Cottage Ham

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Cottage Ham! I’ve made this dense cottage ham three different ways: slow-cooker, stove-top, and oven-bake. The best results came when I used the Le Creuset cast iron enameled Dutch oven.* It seemed to distribute the heat more evenly. The ham was fork-tender, moist, and juicy. Because the pan locks in the moisture, you can keep it warm in the oven until dinner time by reducing the oven temperature after the first three hours. Any leftover cooking water can be used as a soup base the following day.

COTTAGE HAM

Ingredients:

2 pound smoked shoulder butt

8-10 black peppercorns

1 tablespoon brown sugar

4 bay leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Rinse cottage ham to remove excess salt. Place cottage ham in a 3.5-quart Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill 2 inches above ham. Add black peppercorns, brown sugar, and bay leaves. Cover with lid. Bake cottage ham two hours. Check water level to keep the pan from going dry. If it does, add a little more water. The absorption allows the ham to be fork-tender, not chewy. Bake one hour longer, if necessary. The ham is done when the internal temperature is 160°. Serve with potatoes and vegetables of choice.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Walnut Brown Sugar Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Walnut Brown Sugar Butter! Ahh, sweet butter. I don’t know if it’s the winter weather or the upcoming holidays that get me in the mood for bakery ideas. Who doesn’t appreciate aromatic cinnamon, sweet nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice? The smell of bread baking in the oven triggers all kinds of emotions. It can lift our mood and impact our behavior. Honestly, it would have been pretty easy to feature today’s compound butter all by itself. But tell me, isn’t it better to imagine slathering it all over those freshly-baked cinnamon rolls?

WALNUT BROWN SUGAR BUTTER

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto plastic wrap. Roll layer of plastic wrap over butter to form a log. Roll tight and place in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Serve over toast, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, or muffins.

Traditional English Toffee

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.

Apple Orchard Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Apple Orchard Pie! Nothing conjures up autumnal nostalgia like a slice of apple pie, still warm enough from the oven to soften a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Inhale the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. It’s delectable, isn’t it? I realize making pies may not be on the top of the list for everyone who loves it. So, I’m telling you today, it’s okay to begin with a prepared pie crust. There are some pretty decent brands out there for you to try. Some refrigerated brands are made to unroll and crimp the edges; others are frozen and meant to be thawed. Some are buttery, super-flaky, and even taste as good as homemade. That’s where you’ll need the help of an assistant, or taste-tester, so to speak. Just remember, pie doesn’t have to be picture perfect to taste spot on. It’s dessert, after all.

APPLE ORCHARD PIE

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust, 9”

4-5 large sweet apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

4 large tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Crumb Topping:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Form prepared pie crust into a pie plate that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Crimp edges. Set aside. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and sea salt. Sprinkle about a quarter cup of mixture over the bottom of the pie crust. In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the remaining sugar mixture. Coat well. Transfer apples to the pie plate, forming a mound in the center. Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon for crumb topping. It should resemble small peas when mixed. Carefully add the topping to the apple pie. Bake 30 minutes longer. If necessary, cover the pie with foil to prevent burning.

Walnut Brown Sugar Butter

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Walnut Brown Sugar Butter! Ahh, sweet butter. I don’t know if it’s the winter weather or the upcoming holidays that get me in the mood for bakery ideas. Who doesn’t appreciate aromatic cinnamon, sweet nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice? The smell of bread baking in the oven triggers all kinds of emotions. It can lift our mood and impact our behavior. Honestly, it would have been pretty easy to feature today’s compound butter all by itself. But tell me, isn’t it better to imagine slathering it all over those freshly-baked cinnamon rolls?

WALNUT BROWN SUGAR BUTTER

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto plastic wrap. Roll layer of plastic wrap over butter to form a log. Roll tight and place in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Serve over toast, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, or muffins.

Traditional English Toffee

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.

Devils on Horseback

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Devils on Horseback! The name itself is a conversation starter. I know, right. The colors themselves resemble the “dark side” of our personalities. The small savory dish is made with pitted dates, smoked almonds, and crispy bacon or prosciutto. It’s pretty simple to prepare and is often served as an appetizer at social gatherings. Popular as a finger food, this hors d’oeuvre is perfect for small conversation at backyard parties. Watch yourself. Eating too many may find you a little mischievous.

DEVILS ON HORSEBACK

Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar

24 pitted dates, whole

24 smoked almonds, whole

3-ounce package prosciutto, deli sliced and cut in half lengthwise or 12 slices thin bacon, cut in half width wise

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine soy sauce and ground ginger. Mix well. In a second dish, place brown sugar. Take a pitted date, open carefully, and stuff it with a smoked almond. Wrap the date with a half slice of prosciutto or half bacon slice. Dip it into the soy sauce mixture. Roll it in brown sugar and place seam side down into the prepared baking dish. Repeat until all dates are prepared. Bake in the preheated oven until the prosciutto or bacon is crisp, 15 to 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Impromptu Pretzel Crust Pecan Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Impromptu Pretzel Crust Pecan Pie! Sometimes a crunchy pie crust satisfies primal needs. After all, it’s second nature to crave foods that sound good when you bite into them. Admit it, we like different tastes. The desire for crispy and crunchy foods never seems to grow old. Because we associate tastes and aromas with feelings, our brain is already satisfied before the first bite. Combine sweet and salty for the ultimate dessert experience. Crunch away.

IMPROMPTU PRETZEL CRUST PECAN PIE

Ingredients for Crust:

1 1/4 cups pretzel crumbs

2 tablespoons corn starch

3 tablespoons sugar

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for Filling:

6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon sea salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine pretzel crumbs, corn starch, sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Stir well. Press evenly into a 9” pie plate, making sure the sides and bottom are covered. Put pie plate on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes until crust is firm. To prepare filling, take a medium saucepan. Combine butter chunks, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk in beaten eggs. Fold in chopped pecans. Pour mixture into pretzel crust. Bake 50 minutes. Cool completely before serving.