Posts Tagged ‘gingersnap’

This was a fun episode for me to do, as vinegar was the star of the show. For as long as I can remember, I have loved all things vinegar-based. I absolutely loved to arrive at my grandparents’ house in Baltimore because my grandma always had a bag or two of Utz Salt and Vinegar potato chips waiting for me. I was also the weird kid in elementary school whose mom would pack pickled eggs in her lunch. I had discovered pickled eggs at our local Blimpie, and my mom and I would each get two eggs with a basket of pretzels. To this day, I still love pickled eggs, but, as Alton would say, “That’s another blog.”

Grilled Romaine

An interesting grilled romaine salad is first in this episode. The night before you want to serve this salad, place a metal loaf pan in your freezer and add 1/2 C red wine vinegar. Let the vinegar freeze overnight. This will be enough vinegar for four servings. When you are ready to prep the salad, cut the bottom off of two hears of romaine lettuce and slice them in half lengthwise.

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Romaine hearts, halved lengthwise.

You will also need 1 C of finely grated Parmesan, 1 T olive oil, and black pepper. Spray a griddle pan with nonstick spray and preheat it over medium-high heat. Brush the cut sides of the romaine hearts with olive oil and generously grind pepper on top.

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Romaine hearts, halved lengthwise, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with black pepper.

Place the grated Parmesan in a long, shallow baking dish and dip/press the oiled sides of the romaine into the cheese.

Place the romaine hearts, cheese side down, on the preheated griddle and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and crispy.

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Romaine hearts placed cheese side down on lubed pan.

Remove the lettuce from the hot pan. Alton tells you here to place the grilled lettuce (cheese side up) on ice, as you want the lettuce to have a dichotomy of temperatures; I did not find this to be necessary as the non-grilled side of the lettuce was still cool after such a short cooking period. Remove your frozen vinegar from the freezer and scrape it with a fork to “fluff” it up. Sprinkle the frozen vinegar on top of the warm cheese and serve immediately.

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Grilled Romaine topped with flaked frozen vinegar.

Alton recommends picking up the whole salad and eating it like a hot dog. This recipe is good and bad. The recipe is flawed when it comes to the application of the cheese to the lettuce, as the cheese does not adhere well when you apply it to the oiled lettuce, and most of the cheese sticks to the pan when you cook it. Ted suggested making Alton’s Parmesan crisps from episode 113, molding them over the top of the grilled lettuce. Otherwise, you could place the cheesy lettuce under the broiler for a couple minutes. Either way, Alton’s technique in this recipe just really does not work well. That being said, the salad itself was fun to eat, as I really liked the contrasting flavors and temperatures. The frozen vinegar is super intense, packing a real zing of flavor, and its contrast with the warm cheese and lettuce is interesting to the palate. Technique flaws aside, this was just a fun recipe to try out.

Sauerbraten

The Sauerbraten recipe in this episode was the one I was super excited to make. Why? Until a few years ago, my parents lived two hours from me. We visited them regularly and my mom would always make some stellar food. For years she told me she wanted to make Sauerbraten for Ted and me, but she never ended up doing it before she was unable to cook. Although I did not get to eat Sauerbraten with my mom, this was my chance to finally try Sauerbraten, and to talk to my mom about the recipe. Sauerbraten translates to “sour beef,” and this is a recipe that, although simple, requires a few days. First up, combine in a large saucepan:  2 C water, 1 C cider vinegar, 1 C red wine vinegar, 1 chopped medium onion, 1 large chopped carrot, 1 T plus 1 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 2 bay leaves, 6 whole cloves, 12 juniper berries, and 1 t mustard seed.

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Water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, Kosher salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, and mustard seed in a saucepan.

Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set this liquid aside to cool until it is just slightly warm to the touch.

While the vinegar mixture cools rub a 3 1/2- 4 pound bottom round with 1 T vegetable oil and sprinkle Kosher salt liberally over the meat.

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Bottom round, rubbed with oil and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Sear the meat in a hot pan on all sides, using tongs to flip it. Once all the sides of the meat are browned, place the meat inside the marinade and let it sit at room temperature for an hour. Alton placed his meat directly into his saucepan, but my saucepan was not large enough to accommodate my roast. Instead, I transferred my meat and my marinade to a large plastic container. Regardless of what vessel you use, you want the meat to be as submerged as possible.

Place the meat into the refrigerator and leave it for 3-5 days (preferably five). If your meat is not completely submerged in the marinade, flip the meat over once per day. After five days have passed, remove the meat from the marinade and whisk 1/3 C sugar into the marinade. If your marinade is not already in an oven-safe vessel, transfer it to one now.

Add the meat back to the marinade, place a lid on the pot, and place it in a 325 degree oven for four hours, or until the meat is tender.

After cooking, remove the meat from the liquid, keeping it warm; I tented my meat under foil. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids. At this point, you can add 1/2 C raisins, but I did as Alton did and opted to leave them out. Place the strained liquid over medium-high heat and whisk in five ounces of gingersnap crumbs (a food processor works best for this).

Whisk the sauce until it has thickened and serve it over the sliced beef.

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Alton’s Sauerbraten.

Alternatively, you can shred the meat and serve it on Kaiser rolls with the sauce, though this is not a traditional presentation. Sauerbraten is certainly not a pretty dish, but it does have a great deal of flavor. The meat is falling apart by the end of the cooking and has quite a pronounced vinegar flavor, which is interesting. The sauce is pretty rich and is a mixture of sweet and sour flavors. I actually found that the sauce could easily overwhelm the meat, so I used only a little bit of sauce. We ate this for dinner two nights, serving it slice the first night and as sandwiches for the second night, and we liked it both ways. Mom said this recipe was very similar to hers, as her recipe also used gingersnaps to thicken the sauce. This is a very easy German recipe that is fun to make at home, and I’m so glad I finally got to try Sauerbraten

I love pig, so I was excited for the 46th episode of Good Eats. I think of ham as something to be consumed for special occasions or holidays. When your husband has cancer, you begin to view every day as a special occasion. So, a random August day seemed like the perfect occasion to prepare a ham.

Country Ham

I love country hams. For several past holidays, my parents have ordered Waco hams. I relish their dry texture and excessive saltiness, leaving me with rings that fit too tightly on my water-retaining fingers. In the episode, Alton is able to easily find a country ham at his local grocery store, but this was not the case for me. A country ham, by the way, is a ham that is dry cured and hung to age. We ended up finding a smoked ham at a local butcher shop, which is not exactly the same thing as a country ham, but it was the best we could do.

My smoked ham.

My smoked ham.

To make Alton’s country ham, you’ll need to prepare a couple of days in advance. To start, if your ham has a hock, you will want to cut it off. My ham did not have a hock. Stick your ham in a cooler, preferably with a drain, and submerge the ham in water. Your ham will soak for two days, and you will want to change the water twice each day.The purpose of the soak is to pull some of the salt out of the ham. I added some ice to my cooler since we had warm weather.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Once your two-day soak is done, stick your ham in a disposable roasting pan on a baking sheet. Fill the roasting pan with Dr. Pepper until the liquid comes 1/2 to 2/3 up the side of the pan. Alton said this would only require 3-4 cans of Dr. Pepper, but I needed five 16-ounce bottles to fill my pan.

Dr. Pepper.

Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

In addition, add some sweet pickle juice to the pan; the online recipe calls for 1 cup, but Alton doesn’t measure the juice in the episode.

Sweet pickle juice.

Sweet pickle juice.

Tent the ham with a large piece of foil (two pieces crimped together), and place the ham in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Into the oven

Into the oven

After 30 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees for 1.5 hours. When the 1.5 hours are up, pull the ham out and flip it over.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Cover the ham again with the foil, insert a probe thermometer, and wait for the ham to reach 140 degrees. My 15-pound ham took about 5 hours to cook. Let the ham rest for a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

The day I cooked the ham, we opted to have ham sandwiches for dinner. The ham was fairly moist and tender. I think it would have been considerably drier in texture if I had used a true country ham. Though the ham had a faint sweetness to it, I would never have guessed that it cooked in Dr. Pepper and sweet pickle juice. My smoked ham was slightly salty before cooking, but I would be curious to see how a super salty country ham would turn out with this preparation. Regardless, this ham was super easy to cook and turned out flawlessly. It was definitely “good eats.” This would be a super easy way to cook a nice holiday meal. After slicing all of the ham, we vacuum sealed it and froze it for later eating.

Country ham sandwich.

Country ham sandwich.

City Ham

A couple of weeks after making the country ham, it was time to make Alton’s city ham. A city ham is partially cured in a brine and cooked to at least 137 degrees. Most hams that you see in the grocery store are city hams. When buying a city ham, choose a bone-in ham that is the shank end, rather than the rump end. Ideally, you also want to choose a ham that says it is in “natural juices,” rather than saying it has “water added.” I purchased an 11 pound ham. When ready to cook your ham, line a roasting pan with an old kitchen towel, and place your ham on top, cut side down.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

Using a utility knife on the 2nd click, score the ham diagonally from the bottom to the top, all the way around. Then, turning the ham in the opposite direction, score the ham again, forming a diamond pattern all over the outside of the ham.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Insert a probe thermometer, tent the ham with foil, and cook the ham at 250 degrees until the thermometer reaches 130 degrees. My ham took 3.5 hours to reach 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Pull the pan from the oven and use tongs to pull the diamonds of skin off of the outside of the ham. I had to use a paring knife to cut some of the skin off.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ingredients for Alton's ham crust:  mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Ingredients for Alton’s ham crust: mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Once the skin is all removed, paint a generous layer of mustard (Alton used Gulden’s in the episode) all over the ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Next, sprinkle/pat dark brown sugar on top of the mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Spritz the ham all over with some bourbon, and finally sprinkle a thick layer of pulverized gingersnap cookies on top of the bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

Stick the ham, uncovered, back in the oven (now at 350 degrees), and wait for the probe thermometer to reach 140 degrees. My ham’s temperature had risen to 140 degrees while I made the coating, so I opted to just put the ham back in the oven for an hour, as Alton had said his ham took about an hour. Let your ham rest for about a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

We had my parents over for dinner when I made the ham, serving it sliced, and with asparagus and sourdough bread.

Sliced city ham.

Sliced city ham.

We also had a wonderful 2004 Woodward Canyon Cabernet with our ham. Everyone thought this ham was just amazing. While we liked the country ham, we thought Alton’s city ham was phenomenal. The ham was moist and perfectly cooked, and the crust was a perfect combination of sweetness and tang. I will absolutely make this ham again. This one is a sure winner. Don’t miss this one!