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Are you serving ham for Easter? What are you serving with it? Pineapple rings and maraschino cherries? Tasty but it’s been done. That scary bright pink ham glaze in a jar? Nah, you can do better. What you want is something a little sweet, a little tangy, a little spicy and a more natural color. Like brown. Let’s make some raisin sauce! It’s easy.
Here’s the cast of characters – stuff you probably already have sitting around. Don’t judge my cheap spices, man.
If you’d like to judge, you can judge my brown sugar storage method because I did purposely put that blobby clear plastic bag right up front. I buy brown sugar in a plastic bag. After I open it, I close it tight with a twistie-tie. Then, I put the whole thing inside of a zip-top bag. I squish out as much air as I can before sealing and Voila!
Soft brown sugar, every time – no bread slices or apple chunks or microwaves or grating a big hard block of the stuff.
Here’s another handy tip – look for this plastic tub of corn starch from Argo. It’s so much neater than the old box. (Or was that just me who always had puffs of corn starch all over the place? Entirely possible.)
Mix the cornstarch with the white vinegar and set it aside. It might set up a little but a quick stir when it is time to use takes care of that.
Next, you plump up the raisins in some water. They should look like this….
…or more so when they are ready. The water is brown, the raisins are a little less wrinkly and lighter in color. You could even let them go longer. Patience isn’t my best virtue.
When the raisins are plump, turn up the heat a little to dissolve the sugar and add the spices. When it is all combined, slowly add the cornstarch mixture and cook and stir until it is thick and glossy, like this:
Or, even thicker and glossier. Again, that patience thing. Your patience will be rewarded with this delicious and unusual accompaniment for your ham. Maybe give it a little sign so your guests know what it is and they aren’t afraid! And put it in a prettier dish than this one if you have it – a nice cut crystal little number would give this sauce the love it deserves!
1 cup raisins
1-1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon each cinnamon, ground clove, dry mustard, salt
Warm raisins with 1-1/2 cups water over low heat until plump. Once raisins are plump, increase heat to medium and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ground clove, dry mustard and salt. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, combine the corn starch and vinegar. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the raisins and cook until thick. Mixture will turn clear and glossy. Keep warm and serve with baked ham.
P.S. – Big news! This blog is getting a little facelift and soon I’ll be moving over to breadandputter.net. More details soon but you can totally scribble that on your handwritten list of Favorite Web Logs in your top drawer now.
This quick little recipe was inspired by another fun blog I love to follow, Dixie Chik Cooks. Dixie Chik recently posted her recipe for grilled french fries with jalapeno cheese sauce. Please – click on that link. Go look at those fries and that cheese sauce. Doesn’t that make you want to dip your fries, burger, pork chops in that sauce? And maybe pour it on your breakfast cereal? And this is the kind of thing she makes when she’s just tired and hungry and wants to use up taters.
Well, I didn’t have regular potatoes I needed to use up, but I did have sweet potatoes that looked like they wanted to go say hi to my grill.
I used Dixie Chik’s method and peeled and sliced the sweet potatoes ahead of time and soaked them in some hot water. Later, I drained them, patted them dry, and tossed them with some olive oil. Then I considered seasonings. Salt and pepper were obvious, but what else would be good with sweet potatoes? They are indeed sweet. So, I thought about spices that go well with sweets like cinnamon and clove, which made me think of Five-Spice Powder.
I actually do have a grill basket and I think this was only the second time I ever took it for whirl. It did a pretty good job of wrangling the fries although one or two did sneak out.
A few fries got a little burned but here’s the bonus – the burnt ones taste like marshmallows and really, how bad is that?
I served mine up with the pork chops I grilled at the same time and the sweet flavor complemented the pork perfectly. I didn’t, however, make that jalapeno cheese sauce yet though because even though it sounds like it might be even good on breakfast cereal, I had a feeling it might not be quite as good a match on the sweet potatoes. I’ll wait till I grill up some regular potatoes sometime soon to try the sauce. In the meantime, I’ll be reading Dixie Chik Cooks for more great recipes, and you should too. And try the sweet potatoes – mix up the spices, try something new!
Abby Dodge – she of Desserts 4 Today and all those easy, delicious, sophisticated treats, also has a pretty awesome blog. Come for the recipes, stay for the fun stories! She’s just too cute. And I want to make pretty much everything she posts. In fact, when she posted her Key Lime Heaven recipe on a Thursday, I had it made by Saturday. Sort of.
As it turned out, I could not find any Key limes in my local megamart, but Abby said you could substitute lemons if you couldn’t find them. I had no idea how many lemons I would need to get enough juice so I just bought a few big ones and I juiced. And I juiced. And then I juiced some more. Then I dug out a sad old regular lime from my produce drawer and juiced that. Then I found another older lemon sitting around in there and juiced that. (Interesting tidbit – the old lemon had more juiced than the fresh one. Hmm.) I still didn’t have enough juice. I made up the difference with orange juice. Mixed Citrus Tart it is, then!
Looks kind of like a cheesecake before baking, doesn’t it? So, here’s the thing. My finished tart? Does NOT look like Abby’s. Like… at all. I followed Abby’s instruction to wrap the bottom of my springform pan with foil when baking the crust but then like a goober, I didn’t take it off to bake the tart. I ended up with the same issue as with my cheesecake where it took WAY longer to bake and set up than it was supposed to. I mean, it was jiggly like jelly and Santa’s belly after 40 minutes. So I baked it some more. And some more. And then some more after that. And then maybe… just maybe… I mighta sorta forgot about it for a bit while I sat downstairs by the fire with my husband and played cribbage.
Golden brown and delicious, right?? Actually – yes, right! It was indeed delicious, despite it’s suntan. Hey, at least somehow I got it a little more reminiscent of the Keys – a nice tan. I neglected to take a picture of it on the plate, topped with creme fraiche as Abby recommends but that might again have been one of those cases where we inhaled it too quickly to think of photos. Ooops. And if you like the sound of this tart, make sure and check out Vino Luci Style’s variation with Key limes and coconut!
In the next case, I don’t even have any process pictures. I finally used up the very last of last summer’s strawberries from our garden in Abby’s Strawberry Trifle. I don’t have a real trifle dish and I didn’t have quite enough strawberries, and certainly not any super pretty fresh strawberries to slice and garnish it up. But I did the best I could and came up with this:
Not too shabby, right? My husband is not a big fan of the color pink (he does like the artist Pink though. He’s complicated.) but he was not offended by this dessert. In fact, this was just another in a string of Abby Dodge hits around here. Thanks, Abby!
Our next door neighbor and friend is a Shriner and also a member of the Shriners’ Highlanders – the kilt-wearing bagpipers and drummers you see at the parades. The Highlanders had their annual Spring Fling party this weekend and we were invited for dinner, dancing and entertainment. The food was catered by Tony & Penny’s, the dancing music was by Brass Attack, and the entertainment was by the Highlanders themselves which included not only piping and drumming, but a special ceremony to present the haggis.
Yes, haggis! And if you don’t know what haggis is, Alton Brown would like to fill you in, Braveheart style.
Sounds tasty, right?? Well, I was brave. Each table at first received a plate of haggis to share family-style and I took a few spoonfuls. And really, it wasn’t bad. But then one of the Highlanders came around with more haggis in a special presentation case.
He asked if anyone would like some of that haggis and I asked what the difference was. He only said the one that was already on the table was made with ground beef. The one he was serving was not. I can’t confirm or deny what that globular shape in the photo is. I didn’t ask. It might be a sheep’s bladder, or a cow’s stomach. Or some sort of artificial cooking vessel – let’s tell ourselves that.
I continued my bravery. I tried the not-ground-beef haggis. And… it definitely had a funk to it. It tasted sort of gamey compared to the ground beef haggis. I won’t be making my own any time soon but at least I can say I tried! A Scots friend of mine on Facebook tells me they even have some very fine vegetarian haggis across the pond. Who knew? And for my bravery, I received this:
Okay, it was actually a door prize but it does seem like a good haggis-braving reward, doesn’t it?
And now, a little piping! I took this super-short video with my phone, before I knew the next song was going to be Amazing Grace which actually was amazing. So, that was my Saturday night – bagpipes and haggis! How was your weekend?
The other morning while walking the dog I got this idea in my head that I could whip together some stew and slap it in the ol’ Crock Pot in 15 minutes or less before I had to leave for work. Crazy? Maybe. Doable? Yes.
Got one of these? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a groovy circa 1986 model from your husband’s first marriage like this one. Don’t be jealous.
Got some of this? You’re almost ready!
How about a pan like this you can get hot fast and get a good sear? Crank up the heat to high and let’s get started!
While the pan is heating (and the meat is thawing a bit in the microwave if necessary), chop some onions, carrots and potatoes. Don’t peel the potatoes. You really don’t have to peel the carrots either but they don’t look as pretty later if you don’t. Dump the veggies in the slow cooker.
When the pan is hot, unceremoniously drop the meat in the pan in one layer, even if it isn’t quite fully thawed and still stuck together. While the meat sears, leave it alone and grab the rest of your ingredients. You’ll need some chicken broth or stock (or veggie or beef would be good too. I’d skip the fish stock but that’s just me.)
Do you have one of these? You really should. How often do you see a recipe that calls for just a few teaspoons or tablespoons of tomato paste? Often, man. Often. You don’t want to open a whole can for a few spoonfuls. Get this tube. You’ll thank me for it.
I usually have one of these hanging around too. This one was a mistake. I’m not really a big Cab fan. No offense, Black Box, you know I love you. I just don’t care this one. Or anyone else’s for that matter. BUT! I don’t mind cooking with it.
By now, you should have flipped over that stuck together chunk of meat and seared it on the other side. Scrape it out of the pan if necessary and into the slow cooker. Put the pan back on the stove and pour in a cup or two of broth or stock and a good squirt of the wine. (If pushed I’d say I used 2 cups broth and 1/2 cup of wine.) Bring it to a boil. Scrape any browned bits (known as fond. I am fond of fond.) from the pan with a wooden spoon. Squirt in some tomato paste. (Is this the first recipe you’ve ever seen with the instruction to “squirt” twice in a row?) Stir to combine, then pour the liquid into the slow cooker with the meat & veggies. Mix it all up. Add some salt and pepper. Put on the lid. Remember to plug it in. Set it to low. Go finish getting ready for work. Go to work. Come home. Enjoy dinner.