The Easter of Two Hams, Except One that Wasn’t

Easter is my favorite time of year to feed ham and pork products to the chosen peeps. Two years makes it a trend, right? Or do those years have to be in a row? Any way, years ago I was all “I’mma be adult and have Easter dinner!” which meant buying one of those big ass spiral cut Easter hams (b/c spiral cut = fancy) and then realizing that it was way too big for two people. And the only people free that night were my Jewish friends, so they came over for dinner and I fed them ham.
This year, The Profussor brought his family over to eat some pork products in the middle of Passover. Dude, that is some serious friendship. Or love of ham. Or friendship born of ham-love. Either way. Very stellar.

This year I decided to smoke a ham. That ham above. It was an uncured baby from 8 O’Clock Ranch, and I cured it while I was on vaycay in VA Beach with some of that magical pink curing salt from Jon in Albany.

I rubbed it with some brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, and that was about it. Then hot-smoked it with maple chips for a few hours. Kinda dry, but in that cured meat way. The bone is going to make a pretty sweet pea soup. It was also PINK!

But that roast was only like 2.5 lbs, and it shrunk a lot in the smoker, so then I was all “I don’t have enough food, I need to buy more or I’m a terrible hostess!” and I picked up a ham from Roma Foods. They called it a ham roast, but it was really just pork roast uncured. I wasn’t really sure if it was ham or just pork, but hey, more meat, right?

I probably would have done a little more to it if I’d known it was an uncured “ham” roast from a pig, though. I think I overcooked it a touch. I don’t know. I’m a ham gal, not a roast gal. It’s a miracle I didn’t turn it to leather.

We also had some mashed potatoes, beets, artichokes (got ’em from the co-op – the stems tasted so chemically and awful. totally inedible), and some awesome wine the Profussor brought over. Gewurztraminer, right? Just sweet enough. So yum!

I’ve been really into pavlovas lately. So easy to whip up (har har). Just add a cup or so of sugar to 4-6 egg whites. Plop on parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour in a 250 F oven.

You get a crackly exterior, and a soft and squishy interior. Plus the raw whipped egg batter tastes so good while you’re licking the spatula cleaning the bowl.

Brandied pears in an apple cider reduction (toss in a wee sliver of lemon rind, and a few thick slices of ginger) for the adults. Naked slices for the kiddos.

I totally should have made some of these while the FUSSYlittleFAMILY was here, though. Cracklins! The skin didn’t quite crisp up in the oven (more chewy, blah), but pop ’em in a low pan = heaven. Sorry guys, we’ll have to do it again so I don’t forget to make cracklins.

Oh and we also made some half-ass Hello Kitty latkes in a waffle maker.

The family was a blast to have over, and hopefully we can do it again some time soon.

Home Cured Corned Beef

I think I want to corn every piece of meat in my house. I used Ruhlman’s corning brine recipe on some beef short ribs, and had them cure for only 4 days. Ruhlman recommends 5-7, and naturally, I started my cure late. But after some encouraging from Ruhlman himself, I cooked it at day 4.

I also owe gigantic props to my buddy Jon in Albany for the pink curing salt – look at what a lovely deep pink shade this beef turned after curing.

I also owe major props to the students at SCCC’s culinary program for the Irish soda bread recipe. I scaled it down to a large loaf measurement. So freaking good.

My Dad came to town on St Patrick’s Day for a last minute visit, so he got to share the meal with the husbear and me. It was a lot of food, so that was good. I’d had the beef cooking on the stove for a few hours before I picked him up, and then tossed in the veggies while Albany John and I ran out to pick him up.

Corned beeeeef! So good. With potatoes, tons of cabbage, and some carrots. Corned short ribs taste exactly like corned beef, which is usually a brisket cut. Either way, a tougher cut of the cow. The dish was pretty salty, but I guess that’s what happens when you cure something in a largely saline brine for several days.

My dad’s complimentary any way, but when I was like “So, Dad. I made the corned beef myself.”

He was like “I know, Albany Jane. Yes, it’s good. I just saw you making it.” I’m pretty sure he resisted tossing in a “No duh, kid”, but then Albany John explained that I didn’t just open a package of pre-corned beef, but had cured it myself from short ribs.
The short ribs plumped up while cooking, too. This was the smaller rib.

Here is what remains of the large rib. Those slices of beef above? There was another layer of beef above this that came off easily. This is what remains.
There was a nice layer of tendon between short rib layers. And the entire cut of beef was very lean, too. Hardly any fat in the broth when cooled off. Just a few bits here and there to skim off. Very lean and very flavorful overall. I was impressed. I’m used to these cuts being fat nuggets.

This was the best piece of the night. The super tendon-y bottom layer of the beef around the bone. If you thought corned beef was good, holy moly, corned beef tendon is on the next level. Made me wish I’d had extra tendon to throw in the pot. So good.

Shortrib Ragu

Beef Shortrib Ragu’ll cure your winter blues. And if you don’t have winter blues, it’ll make you feel as cozy as a bug. Definitely stick-to-ya-ribs stuff.

I popped 2-3 lbs of beef shortibs into a crock pot with some diced onions, whole cloves of garlic (like, a head in total – garlic cooks up so sweet and mellow. It’s hard to believe it’s so bracing raw) several cans of tomatoes, and some oregano and fresh basil.

Later in the day, I made whole wheat pappardelle.
1 C semolina Flour
2/3 C whole wheat flour

1/3 C AP or Bread flour (I only had high-gluten bread flour on hand)
2 whole eggs
1/4 c olive oil
a few T of water.

Mix them all together, adding some water here and there if the dough is tough and crumbly. Then let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Crock pot! Ugly picture! My shortribs weren’t falling apart and dissolving into nothingness after being crock potted for hours on end, so Albany John shredded ’em for me. Worked like a charm.

I also remembered I had some hard cheese rinds (parmesan, romano) in the freezer, and tossed those in for good measure. A delicious tip I gleaned from the Profussor. So chewy and melty, and cheesey, and probably not good for you.

The beef shortrib ragu I was gunning for had morphed into something more like a stew. Either way, it was great over pasta, mashed potatoes, and rice. 2.5 lbs of beef short ribs is also kind of a lot for two people (even with bones), so we’ve been happily picking away at this for a few days.

Oh, and that pappardelle was awesome. I figured it would have that dreaded “Whole Wheat Bite”. You know – like when you eat it and all you taste is heaviness, brown, and meh?
There was a bit of bounce to the noodles, and they just had a subtle nutty-wheat flavor to them, along with speckles of color. I am so making these again. Totally not boring whole wheat papardelle noodles. Oh, and they were only pappardelle because I used that roller to cut them out with. These could have easily been whole wheat linguine/fettucine noodles, too. Or spaghetti. Or ravioli.

Char Siu Brisket

My darling husband likes reading Cooks Illustrated. Christopher Kimball sometimes has some finicky statements. One was that the home cook had no point in cooking brisket, because it wasn’t worth the efforts. Albany John threw down some verbal gauntlets, and I thought it was a good time to test this theory out. Is brisket better off just cooked as a roast? Is the home cook better off not smoking the brisket?

Well, Albany John made a crock potted roast with the brisket. I’d never had uncured brisket. I’d only ever had it smoked or corned. It was quite lovely, but I can’t say that it’s all that different from any other kind of stewed meat I’d had.

Albany John cut half of the beef off to save for me and my smoking experiment (from 8 O’Clock Ranch). Any more than that for two people is just too much. This was a pretty lean cut, as far as brisket goes. I thought it was money well spent.

I had approximately 1 lb 4 oz of brisket to start with.

I popped it in a marinade (I’ll include a recipe for the marinade later) overnight and then put it in my lil stovetop smoker with 3 T of Cherry and 3 T of Red Oak wood shavings. I let it smoke for about 6 hours under 250 F.

And then this dark darling came out! I finished it off in the oven with some of the reserved marinade cooked down to put a laquer on it.

And wound up with this even darker beauty. There was a bit of smoke, but not a lot of smoky flavor. At least as much as I’d have liked, but I think I just need to increase the amount of wood chips I put in. There was still a small amount of smoke.

The meat was moist, and still firm. Thankfully I hadn’t cooked it past the firm stage and into the falling apart stage.

The marinade didn’t penetrate much of the brisket. Maybe it would need a longer time to sit and absorb, but it was primarily flavored at the edges. It was okay, but I think it would have been fine or better without much of a marinade. It was more like a hint of char siu flavoring. Maybe a simple salt and pepper rub next time.

I wound up with a smaller roast – it shrunk to 11 3/8 ounces. I sadly did not account for how much liquid the marinade added. But let’s just compare the starting and ending weight, shall we?
Beginning: 1.25 lb (100%)
Ending: .71 lb (56.8%)
Total loss: .51 lb (43.2%)
Wow! a 43.2 % loss of weight! Crazy stuff!
So my cooked 1/4 lb would have to start out as .44 lb! Almost half of a pound! I paid about $4.50/lb for this brisket, so it’s really closer to $6.50 per lb cooked. Yowie.
If I were a restaurant that served 1/4 lb portions of brisket in my sandwiches, and chared a 60% markup for overhead I would need to charge about $2.60 for the meat portion of the sandwich. Assuming my math is right, since lately my brain has been kind of dead.
Gung Hey Fat Choy, bitches! Usher in that year of the rabbit.


BULALO! I love saying that name. It’s so fun. Bulalo. BuLAlo. BULALOOOOOO! All I know is I love this Filipino beef soup. Albany John cooked up some beef shanks, and I think he used this recipe from Home Cooking Rocks! as a jumping point.

I think the coolest part of it was that is was a clear-ish broth. Usually the beef shank/bone soups that we eat around here are dark and browner in color. This was quite fresh tasting – not too heavy. Just the right amount of food for a chilly day to warm up the bones.

I even arranged all of the food in a bowl for the first bowl of soup before topping it with broth and cilantro. Carrot rounds, napa cabbage, potatoes, and some delicious beef shank pieces. They even had some tendon on them! Yummy, yummy soup.

Smoked Lamb Riblets

Smoked lamb riblets. SMOKED LAMB RIBS. Two ways. Char Siu style, and dry rub style. Both delicious. Above is the char siu style.

Get ready for one picture-heavy post.

You know what, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though. Here’s where it started. My lamb ribs from 8 O’Clock Ranch. A little over a pound. They sell for $2.95/lb. With shipping figured in, it’s around $4 for this package of lamby happiness. I’ve never even seen lamb ribs sold anywhere before, so I had to try them. This package contained two pieces of lamb ribs. One thicker and one thinner.

Did a dry rub for the thick cut. Here’s the gist of it:
Dry Rub for Lamb Riblets Recipe

a base of kosher salt (that you can’t see)
1 T Paprika
2 T chili or cayenne powder
1.5 t cumin powder
1 t onion or garlic powder
2 t black pepper
2 t Coleman’s mustard powder

This was a little on the salty side, but whatever – I like salt. You can adjust that part as you see fit. Really, adjust any and all of it. But the flavors worked really well overall. Just make sure you coat that sucker with as much as you can. Really pack it on.

So there’s the dry rub on the left, sealed in a baggie. The char siu lamb ribs are on the right. Here’s that:

Char Siu Lamb Ribs Recipe
1.5 T Maltose
1.5 T honey
1/4 – 1/2 t garlic black bean paste (or hoisin)
1.5 T soy sauce
2 T vermouth
white pepper
5-spice powder
1/2 t sesame oil

This was awesome, and I look forward to making it again for other cuts of meat. Maltose is kind of a bitch to work with – it’s got a tough texture to accurately measure. Just eyeball it. It’s like pulling candy to get it out, and needs to be warm to even think about blending it (otherwise it hardens up). You could just double up on the honey if you don’t have it.

Any way, I let them marinate in the fridge for a solid 12+ hours.

Then I pulled out my little red stove-top baby smoker. I sprinkled in 4 T of plum wood chips. I think they only recommend 1-2 T, but I wanted to blast these ribs with smoky flavor. I don’t taste as much smoke as I’d like with 2 T of wood chips.

After I got all that settled with the plum wood chips, I layered everything else up and plopped in the ribs.

Covered everything and set it to smoke over low heat, aiming to get it above 150 F and below 200F. The stove-top gods must have been with me that night, because my temps set pretty well. It took about half an hour to get up to the right temperature, and overall I’d say they cooked for 2.5-3 hours. I let the bigger dry rubbed ribs cook a half-hour longer than the skinny char siu rubs.

Oh, and don’t toss out your char siu marinade. Cook it down with some sugar syrup to make a glaze. I over-reduced it, so I had to add more water. Kind of annoying, but worth it when I finished them in the over, and brushed that goodness over it.

Ta da! All done! Just had to pop them in the oven to cook up a little more…

To get a browner crust on the char siu lamb ribs! Mmm – laquer finish.

And to dry out the top of the dry rub a little more.

Best buddies! You go, lamb riblets! Way to be delicious!

Here’s a cut of the char siu lamb rib. Nice & smoky inside. Look at all of that smoky pink interior! Now that’s what I’m talking about. These would be great in the summer, too. Smoking them inside would be great if I could finish them on a charcoal grill to crisp the outside and cook off more of the fat.

The plum wood chips were the way to go, too. Awesome flavor to complement the lamb meat.

Here’s the big dry rubbed guy. So yummy! So pink! So fatty, but so worth it! I can’t wait to try these out again when I have access to a charcoal grill.

8 O’Clock Ranch Ham Steak

Mmm. Steak of Ham. So part of me likes meat. And part of me wants the animals I eat to not live tortured lives up until they reach the chopping block. So I bought some meat from 8 O’Clock Ranch, a farm in upstate New York.

I heard about them through the grapevine. One chick I know got really into organic and good-for-you foods after she got pregnant and has been ordering from 8 O’Clock Ranch for a few years now. She did a ton of research on different farms, and seemed satisfied by 8 O’Clock Ranch meeting her wants. She gave me some of their meat to try, and I was in. It’s good stuff.

Price-wise, it’s not too expensive, either. New York State is considered a “local” shipping rate, so it isn’t some outrageous sum to get it shipped to your door. All of the meats come vacu-sealed and are in manageable portions. They’ve even got some lamb! But this is pork. However, maybe I’ll do a run-down in what I bought this go.

Fresh ham steak. This was an uncured ham steak. So pretty much just pork. It was like $3.50/lb (maybe $4.50 w/shipping included, but that’s still not bad). Albany John and I had about a third of it above. The rest is in the fridge waiting to get cooked up.

It cooked up nicely. Very lean – no fat really came off of it. And I didn’t overcook it! And quick, too. Maybe 10 minutes total. Maybe less. It was really tasty. It was fairly light for pork, and the texture was firm, but not stringy and dry or anything.

I overcooked some Shanghai bok choy to go with it (spent too much time wrapping up the leftover pork. Dang). And some cheesy scrambled eggs.

And to continue our usual United Nations of meals, Albany John made some farofa. It says it’s imitation bacon flavored, but it tastes fine to me. Toss in some onions and toast it all up in a pan with some broth. Yum. Good stuff.