Monday, January 18, 2016

Pan Fried Ham, Potato Latkes and Roasted Tomotoes with Basil

Hello Everyone!
On Mondays, my husband records his podcast.  Since he normally records these in his shop after he gets off work, dinner gets delayed a little.  For me that means, if I am not tired after work, I will do a more elaborate dish that takes more time, OR (and this is what happens most often)  I choose a dish that I can quickly make and then do something else. (Most often watch a cooking show on Create TV.)  Tonight's dinner is one of the easy night dinners.

Pan Fried Ham

I get my ham from Costco.  It costs about $20.00.  Which is a lot. But I then divide that ham into one pound sections and put those sections in the freezer.  Depending on the size of the ham,  I  end up with four to six sections.  One section of ham can make two or three dinners depending on what I am cooking that week.  So, when you divide it that way, one ham, cut into four sections,  makes about 12 meals (feeding two people) which means that your meat is costing about $1.67 a meal.  That's $0.84 per person.  How awesome is that!!!! 
You may have noticed, as we have gone through these meals, that many of my recipes call for less meat than what the average American usually eats at dinner time.  However, the portions that I cook are the meat ratios recommended by dieticians.  I read somewhere that your meat in a meal should be no larger than a deck of cards or the width and depth of the palm of your hand.  Either way that you measure it, hat is not a lot of meat!  I usually do more than that, but not by a lot.  When you follow this rule, it makes it much easier to save on your meat budget for groceries.

1 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 slices ham cut about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick (depending how you like it)
1-2 tbsp.  chicken broth or apple juice  (I prefer apple juice, but I almost never have it.)

1.  Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet (preferred) or heavy base frying pan on medium high heat.  When cool water droplets flung on the pan "dance"  the skillet is warm enough. Place ham slices in frying pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes.  Turn and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes.
2.  Add 1 tbsp. chicken broth or apple juice to ham about 1 minute through cooking the first side of ham.  Add the remain tbsp. once ham has been turned.
3.  You will know the ham is done when the meat has a lovely golden brown color.  Although you can fry it as little or as long as you want depending on your preference.  (Think about bacon,  if you like your bacon crispy, you cook it longer than you do if you like it chewy.  The same concept with frying ham applies.)
4.  Serve warm.

* Note:  This goes really well served with apple sauce as a "gravy".

Potato Latkes

I love latkes. But every single recipe I came across used one pound of potatoes.  This is way too many potatoes for two people for a week-night meal.  So, after much experimentation I have come up with this recipe.

2 medium size russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 tbsp. onion, finely minced  (can substitute onion powder as well)
1 egg
1-2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. kosher salt OR Creole Seasoning  (I prefer Creole seasoning)
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1.  Peel the potatoes.  Shred the potatoes using a cheese grater.  When the potatoes are shredded put potatoes in a paper towel or clean dish towel.    Squeeze the potatoes in the towel over the sink trying to remove all of the liquid.  You will be amazed how much liquid will come out of the potatoes.
2.  Place squeezed potatoes in a large bowl. Put in 1 tbsp. finely minced onion, 1 egg, 1 tbsp. flour and the salt or Creole seasoning and pepper.  Mix together.  The egg may have caused the mixture to become more liquid-y than you would like.  To test consistency, take about a tablespoon, of the prepared potato mixture and squeeze it with your hand, if it doesn't form a small, compact ball, but sort of falls apart, put the other tablespoon of  flour in and this will eliminate some of the moisture and help it to bind together.
3.  Once the potato mixture has reached the desired consistency, divide the potato mixture in half.  Using your hands, form each half of the potato mixture into a ball.  Put the balls back in the bowl while you heat up your oil.
4.  Put oil in a small cast iron skillet (preferable) or heavy bottom frying pan.  Heat oil on medium high heat.  When cold water droplets flicked on the pan "dance" the skillet is warm enough.
5.  Form both of your potato balls into patties and gently place into the hot oil.  Cook in hot oil until brown and crisp, usually about 3-5 minutes per side.
6.  When both sides are cooled, place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

NOTE:  These are really good with a dallop of sour cream on top.  But, if you look at traditional latke recipes on the internet, these are also traditionally served with apple sauce.


Roasted Tomatoes with Basil

This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes and it totally isn't mine.  This is a recipe by Ina Garten.  I first saw it in her cook book Back to Basics when I was housesitting for my in-laws.  The day I saw it I had to make it and it has been in my dinner rotations ever since.
I would feel guilty about putting this in a post, but I found the recipe on for free, so I feel it is okay to put it in this blog. 
I have modified this recipe just slightly, but I have notated the changes that I make in parentheses.

12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds (not cores) removed -- I almost never have plum tomatoes.  I substitute about 24 cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise, and I don't worry about seeding.  (They're too tiny to seed.  I don't have the patience for that.)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
10 large fresh basil leaves, julienned  (I use fresh whenever I can, but in the winter my basil dies and I am left with dried basil.  I use  1-2 tbsp. of dried basil - depending on my mood  and it still tastes delicious.)

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  (The cookie sheet should be large enough to hold all of the tomatoes in a single layer.)  Believe me, you do not want to skip this step.  If you do, you will be scrubbing your cookie sheet for what feels like hours.
3.  Arrange the tomatoes on the cookie sheet, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
4.  Sprinkle with the garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.  (If using the dried basil, also sprinkle the dried basil.)
5.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes start to caramelize and the flavors are concentrated.
6.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the basil on top.  (Skip the sprinkling part of this step if using dried basil as you have already done this earlier in the recipe.)
7.  Serve warm or at room temperature

Well, there you go, another meal done.  Tomorrow, we make stir fry using some of the leftover pork from our pork tenderloin!

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