Monday, April 9, 2007

Friends and Food

The thing I love about living in Portland, and especially my neighborhood, is the sense of community. We have great neighbors, and during holidays someone is usually hosting some kind of gathering. Today it was an Easter potluck across the street. The host made an awesome roasted lamb with garlic and rosemary with a nice mint sauce. Another neighbor brought potato salad with peas and dill. There was also asparagus with a soy based sauce and toasted sesame seeds. I brought ham and sweet potatoes roasted with fresh ginger. I wish I could have taken pictures of the spread, but with helping to set up and chasing kids around, it just didn’t happen.

In the May addition of Fine Cooking magazine, there was a piece written by Bruce Aidells about how to buy and prepare the perfect ham. I found this article particularly helpful because I’ve never been able to make a decent pan sauce from a baked ham. Normally I don’t even use liquid when I bake ham, and I just serve some kind of mustard on the side. But Bruce's method seemed so easy, I decided to try his Maple, Tea and Cardamom Glaze and Sauce recipe. I ended up making a variation of his recipe (because I forgot to buy one of the main ingredients), but it still turned out good in the end.

This picture was taken on Thanksgiving 2008. The ham turned out as good as I remembered and the sauce was even better with the addition of Dijon mustard.

Ham with Thai Jasmine Tea, Cardamom and Cloves
  • 1 bone-in ham (not spiral cut)
  • whole cloves (about 1 tbs worth)
  • 2 cups strong Thai Jasmine Tea
  • 1 cup limeade
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 5 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 tbs light brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs cornstarch mixed with 1 tbs cold Thai Jasmine Tea (or cold water is fine)
I really don't recommend spiral cut hams because they tend to dry out. I like to use cardamom pods rather than pre-ground cardamom. I find they have a stronger flavor than the ground stuff, and they are way cheaper because I get them at an Indian market. If you don’t have Thai Jasmine tea, you could easily substitute with almost any other tea.

Start by scoring the fat on the ham. Dot the ham with the cloves, especially in the fatty areas. The cloves should push easily into the meat. Place the ham, flat side down, in a roasting pan just large enough to accommodate it. Don't forget to remove the plastic thingy they put over the bone.

Combine 1 cup of the tea, limeade and ¼ cup of maple syrup in a bowl. Pour this mixture into a roasting pan so that it comes ¼ inch up the side of the ham. Place the ham into a preheated 325º oven. Cooking time is about 15 minutes per pound for a regular oven and 12 minutes per pound in a convection oven. Add more tea as needed to keep the level of the liquid to ¼ inch.

To make the glaze, combine 1 tbs maple syrup, the crushed cardamom pods, brown sugar and 1 tbs hot water (I made this in advance to let the cardamom flavor develop in the glaze). When the ham is done, brush the glaze on the ham and raise the temperature of the oven to 425º. Allow the glaze to caramelize (watch it because it could happen in 5 minutes). Remove the ham from the oven and transfer it to a large platter. Cover the ham with foil and a few dish towels (I used a folded table cloth), and allow the ham to rest for at least 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, pour the liquid from the pan into a saucepan. Allow the liquid to settle for 5 or 10 minutes so the fat will rise to the top. Skim off the fat and bring the remaining liquid to a boil. Add the mustard and give it a whisk. Taste the sauce. If it tastes diluted or weak, allow it to reduce a bit to concentrate the flavors. It should have a hint of tanginess from the limeade and mustard, yet be sweet. The taste of the tea will be subtle. When you’re happy with the flavors, add about half the cornstarch mixture. The sauce should thicken quickly. Add more cornstarch mixture for a thicker sauce.

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