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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Dinner Feast

Whether your family celebrates the Christian holiday of Easter or not, this is the time of year to grab up inexpensive eggs, and spiral hams are never cheaper.

Of course families with young children will traditionally color and decorate hard boiled eggs, hiding them in the house or the yard. But what do you do with them when the kids have finished with their fun? The obvious answer for most will be deviled eggs or egg salad. Quick and easy, hard to screw up and miilions of recipes on every foodie website.

As to the spiral ham, even the least secure cook would have difficulty ruining the packaged spiral hams on the market today. There is always the risk of overcooking it to the point of dried out, but following the directions carefully and utilizing the packaged sauces that often accompany the ham adds a flavorful glaze that heightens the flavor of the ham.

So, then, what more is there to say about these two Easter-time classics? Well, there are a few things to be concerned about. Here, then, is some food for thought around the Easter table.

Easter Eggs--

1) Don't leave them out in the sun to be found for hours at a time and then turn them into egg salad. If the eggs are hidden and they have been found, whisk them to the fridge to keep the development of bacteria down as soon as possible.
2) Make sure your eggs are thoroughly cooked if you plan to use them on an egg hunt. Young children shouldn't be handling raw egg as it can contain salmonella and be very serious if accidently ingested by young children.
3) Interested in saving some energy. Try cooking your eggs by placing them in a pan of cold water, bringing the water up to a boil, then turning off the heat, covering the pan and removing from the heat. Wait about 15 minutes and then run cold water over the eggs. This method also cuts down on that green layer that often develops around the outside edge of the yolk leaving a sulfur taste to the yolk.

Spiral Ham--

1) Choosing a ham that has been through as little processing as possible is a good idea. Don't automatically select that spiral ham that is on special. Look at the label. Has it been injected in some way with saline, water or other chemicals? You just want ham! So look for the one on special that is as close to the way the pig intended.

2) Toss the package of flavoring that comes with the ham. It is usually full of chemicals you don't need or want and you can easily make aglaze yourself with little more trouble than it took to tear open that package and add the extra stuff that want you to add.

3) Try one of these glazes instead:

Cider, Mustard Glaze

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Mix ingredients together and apply to the ham during the last hour of cooking. Baste the ham with any pan juices as well.

Orange Rum Glaze

3 cups orange juice
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
1 orange, zested
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark rum

Make the glaze by combining the orange juice, brown sugar, orange zest, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cloves and allspice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook at a brisk simmer until the mixture has reduced in volume to just over 1 cup and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the rum, and set aside to cool.
During the last hour of cooking, baste the ham often with the glaze and any pan juices that have accumulated. The skin should be crisp and dark. If the skin threatens to burn before the ham is cooked through, cover the ham loosely with aluminum foil.
Egg Salad Recipe

1 dozen large hard boiled eggs, peeled
whole fat mayonnaise, fresh is best
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 small dill pickle, diced and drained (optional)
2 T of Dijon-style mustard (optional)
salt and pepper

Peel hard boiled eggs making sure all pieces of shell have been carefully removed and discarded. Coarsely chop the eggs making sure the chunks are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on size. Dice the onion making sure to pat excess liquid away with paper towel. Dice pickle and pat dry as with the onion. Add pickle and onion to eggs. Add a couple of healthy dollops of mayonnaise and fold the egg mixture gently until well blended. Add more mayonnaise as needed so that the salad has the wetness you desire. Everyone has their own opinion about how much mayo to add. Add mustard if desired according to how spicy you like it. Salt and pepper to taste, but remember not to overdo it. The eggs will absorb the salt and pepper and initially taste like more is needed. Let the mixture cool over night and then recheck the seasoning before serving.