Archives: HM Kitchen

Recipes, tips and experiments from our very own kitchen.

Pulled Ham – Sandwiches for Days!

Maureen’s a creature of habit. Same thing for breakfast and lunch for months at a time. So you can imagine my surprise when she asks for something different. Of course my surprise turns to nodding approval when I find out what it is.

On One of our monster road trips, this one from New Orleans to Chicago, we took a 440-mile stretch from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee on a National Park road called the Natchez Trace. Because it’s a National park, there’s no where to eat on it.

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One day we pulled int the only nearby dot on the map — Hohenwald, TN, to grab lunch and we were resigned to breaking a road trip rule and to eat at any fast food chain by the highway. On the main 3 block-long drag, we found Big John’s Pit BBQ (no web link, no website) and discovered a plethora of pulled, smoked meats, including pork, ham and turkey. Our favourite was the ham — moist, lightly sauced and perfectly smoked. It made an amazing sandwich.

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When we discovered one of our local butcher smoked their own hams and then cut chunks off of them to sell as “nuggets”, we started smoking and pulling our own ham, whenever we felt like something different for lunches.

I start the BBQ on low and slow – about 250°F with cherry wood in the smoker drawer, and then I set to make a slather for the ham. It’s a small piece, weighing a few pounds. But it’s real. It’s not the molded ex-liquid meat of the commercial hams. It used to be a chunk of a pig leg. That’s important if you want to pull it later.

Then I rub the ham with a good pork or rib rub and put it on the smoker, replenishing the smoke wood for the first 90 minutes (after that the bark is formed and there’s no point doing any more because the smoke won’t penetrate.

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After about 5-6 hours I take the ham off and pull it with bear claws. You can use large forks, too. Once pulled I place it in a bowl and add a couple tablespoons of rustic mustard, hot sauce and BBQ sauce and mix well. Then I place in a large plastic bag to keep in the fridge. I don’t know how long it keeps as it’s always gone in a couple days.

I make one of these every month or so. It’s easy to do, even on a busy day — the ham just sits in the smoker for 4-6 hours. It takes about 10 minutes to prep and another 10 to shred the ham and sauce it.

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Tennesee Country Ham

Ah… country ham. It’s pretty much unknown here in Canada. It’s a southern treat that has a character all its own and completely distinct from the “city ham” we are used to here. Here‘s a breakdown of how they differ.

On our first trip to Nashville, we had country ham for breakfast one day, served with Red Eye gravy. It was a revelation. Salty, meaty and with a depth we weren’t prepared for. Of course it goes perfectly with the gravy made from the ham drippings, some black coffee and a little brown sugar.

For a family holiday dinner this year, I decided to try a whole salt and sugar cured country ham, bought by mail order from the Loveless Cafe out of Nashville.

A country ham is no picnic. It’s a multi-day prep process to make this ham ready to eat. When you remove the wrapping, it’s covered in a fine mold from being hung for up to two years, kind of like an aged cheese. It was also well, a little funky. After a good brushing, the ham needed to soak in water for two days with complete water changes twice a day. Removing the hock (the large knot of bone at one end of the ham) is optional but requires a saw. I opted to leave it in.

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Country Ham 3Country Ham 4After the skin is removed, you score the fat and bake the ham for 4 hours or so. With an hour to go, you brush on some glaze to caramelize onto the ham. I used some of Loveless Cafe’s amazing peach preserves, ginger and some grainy mustard.

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Country Ham 7Country Ham 8When the ham was finished baking, the glaze was shiny and cooked on and the ham smelled delicious. I let it sit for a half-hour before carving  into slices with an electric knife. It was juicy, smoky, sweet and a little salty with more depth and complexity than other ham I’ve had.

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Country Ham 13We served the ham with biscuits, scalloped potatoes, a brussel sprout hash made with pecans and a maple basalmic vinaigrette, mustard pickles, and some of those best-ever peach preserves.

Country Ham 9Having the freshly carved ham is great, but the next morning, having it with freshly baked biscuits is really the raison d’etre for this ham. It’s its calling. There’s a reason ham and biscuits is a time-honoured Southern tradition, and now it’s one of ours.

Bourbon Tasting Party

This past weekend we noted the chill in the air and the naked trees. Time to experiment with the warming comfort of some amber liquid. Bourbons have become quite popular over the last little while. Rob has always liked them and I am learning to appreciate this drink. I got a bit of a taste for bourbon on our trips to New Orleans.

As with many alcoholic beverages, side by side comparison is a great way to find out what you like or don’t care for. We decided to host a bourbon tasting event with a small group of friends (8 is a nice number for this). Some of our guests were experienced, but everyone was learning.

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On hand we had 9 bourbons for tasting. Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, Bulleit, Booker’s and Maker’s 46, and for research purposes, Buffalo Trace White Dog, an unoaked, young “fresh” bourbon (moonshine). We provided ice, small shot glasses for tiny tastes and comparison, and whiskey glasses for the committed.

A southern food theme seemed apropos. As well we included many smoked items and cheeses that pair well with bourbon. With that in mind, we decided on pork ribs basted in black currant sauce and cheese grits as main fare. The ribs were rubbed and slow-cooked and then glazed with a BBQ sauce that was made with bourbon and black current jam.

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They were accompanied by smoked nuts, dark chocolate, smoked shrimps, scallops and salmon from Boucanerie Chelsea, pomegranate, persimmon, physallis and apple, a charcuterie platter with ham, peppered salami and summer sausage from The Piggy Market, and crackers paired with a strong Roquefort, Prima Donna, St. Angele, mimolette from Jacobson’s, and Gjetost cheese as well. The Gjetost is noteworthy because it is a caramel cheese that’s not sweet and really goes well with apple and bourbon.

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Bourbon 13Small bottles of water on hand are also a good idea, to cut the bourbon if desired but also to help guests pace themselves. For dessert, Rob smoked some pecan and butter tarts with apple wood.  We had enjoyed the happy accidental marriage of pecan pie and wood smoke in Nachez, Mississippi and were trying to recreate it with limited success. The smoke was a little bitter. Pecan chips might be the way to go.

Bourbon 7Guests tried and experimented throughout the evening, the women settling in and committing sooner. Personally I already knew I enjoyed Elijah Craig but found that I also really liked Basil Hayden’s. Both are smooth and milder than the more spicy, peppery choices offered. Side by side tasting really allows you to discover. Near the end of the evening, one of the guys got brave enough to open the White Dog. We included this for learning purposes. This is where Bourbon starts. And ends, had it been the first thing I tried that evening.

Bourbon 4White Dog. What can I say. This should be partaken of, upon reflection, only if the occasion arises where you are in your car. You have already tossed the gun out of the window, are being pursued by police at a high rate of speed and are about to hit the the tire spikes at the road block erected in your honour and then die in a hail of gunfire. Vile. I consumed less than a half teaspoon and my throat was as raw as if I had vomited bile for 24 hours. Not recommended.

 

 

 

N’awlin’s BBQ Shrimp

BBQ shrimp is a dish that has little to do with BBQ as most people know it. We first experienced the dish at Mr. B’s in New Orleans’s after a night prowling the French Quarter for the best sazerac. Bellied up to the bar and bebibbed (?), we dipped amazing fresh, crusty, chewy, bread into a divine, rich, buttery, black pepper-laced, sauce with six plump, head-on, shell-on, gulf shrimp, simmered in said divine sauce waiting to be devoured. Elbows up! Do not wear white. Naked would work best.

We were so enamored with this simple dish that we wanted to recreate it at home. Mr. B’s provides the recipe willingly and it’s spot on. This dish can almost certainly be made with ingredients on hand except for the shrimp and fresh baguette. Make sure you read the recipe through and have your ingredients ready to go. It cooks up fast, in about 3-4 minutes. The shrimp, having a starring role, absolutely must be wild-caught Gulf shrimp. Pelican in Ottawa always has them, but unfortunately they cannot be had anywhere in Ottawa with their heads on for authenticity.  Beer pairs really well with the sauce and cuts its richness. Yes — that really does say three sticks of butter! Don’t skimp. Go to the gym.

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Portuguese Cod

Two weeks ago when all of the kids and significant others were in town, we went to breakfast at Le Resto Fish & Smoked Seafood Bistro, in Chelsea, Quebec. I  was enticed by their new menu item, Cod poached Portuguese-style in tomato sauce with anchovies, chorizo, capers and olives served with chick peas, green beans, egg and olive oil drizzled bread. For an extra charge you can add mussels and shrimp. This rustic dish was so good I could not stop thinking about it.

Potuguese Cod stew 6The cod was lightly poached and held its shape and succulent, delicate flavour. The tomato poaching broth was rich with the warm spicy flavours of anise, saffron and smoky paprika, chunky with carrot and chick pea, salty and complex with olive, caper and anchovy, and bright with citrus. A perfect half of a soft boiled egg adds luscious creaminess and the grilled bread slathered in olive oil lends a delicious chewy crunch.

I  was prepared to recreate it through Google and trial and error when, on a whim we visited the Boucanerie (the Resto’s smokehouse just up the street) for some of their divine hot smoked maple salmon. Madame Line Boyer was in the house and I decided to straight up ask her if she would share the recipe for the cod dish. Line is the kind of hostess who is passionate about her product and customers and not only happily shared, but also led me through the preparation of her creation which was inspired by a surplus of cod, her French heritage and intuition for cooking and a traditional Portuguese recipe. The Boucanerie sells the sauce pre-made for the less adventurous, and of course, excellent cod fish.

So, as Mme. Boyer launched into her passion for this recipe (which is now a regular menu item due to popular demand), Rob recorded the “recipe” on his phone as she shared. Line cooks inspired by her ingredients and what is on hand. No measuring. I guessed at most amounts, and I must say I think I nailed it. I made the cod this past “Bottle of Wine Monday” and it was perfect. I also learned how to make a perfect soft-boiled egg for the top…which is essential.

Cod Poached in Tomato Sauce Portuguese-Style

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Olive oil
2 Fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed and meat cut into small chunks
1 Carrot, small dice
1/2 tsp. Anise seed
Good pinch of saffron
1 tsp. Smoked Sweet Paprika
Splash of Sherry or Marsala
1 28 oz Can San Marzano or best quality whole tomatoes
1 Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (Line prepares dried chickpeas for her dish)
1 Anchovy fillet, mushed up, plus a bit of the anchovy oil
A good dollop of frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tsp. Capers, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Pound of Cod
2 Eggs, soft-boiled
Rustic bread such as Art-Is-In Dynamite white, grilled or toasted and liberally drizzled with good quality olive oil
16 Kalamata olives

Method:

1. Render chorizo in a bit of olive oil. When meat is cooked add carrot and saute until tender, about a minute or two.

2. Add anise, saffron and paprika. Saute another minute. Deglaze pan with sherry.

3. Add chick peas and toss. Add tomatoes by squooshing the whole ones with your hands.

4. Add anchovy and a bit of anchovy oil. Simmer for 20 minutes

5. Walk the dog

6. Add the orange concentrate and the capers. Taste and add salt and pepper.

7. Place cod pieces in stew to poach. About 7 to 10 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, as fish cooks, boil eggs and toast bread.

9. Serve in low bowls, with 4 olives for garnish, half of a soft boiled egg and toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil.

10. Open wine

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