SFC: Glazing the Holidays

               Though it may not be quite as cemented into a role as Turkey is for Thanksgiving, Ham has no doubt found its way as the often-starring role to Christmas get-togethers (and other holidays and celebrations I’m sure). This is especially true with my family, who consume it alongside large bowls of chips and dip, bacon-wrapped weenies, cheesy potatoes, and all manner of our favorite comfort foods.

                Despite such a large nationwide popularity, however, it saddens me to think that this oh-so-loved cut of pork is often not truly prepared “properly” (technically all you need to do is heat it up, but for a good ham there’s more). It’s true, this may only be from my experience of those I know, but still I just can’t help thinking that a large proportion of Hams during the Holidays just aren’t getting the treatment they deserve: a nice, thick, shiny coat of Glaze.

                Sure, we open up that packet of “Honey Flavored Glaze” they give with every giant mass-produced chunk of the meat and pour it on, but that’s not a real glaze. It’s thin, barely flavored, only serving to add some sweetness with the barest perceptible color/coat of itself, which most likely isn’t even being applied properly. A real Glaze, a true Glaze, is Seen and Smelled and Identified the moment that ham comes out of the oven; it’s that picture-perfect look we see in all those magazines.

                And it’s not hard to do, really. And I’m not blaming people if they haven’t happened to apply something like this to their Hams for all these years; sometimes it’s just not one of those things we think about. Ham’s already delicious enough baked as is, and we have all this other food to prepare and enjoy, the focus on this part simply might slip us by. But with more Culinary Shows getting TV spotlight and viewer attentions in these days, the argument and spotlight on Glazed Hams during the holidays is as high as it’s ever been. It deserves our attention, our Ham deserves to be Beautiful and Delicious this year!

                There are two different glaze recipes that I’d like to highlight, depending on the type of Ham one has purchased this year. If doing a whole, uncut slab of meat, bone in or non (hopefully WITH a bone, just gets that extra flavor), then we stick with a nice, thick, rich, concentrated glaze like this:

Honey Glaze

½ – 2/3 cup l. brown/demerara sugar

¼-1/3 cup honey

1 ½ tsp ground Pumpkin Spice

1 Tb English Mustard

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                We start not with the glaze but the ham itself, for even with a delicious coating we still need to cook it properly if wanting the full deliciousness this main course can offer. Ideally, this should be soaked overnight in cold water, which will then be changed at least once throughout. I’m not sure what this exactly accomplishes other than washing off any slime and briny chemicals on the outside, but there’s nothing wrong with a long bath for things like these.

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                Pat dry the next day and bake, with cold water in pan and a foil cover, at 315F for a long period of time; about 20 minutes per pound of pork (ours took 5 hours), plus an extra 20 after that. This will heat it up in a nice, slow, gentle fashion; there are a few recipes that may just leave this for an hour at 350 or something, but even if it’s reheating I say do it proper. Also, as it’s best to have it elevated from the pan bottom during this, one can have the ham sitting on a rack or, better yet, a traditional bed of veggies and herbs to aromatize the meat from beneath (or to soak the veggies in delicious cooked ham juice and serve on the side afterwards).

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                While this is going you can mix up the Glaze (just combine everything but the cloves); if you don’t have the Pumpkin Spice, or like me just don’t wanna use it, simply add a bit each of Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Ground Clove (the last being most important here). You should end up with something that’s just thick and dense.

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                Take the ham from the oven, turning it up to 350F. As it heats, you’ll prepare your Ham: first, if it has any Skin, peel it off. This should come out nice and easy, though you may need to slice off with a sharp knife every now and then. Don’t feel bad about taking all that off, you can always chop it up and drop it in a friar or bake in the oven to make little hammy skin crisps, yum.

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                There’s most likely a pretty good sized layer of fat on part of it (it may not look thick, but trust me it is); try to shave some of this off before moving to the next step. Finally, give a nice little scoring, criss cross slices along the whole visible showing of ham; only about ½” deep at its deepest point, maybe up to 1” or more if there’s a lot of fat. We don’t actually want to cut the meat very much here, just giving the glaze grooves to set into (and a nice little pattern for presentation).

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                Finally, we can apply our glaze onto this hulking beast, spreading its sugary goodness down in those cracks and over the side like a coat of paint. I know it might not seem as if this will be easy to coat on, but it actually melts and spreads well once in contact with the hot surface. Add a little water to your pan, and pop this back into the now 350F oven for another 20 minutes (or more depending). During this time the glaze will darken, start to brown, create this beautiful shine and, of course, start fumigating your oven (and kitchen if you open the oven door often) with that enticingly haunting aroma of sweetness, spices, and salty pig.

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                Take out when done, carve as desired, and enjoy your meal.

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                Now, if for chance you’ve already bought a Spiral Cut Ham, or simply prefer using them for the Holiday get-togethers, we’ll need a different glaze than before. The thick, gloppy kind just used won’t really excel on these thin yet deep layers. For this, we can turn to a recipe I saw Ina Garten make just a few days ago on TV, a really nice wet mixture that gets in deep and creates this pretty little crust on the outside (and some in I’m sure).

Orange Glaze

6 garlic cloves

8 ½ oz marmalade

½ cup Dijon

1 cup Brown sugar

1 orange, zested

¼ cup orange juice

                Pulse all the glaze ingredients in a food processor (or just try to get the garlic as finely chopped as possible). Treat Ham the exact same way all the way through the first baking process (well, you might not want to soak it, considering all the slices the water can now get into) and pour this baby all over, making sure it’s able to get nice and into some of those crevaces. Bake at 350 until the glaze is done (originaly recipe just baked the whole thing, with glaze, start to finish for 1 hour. Since we’re taking the “heating up” elements out of play, it shouldn’t need THAT long, but I’m not sure) and serve as desired.

                Blasphemous as it may now sound, Leftovers can still remain an “issue” even after all this work on the product. But since that’s the case, and we make some of the best meals from these holiday scavengings, might as well use it right?

                Along with the Ham, quite often is it that we have some form of Mashed Potatoes (in my family’s case, those of the “Cheesy” variety) , and I’m sure my family’s not alone in this. With these two at our disposal, it seems only natural to make some Croquettes as a following day’s snack.

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               Simple to put together too, just mix your leftover ham and potatoes to what proportion is desired. Pile this into a container and let sit in the fridge for a while to firm up (if they haven’t done so on their own already).

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              Take out and carefully shape, traditionally into elongated, almost thumb-shaped forms (or a sphere, sphere’s are nice). Put this through the Standard Breading Procedure (flour, eggwash, breadcrumbs, SEASONED!) and Fry, deep or shallow, at about 350F until crispy all around.

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               Serve with Ketchup or some form of Aioli, a sprinkling of Paprika, or whatever else one fancies that day. Rejoice in the results that befall of a Glazed ham, whether it be in form of Sandwich, Fried Potato or Soup Topper! But above all, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, may time spent with family be the best it can be! (and Good Eating of course)

A La Plancha

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https://www.facebook.com/alaplanchatc  

https://twitter.com/aLaPlanchaMPLS  

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            Spanish cuisine isn’t something our Trucks have hit on too much; general Latin certainly, and an obvious influence of Mexican flavors and wrappings through the street-food regular tacos. True, traditional Spanish cuisine, on the other hand, is still rarely ever touched on this sense, despite the obviously popular Tapas trend in various restaurants.

            A La Plancha hopes to fix that; starting out in Catering, Plancha has opened this year as our first Tapa-based Food Truck. Big and red, with a Mexican Wrestler (or “Luchador”) Poster festooned on just about every side, along with a whole line of “tapas.”

            Though the actual options are highly seasonal, there ARE many solid standbys to be seen. They hold two large sandwiches, a Cecina (seared beef and pimento) and Cubano, the latter also coming in Slider form at times. A set Gazpacho is often seen, along with Guacamole and tortillas of course. Various other tapas can and often include Croquettes, some form/s of Salad, Potatoes Brava (fried/sautéed with paprika), Empanadas, and some sort of “Tortilla,” which is actually very much like a very fluffy, thick omelette or frittata (traditionally with potatoes).  All of these being very traditional or close to traditional style and options, giving customers a comfortable way to ease into the new Truck cuisine.

            Hard to figure out where to start with all of this, but I think my first trip went well enough.

 

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Food: 8

             A Cubano marked my first meal at this Truck of Tiny Tapas (alliterations galore, yay!), yielding and interesting exploration to this pressed pickle, pork, and swiss delight.

             Placing between a Ciabatta (or ciabatta-like) bun, no toasting is done on the inside, I mean it’s a cubano, there shouldn’t be; instead pressing  to crisp the outside, bringing a nice, complete texture out of the bread (as opposed to the underbaked doughy flavors of certain other Trucks). However, they have yet to achieve anything near to the full squished, almost Panini-like press of many successful, traditional cubanos (I might actually suggest they think about getting a few machines, or change the bread to better press). Which is probably why the Swiss has only the lightest of melt on it, lacking much of that “goo” factor we look for in any griddled sandwich with cheese. As for the pork aspect; the Ham tastes nice, as does the actual Pulled Pork, but the latter is noticeably lacking in moisture and any “wow” elements.

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             The star of the show comes in the Pickles, which are of course housemade (and kept in various jars throughout the kitchen). Completely PILED onto the top bun, their tangy, sharp vinegar bouncing off the acidic and intense seeded mustard on the bottom, cutting through and lifting the meat and cheese in their crunchy texture and rich flavors. Ultimately, though it’s not too impressive compared to the “true” cubanos, as an actual sandwich it all comes together very tasty.

             This was served with a side of tortilla chips; fried themselves from Masa tortillas (I can tell). If one has the craving for this particular Truck lunch, and/or has a few extra bucks, and/or is smart, you’ll get a side of their Guacamole. I haven’t actually tried it myself, but the one behind the register (the owner?) gave me a peak at what it looked like.

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            Mmmmmm, that is some sexy, chunky guacamole. I’m not one for all the mixings of tomatoes and onions, but even that looks good to me; keeping it minimal, fresh and rich. That would be a good guac I’m sure.

            And finally, they were kind enough to be handing out little sample containers of their Gazpacho to various people who enquired about it. Tomato based, they blend theirs with Honeydew and Peppadew; the tomato brought in richness and acid, the melon gave that fun little pureed-fleshy texture, and the pepper some zing and an extra note, not to mention the other little spices and such they added. A really tasty cold soup.

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Holdability: 8

             Highly dependent on what one gets. First off, I’d say the sandwiches are actually pretty darn easy to hold in one hand (with the basket under the other); sorta like Brava’s Lamb. Soup seems pretty simple, not sure what kinda container they use for the bigger guys, but could probably just drink it down like a smoothie. Most other items are sure to be similar two-handed, though things like Potatoes Bravas and various other seasonal possibilities may lead to things which need to sit down or stand still to consume comfortably.

Price: 8.5

              Bigger, sandwich entrée-like items hang around the $8-9.50 range, with cheaper eats like quac and gazpacho at $3-ish. I’m unsure of the various other seasonal items, though I don’t think it’d be too much of a stretch to envision other items around the $3 with things like empanadas or tortillas between the two extremes. Dependant on when one gets there, can possibly load up with a bunch of fun little fellas.

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Speed: 8.5

             Once again, depends on the item; soup and guac are instantaneous of course, I assume fried items like croquettes are a little faster than average, and sandwiches and others come in at average waiting periods.

The TOE: 8

             Not too much I think I can say at this point; they’re definitely on their way, they have a fun little truck with a new idea in our mobile scene. When going in those times which they have a fuller tapas menu, I think one can enter into quite the interesting experience, especially during special events and Food Truck Days. And it doesn’t hurt they have a big, colorful Luchador decorating the sides.

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                           Tally: 41/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Certainly an interesting truck compared to others. Definitely a great stop for multi-truck snackings or if one wants to grab multiple items for cheap. Though it’s not too bad a place for the larger, sandwich-based lunches.

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            If you’re a stickler for a very traditional quality Cubano, this probably isn’t the one for you; though it’s still a good sandwich item in general, especially for pickle and mustard lovers. For those who love getting the Guac and Tortilla sides and various Trucks, I think this is the place for you; get your rear out of Hola’s line and grab this nice, chunky dip of goodness.

            And of course where is a suggestion here without the various small items? Definitely go for the Croquettes once they start frying, not to mention the Tortillas. Empanadas I’m unsure of, not having tried them yet… if the price is low enough, certainly give them a shot, though if you’re craving a meal of them and Midnord is out I wouldn’t put my money and risk on a place that only makes one.

            Don’t forget the Gazpacho when the day is hot; who needs soda when one can get a good cup of cold soup?