Recipes Below for: Rain Shadow Meats Ham with Champagne-Apricot Glaze, Scalloped Potatoes with Stinging Nettles and Cypress Grove “Truffle Tremor” Goat Cheese
This past week we had our annual irreverent Easter brunch. For us, the the irreverence factor is the critical piece for our holiday décor, the themed food (Souffle, anyone? It is risen indeed!) and drink (Who wants another Rusty Nail?). We had an enormous hot-cross bun “tomb” with a chocolate egg “stone”, which rolled away to reveal a wind-up easter bunny inside, lollipop crucifixes, bible verse bedecked chocolate eggs, etc. What can I say? I grew up in one of those crazy fundamentalist environments. My way of dealing with all of that is to find the humor. Fortunately, our guests get it.
Humor aside, we also served a LOT of food, some of which is repeat-worthy. My pal Rachel Riggs of Fromagette in Bellingham sent me the mother-lode selection of amazing Cypress Grove goat cheeses and asked me to let her know if any recipe-worthy results emerged. We had a few things which were just ok (completely user error---I tried to use the cheese in a couple of baked items. You know what happens when I try to bake. It isn’t pretty). Forgetting about my unfortunate raspberry and goat cheese tart FAIL, some keepers emerged. The ubiquitous Easter ham and Scalloped Potatoes rocked a little bit (ok, a LOT) more with her Truffle Tremor Chevre as a key ingredient, and the inevitable annual Rabbit Spanakopita I posted in the blog a few weeks ago was made even better by replacing the feta and spinach in the recipe with Cypress Grove Chevre and wild rocket arugula.
This year was also the first time I bought an organic, artisan ham from Rain Shadow Meats instead of the cheap grocery store or Costco variety. Granted, it cost more. I was surprised at how much more expensive it was, but when we tasted the result there was no doubt that this was a perfect example of You Get What You Pay For. Applewood smoked, tender and packed with flavor. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better ham. I’m still not the guy to write a second mortgage for an organic chicken, because I don’t think it really tastes that much different – or at least not enough to justify the cost difference. With bigger meats (and you know I loves me some bigger meat), that difference comes screaming through! I will never buy a grocery store ham again. Seriously.
Oh yeah—Getting off my soapbox now. How about some recipes?
Ham with Champagne and Apricot Glaze
1 10-12 lb fully cooked, smoked ham
24 whole cloves
1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cups Champagne or sparkling wine, divided
1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup apple jelly
Preheat oven to 350°.
Trim fat and rind from ham. Score outside of ham in a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves. Place ham, bone end up (if you bought a bone-in ham), in a roasting pan lightly coated with oil. Pour 1 cup Champagne over ham. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a small saucepan. Add vanilla bean and 1/2 cup Champagne to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes. Stir in apricot jelly; cook 3 minutes or until jelly dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Discard vanilla bean. Pour half of Champagne mixture over ham. Bake 30 minutes; pour remaining Champagne mixture over ham. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until ham is thoroughly heated. Place ham on a platter; cover loosely with foil. Let stand 15 minutes.
Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure or bowl. Pour drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain the drippings into a bowl, stopping before the fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Serve sauce with ham.
Scalloped Potatoes with Stinging Nettles and Cypress Grove “Truffle Tremor” Goat Cheese
Makes 4 Servings
1 1/4 cup whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
6 oz Cypress Grove “Truffle Tremor” Goat Cheese
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 sweet onion, diced
1 bulb fresh fennel, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 lbs large russet (Idaho) potatoes
- Prepare the nettles: Wearing kitchen gloves (naturally you have evening length kitchen gloves to protect your delicate hands, darlings), remove the nettle leaves from the stems. Add to boiling water for about 30 seconds, then rinse, drain in a colander and squeeze dry. Set aside.
- Prepare the onion and fennel: Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and fennel and a pinch of salt and cook until beginning to soften and turn slightly golden. Add nettles, stir to incorporate and cook 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the milk and cream are boiling, add the garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil, then immediately remove it from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes or longer while you prepare the potatoes.
- Prepare the gratin: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 -quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Peel the potatoes, slice them 1/8 inch thick with a mandoline and arrange 2 layers in the bottom of the dish. Top with onion, fennel and nettle mixture and crumble goat cheese over the top. Top with remaining potatoes. (You should have enough potatoes to do at least 2 more layers on the top) Bring the cream back to a simmer. Pour the cream over the potatoes, coating all the slices. The liquid will not completely cover the potatoes at this point. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
- Bake until the top is nicely browned and the potatoes are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Halfway through the cooking, use the back of a large spoon to lightly press down any potatoes that are not yet submerged into the cream.
Makes 6-8 servings.