Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Ham, Part II

Well, I said I would tell the whole story, and so I will.

I forgot how many times we changed the water while it was soaking, but we kept the ham (aka Meat Raisin, aka King Tut) wet for about 36 hours, and simmered it for maybe three and a half hours on Tuesday night, cooled it, and chilled it.

On Thanksgiving, I cut away the excess fat and the skin, and warmed reconstituted Tut covered tightly in foil in a very low oven for about an hour (I mean not even 200 degrees; I didn't want to dry it out). Then I removed the foil and glazed the ham. The glaze was something I winged that I really loved: dark brown sugar moistened with fig vinegar and seasoned with black pepper and ground cloves. I did score the ham lightly first in the traditional criss-cross pattern.

We served it just a bit above room temperature, along with the turkey and all the trad Thanksgiving trimmings. I made collards for the green veg, which was good with both meats.

Verdict from this Yankee girl: not bad, not bad at all. Yeah, it was majorly , majorly salty. But it was also really flavorful. I'll do a country ham again next year. But I might not be ready for the journey until then!

Listening to the after-show Treavor Hastings is doing on Rando right now. Gotta ask him how his turkey came out! He brought some kick-ass pumpkin cranberry bread to our house on Thursday!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Radio Show

A quick couple of words:

Since Rando tends to rerun current shows, I thought that I'd make a tradition of my Christmas music Black Friday show. So, today: The Christmas Music Cocktails with Chris for Holiday '09!

Fish House Punch is the drink!

The Paul Harrington proportions (for about thirty servings)

36 oz dark rum
24 oz lemon juice
25 oz brandy
4 oz peach brandy
3/4 pound bar sugar (superfine, not confectioners)
40 oz water

...but this is open to some futzing with on strength and acid/sweet balance. Let your taste buds be your guide, either shake as a cocktail as needed or serve in a punch bowl, chilled and iced (in which case watch the water balance as it will get diluted, and be ready to refresh)

I'll chat more about it on the air today... at 4 PM EST!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blogging the Country Ham

I woke up this morning knowing I had an ordeal in front of me that no Yankee woman should ever have to face: wrangling a country ham.

It happened because I weakened. I let the ham into my life. When I married a man from southern Indiana, which is practically Kentucky (and sounds like it when he talks), I should have known it would come to this. But it took over a decade and a half before it did. He managed to get a little weeny bit of country ham onto the Thanksgiving table last year, horrifying the health-conscious members of my clan (most of whom ate it anyway). This year, he started talking country ham right after Halloween.

So we found ourselves in the 125th St. Fairway in NYC last week, and I found myself making a deal with the Devil: two dozen Malpeque oysters for my dinner, shucked by him, for...guess what.

The oysters were delicious, and Ken shucks them like a pro. It's those keyboard-playing organist fingers that wield the oyster murder instrument so skillfully, I think.

Ah, but this morning...I had to start soaking The Beast. First, I undressed it; it came wearing a little frock made of muslin and printed with all sorts of claims about its colonial heritage. Inside, it was wrapped in butcher paper. I unwrapped that and beheld a giant meat raisin, lightly dusted with mold and black pepper. A pig leg mummy. Yikes. I'd been prepared by all the reading I've been doing: the mold is harmless and should be scrubbed off with a stiff brush while one is thoroughly rinsing the Meat Raisin. Fair enough. One cool thing: it smelled exactly like the inside of the smoke houses we visited in Williamsburg, Virginia.

But even my biggest stock pot would not hold the scary-looking thing. I woke up Ken, who was sleeping in.

"You got me into this. Now you're getting me out of it." I told him, and dispatched him to the restaurant supplier for bus bins (I'd needed them anyway) and an institutional-sized stock pot. Meanwhile I kept King Tut moist inside a water-filled garbage bag in the kitchen sink. Soon, Ken returned, bearing vessels. Tut ended up in a bus bin in our basement fridge, something I thought was an OTT investment when we put it in, and something I bless every time we have a big party or when the holidays come around. I have read that some people soak country ham at room temperature, but I'd be worried about that after the first huge tide of salt water washes away the saline preservative.

So, step one accomplished. Now, we have to change the water every five or six hours or so. I'm thinking--after having read a scad of recipes for country ham--that I'm soaking it for at least 24, maybe 36 hours before it gets simmered. Time for a bath; I just realized that I, too, now smell like the inside of a Williamsburg smokehouse, and I think that could get old fast.

My radio show this week will be my annual Black Friday Christmas music special. More on that anon. And on the drink, when I decide what it'll be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Missouri Mules & Thanks Be To God

Cocktails before Thanksgiving dinner are a tough call. I usually do Cosmos, because of the cranberry and everyone likes 'em. But they go down perhaps a little too easily, and folks unused to anything stronger than a beer tend to get tanked and fall over in the gravy. Well, not REALLY, but sometimes a little too much hilarity ensues. And I don't want to be part of someone's Black Friday headache.

I have a groovy old ice bucket and a hammered silver platter inherited from my great aunt. I was thinking for a while of putting out whiskey and water and ice...which seemed unimaginative. But I do love the taste of whiskey--especially bourbon--around Thanksgiving food, and so I played on the internet for a while. My buddy Ed Odell was talking about a champagne cocktail called a Moonwalk, and when I Googled it, I realized it came from the Savoy Bar in London, employer of the esteemed Joe Gilmore, a man who created drinks to honor the visits and special occasions of folks like Harry Truman, The Queen Mum, and Winston Churchill.

What's good enough for Give 'Em Hell Harry is good enough for me, so I mixed up a Missouri Mule. Here's the recipe, via Wikipedia:

Missouri Mule

2 parts bourbon
2 parts applejack
2 parts fresh lemon juice
1 part Campari
1 part Cointreau

Shake hard & serve up, in a chilled cocktail glass. I garnish with a long, thin strip of lemon zest, curled.

It's a slightly complicated drink--five ingredients--but you can make up a bunch in advance of guests arriving, to shake as needed. It's not sweet. It's almost grapefruit-y, because of the Campari/lemon juice combo. And the mellowness of the bourbon/applejack base plays nicely off that. Best of all, people don't down Mules like Cosmos and end up falling over. This is an interesting-tasting cocktail that will be sagely sipped.

My suggestion would be to also have some of the dinner wine open and breathing to offer folks who might be a bit challenged by a tart drink. AND you could also do Campari and soda for folks who like that, or make a couple of Jack Roses from any surplus applejack.

Problem solved.

My radio show today? I've got the new Rickie Lee Jones. And I'm suddenly (the better part of a decade behind the rest of the hip world) impressed with Sufjan Stevens. See you on the internets! Tune in!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th, Part One Million

I was wandering outside to get the papers much earlier today--and yes, I still read them on actual paper except when I weaken and scan Huff Po, which has lately been pissing me off by being the NY Post of the left--and I was dressed in my usual morning attire: gym clothes and a pair of cute slipper boots my sis gave me last Christmas. I really like those slipper boots, except that I tripped over them and almost landed on my posterior on a set of stone steps.

But I didn't. I banged my hand a little, remained upright, managed to not even jam my back or scrape or even bruise anything. Just scared myself. When you fall down and you're a little kid, it's not a deal. But falling down as a grown-up is complicated. It often results in the need for more than a band-aid.

My question: is ALMOST falling down a lucky thing on a traditionally UNlucky day, Friday the 13th? One could argue that it is: after all, there was no harm done. And though I'll admit I still have the adorable booties on my tootsies, I'll be a lot more careful wearing them from now on. Perhaps it was a warning. That's lucky. Or was the almost-spill UNlucky? I mean, far luckier would be for me to have just proceeded on to the coffee machine and the Times Op Ed and Doonesbury in the local paper.

Or would it have been?

The next thing that happened was that my fancy-pants coffee machine, one of the deep joys of my life, started to shoot steam out the wrong places. That means I had to get my husband to play with it. It's a complicated machine with electronics and sometimes you have to pick it up and shake it (which is actually what they told us at the customer service line last time it misbehaved, and that seemed to work). It's also a heavy coffee machine, which is why I needed my husband. I also needed him because I tend to give up too fast when I think something is broken. Unlucky?

He was still on the snooze, so I got out my old coffeepot and made myself a cup of French press. Ken came downstairs a bit later and gave Fancy-pants Machine a good shake. Now it works. So it lives to brew another day. Lucky or un?

Derned if I know. I'll tell you if the thing gives me another cup when I finish this blog entry.

But this afternoon at 4 EST, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and suggest Satan's Whiskers today on Cocktails with Chris at

Satan's Whiskers Cocktails according to the Internet Cocktail Database, consist of one fifth part of the following: red vermouth, white vermouth, gin, orange juice, & Grand Marnier. Add a dash of orange bitters, shake and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. I'd garnish with a twist of orange rind.

Got me some interesting new CD's to spin for ya'll, too. See you there!

Tune in!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Answer to a Maiden's Prayer

When I looked out at our rapidly-withering November garden, all that was still alive was a little late leaf lettuce, the unkillable mint, a few heads of celery and a still-lush growth of nasturtiums. But anything we don't use tonight will be dead tomorrow: it'll be below freezing in this swanky neighborhood near you tonight, and I'm SICK of mojitoes, so I think I'll let that mint go. The nasturtiums, celery, and lettuce? Sounds like salad. And the drink? A Maiden's Prayer, garnished with one of those peppery blossoms.

Paul Harrington's recipe for Maiden's Prayers calls for equal parts silver rum, gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice. It's a better drink than it sounds--and its tawdry history is something I intend to reveal on my radio show this afternoon at 4 EST,

As I flashed through some headlines on my way to the blog today, it seemed like another Hard Day on the Planet--someone shooting up a high rise in Orlando, Florida after yesterday's hideous spasm of violence at Fort Hood. Horrifying. It's been a long time since I've been an official maiden, but my prayer is that we as a nation and a world could just Cut This Stuff Out. And maybe have a cocktail and listen to some good music instead.

Tune in to my show if you're around.