I've never made a big holiday meal before. There's something about the holidays that invites giant enormous meals. I mean, I'm definitely up for the challenge of cooking something big and yummy at any other time of the year, but for some reason Cooking Around the Holidays is daunting. I suppose because cooking a meal for your family, at this time of year in particular, makes one a Grown Up. You become like all the women before you in your family who were suddenly expected to feed everyone. I suppose that in making my first sizable Christmas meal, I'm morphing from Pennie into Mrs Cuevas. Or Mom. Yikes.
But anyway. I went grocery shopping with my mother in law recently, and we spent so much that we earned a certificate for a) a free ham, or b) $10 worth of groceries. We chose the ham, of course, because we figured it was a steal (not knowing that the ham they were offering costs about 10 bucks anyway). My husband had just suggested that I cook on Christmas Day, and the Free Ham sealed my fate.
So I tried to plan the rest of the meal. In my head, large holiday meals include more than one kind of meat. Turkey at Thanksgiving is accompanied by pernil. In my family, we always seem to have at least 3 kinds of animal present. My second meat had to be something tender, something that my mother in law, who is 80 and wears dentures, could enjoy, in case the ham was too tough. LAMB, of course! I made a lamb shoulder once, years ago, and man that was delectable. Melts in your mouth. However, I brought that lamb from a farmer's market, and I couldn't find lamb shoulder at the damn supermarket. I settled on chops. Very simple to cook and tender enough, right?
Now, the ham recipe. For recipes and ideas, I always go to allrecipes.com. This site RULES. It's so awesome. It's well organized, has tons of user feedback. I've been going there for years and everything I've tried has always been delicious. I used this recipe - HAM!
By the way, I really like exploring new foods and new ways of cooking. This recipe calls for Worcestershire (I'm pretty sure I'm saying it wrong every time. Wustershur?) sauce, something I've never used before and seldom eaten, and liquid smoke flavoring, something I'd never even heard of. And I love them both SO MUCH I keep putting them in everything. GOD it's good.
But I digress. This is what my gorgeous ham looked like after 8 hours overnight in the oven:
Yeah, I had to get a little ghetto with the pan because I realized too late I don't have a proper roasting pan. So I used a smaller pan and covered it with a shit ton of foil. (Maybe the drippings spilled over onto the bottom of the oven and burned and my husband made me get up at 6 am to check it and maybe I woke up Claudia who screamed for about three quarters of an hour because she'd been woken up before she was ready. Maybe.) Worked well enough - that meat was really tender and fell apart as soon as I took the bone out. I don't know if I "deboned" it properly - when I was done it looked more like pulled pork than ham, as in I couldn't slice it the way I'm used to seeing ham sliced. Hmm.
Anywho, the recipe then calls for the ham to be covered in a mixture of the ham drippings, brown sugar, honey, and the Worcestershire and liquid smoke flavoring. I also added a cherry glaze my husband found, and:
Looks pretty good, right? 'CAUSE IT WAS. When he woke up, I told him the ham was so damn good he'd want to marry me again.
So in addition to the ham and lamb chops (which I seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary), I made scalloped potatoes and spinach tomato couscous. Both from a box, because 1- I am not above it, and 2- I didn't want to be cooking all day. Now, the meal went over like gangbusters. My husband loved it, our daughter ate some of it without complaining before spitting it out like she does with all of her food these days, et cetera.
|some of the ham + the potatoes|
|that's me, all tarted up on Christmas Day, with the first plate|
My mother in law enjoyed it too. In the only manner she could.
As I mentioned before, my dear husband's mother is getting on in years and has long since said goodbye to her teeth. As such, she often fusses over her food, which of course is understandable. No one wants to cut their gums on a piece of bread. When I served her (after cutting up the lamb into bite-size pieces, and tossing the bones), she said she'd really enjoy it more if she put it in the food processor, which she does with her food often. Okeydokey, I said.
I figured she was talking about the meats. What actually happened was she combined the ham, lamb, potatoes AND couscous ("Coo coo? Foo foo? Oh it was delicious dear.") into a brown lump that sat in the middle of her plate. She called it a meatloaf. I call it baby food. But no matter. As long as she enjoyed it. I'm not offended in the least.
Well, not really.
(Maybe a little.)
The funny thing is, although she has no teeth and is therefore very picky about her food, she has the worst sweet tooth (no pun intended) of anyone I've ever met. She never purees cookies.