Investigating an American Classic

Happy 4th of July!

I was reviewing posts from the past that were released on or around the 4th of July and found this little gem from 2010! I investigate an American classic. Deviled ham salad sandwiches. Read on for a laugh!

 

Nothing like a heat wave to drive you into an air-conditioned supermarket in search of no cook meals!

So there I was in line at the deli considering my hot-weather July 4th holiday menu and I saw the deli advertising their own homemade cold salads – chicken, tuna and ham. Chicken salad is delicious – in fact I often make it myself. Tuna salad I don’t eat it because I don’t like any fish – but I can appreciate it and often make it for my husband’s lunch. Ham salad – now that is a different story.

Ham salad is right there in the weird deli food category for me. Along with pimento loaf. I have never tried ham salad. I am not sure why. I love, I mean LOVE ham. I would list ham (or really any pork product) in my top 5 fav foods! Why shouldn’t I love ham salad? Is it because it is minced meat? Considering I like bologna sandwiches and I never met a hot dog I didn’t like – this dislike of ham salad can’t be true. I discuss the situation with my husband. He reveals that his mom used to make deviled ham sandwiches.  I immediately quiz him – What was in it? How was it served? Did you like it?  He says it was chopped up cooked ham, mayo, pickle relish and of course a little salt/pepper. Served on Sunbeam “batter-whipped” white bread and…He didn’t actually like it!! He tells me that whenever he saw his mother whipping this up – he would slide down to his Aunt Barb’s house to see what was for dinner at her house. (If he was lucky, she was whipping up a pot of Johnny Marzetti!)

“Deviled ham” versus “ham salad”

After reading a few recipes and a bit of history on the web; I have to conclude that ham salad is a basic recipe of chopped or minced cooked ham, mayonnaise, relish, sometimes chopped celery and the chopped hard-boiled egg seems to be a black and white issue. You either like it or you don’t.

What makes “deviled ham salad” deviled? Well Underwood Deviled Ham Spread from B&G Brands is what makes deviled ham deviled! They claim the introduction of this product to America back in 1868. From my research I would say that “deviled ham” whether homemade or canned, contains more spice (read “heat”) in it.

The taste test.

I approached the supermarket with trepidation. What aisle would it be in? (With the canned tuna.) Would the ingredients be filled with many long words and chemical products? (It isn’t – in fact I was amazed at it’s mostly natural ingredients.) There it was in aisle 2, nestled in its paper wrapper, reminiscent of a fine Worcestershire sauce.

I whip up the two versions –  one made with deli ham that I dice up and the canned deviled variety.

I consult eatyourbooks.com only to discover that I have 3 (three!!) ham salad recipes hiding among my 62 indexed cookbooks! James Beard, Irma and of course Better Homes and Garden all offer up similar versions of ham salad that I have seen on the web. Of course Underwood offers a recipe online. Theirs seems a bit more like a dip or a spread – calling for cream cheese and pimento and such. I decide to compare apples to apples – I will make both using mayo, relish, salt and pepper. That is how my plain Irish-American husband likes things. That is how his mom made it.

I prepare each version. The cat comes running – not a good sign. I refrigerate them to chill before serving. Not being a huge fan of mayonnaise, both versions scare me. Check out the picture below. I tried to make the photo look appetizing – but you can probably tell which one is which.

The moment of truth.

We both try them. We like them! Not love, but definitely not as scary as I thought. The deviled ham definitely finished with a spicy kick. The plain ham salad texture seemed more appealing. I made both with a little too much mayo. I would suggest: mix either one 4.25 oz can or about a 1/4 lb diced deli ham with 2 tsp of sweet pickle relish and 1 tsp of mayonnaise along with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a wetter texture add more mayo.Chill and serve on white sandwich bread with crisp cold lettuce.

 


 

New Year, New Adventures

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I will resolve this year to never leave my readers stranded for over a month again!

I am coming down the home stretch of my graduate degree and with that in hand I hope to settle into a new job, regular hours and some adventurous cooking.

So as I finish up my degree, enter a new year and a new phase in life, here is a bright and easy way to enjoy “winter’s tomatoes.”

winter tomato pizza

This can be put together with items you probably already have in your kitchen.

I happened to have a “tube” of pizza dough on hand that I let hang around in my fridge for just such emergency dinners, but you could easily make your own.

I mixed a small, almost equal, amount of mayonnaise and finely grated Parmesan cheese with a generous pinch of garlic powder and salt/pepper, thinned it with a little olive oil, and used this mix as a spread on top of the dough.

Meanwhile I took the sad, winter cherry tomatoes and brighten them up with dried oregano, salt,pepper, just a tiny pinch of sugar and some splashes of red wine vinegar.

I cooked the pizza on my preheated pizza stone until the crust was all crisp and toasty and the tomatoes were just wrinkling.

Easy, bright, quick and delicious – just as I hope 2015 will be!

Easter Pineapple

Happy Easter and Happy “National Pineapple Upside Down Cake” Day!

yup its a real day and you can read all about it here.

While I didn’t make cake, I did make muffins. With one simple substitution to basic corn muffin mix I was able to turn something ordinary into something special.

pinneapple corn muffins

Simply substitute the oil called for in your cornbread recipe/mix with equal amounts of pureed pineapple. This gives a nice citrus zing to the muffins. If you want it a little sweeter, add in some honey or brown sugar to the batter – or better yet serve with honey butter!

 

On Another Note…

Please forgive my lack of blogging/cooking lately as I am finishing up a crucial semester in grad school and thesis deadlines are making it almost impossible to cook at all! Be done soon and looking forward to more cooking!

 

 

What Are You Doing For New Year’s Eve?

A popular question right now and also a very beautiful song by Ella Fitzgerald.

Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFdfzNMV52Q

In past years I have celebrated big and small. Warm and cold. Quiet and loud. These days my celebrations tend to be more quiet than loud but always include some reflection on the year behind and some consideration of the year ahead.

I also use the New Year as a catalyst to de-clutter my house and usually spend January/February cleaning out forgotten drawers and closets. There is something about February with its brighter days and lighter snows that always puts a little spring in my step. Perhaps even more than the month of April which for most New Englanders marks the hope of spring.

I would like to say thanks to all my visitors and readers this year, old and new, who took a moment from their busy lives to read about my latest cooking creations. A special thanks to new friend Rachelle !!

So whether you celebrate big and loud….

firework 8b

Or small and quiet…

winter at the shore

Make it great and safe and…

Happy New Year

If you are interested: January 2011  &   January 2012

A “Green” Christmas

Veggies not money!

Holiday dinners like Christmas can be so full of heavy, rich dishes that I decided to take a really “light” approach with the salad course. Just fresh shaved greens – 3 kinds, all raw and lots of them! Plus some fresh grated raw turnip for a sweet-spicy crunch and some dried cranberries for a little color and sweetness.

Green Number one….

Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts.

Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts.

Green number two plus some orange…

sliced celery and shredded raw turnip

Sliced raw celery and shredded raw turnip – Celery is like “beginners fennel”

Green Number three…

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my cusinart

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my Cuisinart – I used “Curly kale” and took out the stems first!

All together now…

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

Dress this with a light lemon-garlic vinaigrette and enjoy a fresh start to a holiday feast!

Cookie Experiment

The “cake mix cookies” went so well that I felt kind of confidant and decided to experiment. What if I used chocolate cake mix? What if instead of peanut butter I used marshmallow Fluff? This seemed logical – after all both peanut butter and Fluff are gooey? That has to count for something when substituting in baking, right?

Wrong.

They looked really promising as I mixed it together – the white marshmallow Fluff giving the chocolate cake batter a kind of “designer grey” color! Once I started to portion them out on the cookie sheet, I really started feeling confidant and dug up some candy canes that I thought would be great all smashed up as a topping! They looked really promising as they went into the oven!

But when they came out…..

They seem to spread a lot more than I thought they would. In fact they spread a lot! And they had to be cut away from each other. But that wasn’t even the worst part.

They deflated too. While they were baking they had puffed up nicely and I was deceived into thinking I would have a nice puffy, chewy cookie. Instead they deflated to a flat, really flat cookie. And as a result I had really thin, crispy cookies. Maybe not the kind you want. I forged on anyway, making small dough balls and placing them further apart so at least I wouldn’t have to cut them away from each other, but I still had flat crisp little rounds.

They were still kinda tasty, despite the flat crispness. And it didn’t stop me from eating too many. But if any baker out there can tell me what to add (I suspect it is either baking soda or powder) I would love to get these a little “Fluffier.” (Pun intended!)

P.S. probably not going to take these versions to the cookie swap!