tried and true.

Have you decided what you are cooking for Christmas dinner?

If you haven’t, might I recommend this ham?

I really can’t say enough good things about it, so I will leave it at this:

It’s perfect.

I made it for our Christmas dinner last year, and it was so good that I made it again this past Easter. I would have been quite happy to make it again for Thanksgiving, had my husband not observed mildly, “You know, I don’t actually LOVE ham.”

A shocking statement, to be sure, but I rallied in October and made a luscious leg of lamb instead.

I had grand plans for a different sort of beast this Christmas as well (crown roast of pork? Filet de boeuf?), because we are having some extra special guests and I do still sometimes, albeit very occasionally, feel the urge to put my hard-earned flashy cooking skills to good use and make something complicated and impressive for a festive occasion.

But as the big day draws alarmingly near, and I continue to hobble through my days encumbered by crutches and a cast (funny story…), this tried-and-true and utterly delectable ham is starting to look like the winner.

I am thinking of this for one of my sides, and my daughter, who has lately become a bit of a francophile thanks to her infatuation with the Madeline stories, has requested buche de noel for dessert.

But that’s as far as I’ve got. I am stymied, as ever, by vegetables. I feel I need at least two to make this dinner into a veritable feast.

What about you? What will you be eating for the big day, and (equally importantly) the manic week that precedes it? Any snappy sides to recommend?

Do tell!

Thyme and Honey Glazed Ham
from Gourmet, April 2009

I use a ham about half this size, and reduce the cooking time roughly by half as well. Other than that, I follow the recipe to the letter (can you believe it?)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 (12-to 14-pounds) boneless or semiboneless fully cooked ham at room temperature 1 hour
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup mild honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Melt butter with thyme and let stand until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in lower third.

Peel off and discard any rind or skin from ham, leaving 1/4 inch of fat on ham. Score fat on top of ham in a crosshatch pattern without cutting into meat. Put ham on a rack in a large roasting pan. Cover ham with parchment paper, then cover roasting pan with foil. Bake 1 3/4 hours.

Meanwhile, boil vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Remove from heat and whisk in honey, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme butter. Let honey glaze stand until ham has baked 1 3/4 hours.

Discard foil and parchment from ham. If there is no liquid in roasting pan, add 1 cup water (liquid will prevent glaze from burning in pan). Brush ham with half of honey glaze, then bake, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Brush with remaining glaze and bake until glaze is deep golden-brown and ham is heated through, about 30 minutes more.

sailor jerry (christmas fuitcake, part 1).

I have a friend who recently decided to stop colouring her hair.

We’ve been friends for years and we remain close, despite that fact that she is still single and fabulous and I am married with children, and that colouring my hair is the only (tenuous) thread that remains to connect me to my former glamourous self.

She is a massage therapist, an excellent bartender, and a world traveler. She used to live in the Caribbean, and she is planning an ambitious solo adventure to celebrate her 40th birthday next year.

She also flew in to town to spend the weekend with me not long ago, at a time when I very much needed the support.

So that should tell you everything you need to know about this friend of mine: she is brave, kind, and awesome.

She didn’t even grimace with distaste (which would have been appropriate) when I tried to serve her the spiced rum I bought because I liked its name (Sailor Jerry) and its label (vintage tattoos) but neglected to check its provenance (umm…New Jersey?).

Instead, she whipped up some champagne cocktails to get us through our afternoon.

And Sailor Jerry is destined for this Christmas cake, which I plan to make later today.

Christmas Cake, Version 1

You’ll have to start making this as soon as you finish reading the recipe, pretty much, in order for it to be well-aged in time for Christmas – I will be posting a more procrastinator-friendly version soon. But if you like fruitcake, this is a classic. The recipe comes from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook, via my mom.

For Fruit Mixture:
(Note that you can vary the amounts here as much as you wish, as long as your total volume comes up roughly equivalent. You should also not hesitate to substitute ingredients you like for the ones you don’t, eg. chopped dried pears for currants, etc.)

250g slivered almonds
1 kg candied cherries
450g chopped mixed peel
2c raisins
1c currants
1c chopped pitted dates
1/2c spiced rum

For Cake:

2 1/2c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1c butter
2c lightly packed brown sugar
6 eggs
3/4c molasses
3/4c apple juice

I would get started on the fruit mixture the night before you are planning to bake your cake. All you have to do is combine all of the ingredients in a large pyrex mixing bowl, stir well, and cover lightly with plastic wrap.

The next morning, add 1/2c flour to the fruit mixture and stir well. Set aside.

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Grease, line with parchment, and then grease again an approximately 8″x8″x3″ loaf pan.

Sift together remaining 2c flour, baking soda, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter. Gradually add sugar, then eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.

Combine molasses and apple juice in a glass measuring jug, whisking to mix.

Reduce mixer speed to medium-low, and add sifted dry ingredients alternately with molasses mixture, mixing lightly after each addition, and finishing with the flour mixture.

Fold in fruit mixture, and turn out into prepared pan.

Bake 3 to 3 1/2 hopurs, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from pan and remove parchment. Cool cake completely on a rack.

When cake has cooled, feed with a little rum (2-3 tbsp) then wrap in a layer of parchment, then a layer of foil. Continue to feed the cake with rum every few days, rewrapping well each time. The cake should age a minimum of around 2 weeks, so if you’re motivated, there is still time!

of sweethearts and stars.

Well, hello there!

I can scarcely believe that, in effect, an entire season has just passed without my contributing a thing around here.

I have been trying to figure out how to address this last epic silence from my end; as these things go, the longer I thought about it, the more ambivalent I was about addressing it at all, and then the silence itself started to feel so insurmountable that I nearly gave up on the idea of blogging altogether.

But then, December arrived, and my husband returned home after months of (more and less) lengthy absences.

And, just like that, the festive season began around here.

My children woke up this morning to the first real snow of the season, and I woke up to the promise of a long bath, a new magazine, and coffee drunk while it is still hot.

Friends, we have so much to catch up on!

Sunday Stars
Even while single-parenting, I can’t resist the outlook-changing lure of a fresh-baked breakfast. I have been using spelt or light spelt flour of late, but for these I tried a combination of light spelt, coconut, and whole wheat flours, because that is all I had on hand!

1c large flake oats
3/4c buttermilk
1 1/2c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick (1/2c) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4c brown sugar
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1/4c chocolate chips
1/4c craisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine oats and buttermilk in a glass measuring cup, stir well, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and a pinch of salt, if desired. Cut in butter and brown sugar until mixture is fairly uniform and resembles small peas.

Add oat mixture, banana, chocolate chips and craisins to bowl and stir just to combine into a sloppy dough. Turn out onto a well-floured piece of parchment and knead 3-4 times to help the dough come together a bit.

Roll (using a well-floured rolling pin) or pat dough into a round about an inch thick. Cut out shapes using an approximately 3″ cookie or biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet; re-roll or pat the dough and cut out more shapes, until you’ve filled the baking sheet – I usually get somewhere in the neighbourhood of 16-18 biscuits.

Bake 18-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Cool a few minutes on pan, then transfer to a rack and serve very warm, while the chocolate is still gooey.