Hamming it up
You’d think that this old lady who has cooked hundreds of ham dinners would know enough to keep cooking them the same way as always. However, while sitting on my sofa doing my crewel designs and watching one of the many cooking shows now available on TV, I saw another method.
What that chef — I use the term lightly — did was in two parts. In the first part, he used one of those uncooked hams we don’t often see in our local supermarkets. In the second part he cooked the butt portion of a pre-cooked ham, the kind that most of us use.
I was surprised at what he did and watched the entire show again when it was shown the next day.
His method follows: Place the ham in a baking pan, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil on all sides and cook it very at about 225 degrees in an oven for four hours. Then, take off the cover, cut away the browned fatty sides and cover with a blend that contained mustard, brown sugar and a couple of other ingredients I’ve forgotten. Then recover tightly and bake at 350 for another hour.
Why I followed these instructions since I’ve successfully cooked ham with cloves and pineapple for a 100 years I don’t know? Guess I thought I’d try something new. It was new all right! There I was Easter morning after about three hours uncovering that foil to find an inch or more of some liquid at the bottom of the pan. Just then I should have known that I was stewing that ham, not baking it.
The rest is history. That added mustard “thingy” found my staring down at that piece of meat and wondering what it would taste like? What we had for dinner was a stringy, dry, terrible $20 piece of ham. I had to dig down into the center to get enough meat for at least that one meal. Thank goodness we had great sweet potatoes, string beans, salad and hot rolls.
It wasn’t a complete failure. I managed to salvage enough for a couple of slices of lunch meat and a pot of split pea soup. If you’re one of “us” — we retired people with nothing to do all day but watch television — then you have no doubt watched a lot of cooking shows. Believe me, there are many of them these days. Some are great and I’ve picked up some good cooking tips from them.
However, many of them are just for entertainment. The “chefs” abilities, in my opinion, range from excellent to amateur. One of them never, ever, measures anything! When a recipe calls for a cup she uses a regular coffee mug, which we all know can be any size. Another “chef” measures everything. While I enjoy her show, and she is an excellent cook, but several things she does drive me crazy.
This sweet lady has the habit of putting things to cool in the refrigerator without covering them. Who does that? And while I enjoy it when she takes us driving out to shop at assorted grocery stores — I enjoy looking at the huge selection of breads and cheese, etc. — she too often has to show us how to set a fancy table. This is a cooking show, friends, I know how to set a table.
Then there’s a cooking contest where they bring in four established chefs to redo a meal from four odd ingredients in three rounds, an appetizer, then a dinner plate, and finally dessert. Each course someone is “chopped.” In the end, the last portion is handled with only two remaining contestants. All too often, my biggest complaint — and this goes for all of these cooking shows – is chefs with hair all over the place.
Twice I’ve seen the judges refuse to try a dish because they found a hair in the food. I’ve even seen chefs cooking with hair down to their waist, leaning over food, or with beards and other facial hair not covered. Do you want to eat at their restaurant? Not me, thank you. Another annoying habit, one I simply do not understand, is those chefs who wear regular hats.
I’m not talking about coverings to keep their hair out of the food — usually those white things — I’m talking about the kind of hat you wear out in the rain. Enough complaining. Next time I’ll carefully bake my ham the regular way, not slowly stewed.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org