Monday, December 31, 2012

Baked Ham, Sweet Potatoes, and Squash for Christmas

Baked Ham with Honey Whiskey Glaze

I was never really like other kids I knew growing up when it comes to the holidays. For me, the perfect Christmas was never actually about the presents (or at least it wasn't unless there was something I really, really hoped I would get that year). It was about the food -- especially once I grew older and learned my lessons in regards to things like cholesterol levels and expanding waistlines.

The holidays eventually became the best possible excuse to do things like load your plate up with seconds, indulge in dessert, and take whole days off so you could spend all day cooking. As an adult who was free to create her own traditions instead of always following other people's, this only became more the case.

That's not really the type of Christmas I grew up with though. There are people in my family who love to eat for sure, but Christmas was never really a big "cooking holiday" in my home the way it is for some people. Relatives never flew in from out of town or stayed for a while. There was never a big turkey or ham on the table or anything. Nobody baked or had a special Christmas cocktail that they wanted everyone to try. Dating a string of picky eaters before winding up married to a picky eater who was also a vegetarian didn't exactly help matters either. My holidays really never looked like the ones you see in the movies and -- while the ones I had were certainly nice enough -- I always longed to spend Christmas with another foodie like myself.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Then my marriage hit the skids and I met Seth. Thankfully he not only likes the holidays, but he likes to eat... and not only does he like to eat, but he likes to eat meat, and cheese, and carbs, and rich gravy, and all those good things that no holiday is complete without. As a result, I've been able to create the Christmases I've always wanted to have with him by my side.

This year, we started out wanting to roast a duck again like last year, but we wanted to do more of a Peking-style duck with Asian side dishes to kind of mix things up. Unfortunately though, the store was all out of the damn things by the time we got around to getting down there to buy supplies. We bought a roast to have instead (in the event nothing better presented itself before Christmas arrived). Then my mom brought us a ham to bake if we wanted, so we eventually decided on that.

This year's ham probably turned out to be one of the tastiest ones I've baked so far. Instead of cooking the ham on it's side the way I normally do, I baked it cut side down the entire time. I also properly scored the fat as usual and added a glaze that contained the last bits of this wonderful Tennessee honey whiskey from Jack Daniels that we had on hand. I thoroughly recommend this baking method, as it produced a tasty and very juicy ham with a wonderfully complex flavor. In fact, I'll be baking my hams this way from this day forward. The honey whiskey certainly didn't hurt matters either.

Baked Yellow Squash
The sides were oven baked sweet potatoes with ground garlic, parsley, and basil paired with roasted, seasoned yellow squash. Really pretty tasty... and easy, too! When I was younger, I didn't think there would ever be a proper substitute for regular potatoes in my heart of hearts, but I really do love the way sweet potatoes compliment so many dishes so much better while actually being healthier and lower in calories, especially if baked.

Yellow squash was something I started making as a Thanksgiving side way back when I was married to my ex and I got hooked on the organic produce from Whole Foods. Everyone liked them so much at the time, they've sort of stayed on as part of the regular rotation when it comes to holiday meals. Add some crusty rolls and plenty of butter and you've got a feast that really hit the spot.

We've been thoroughly enjoying all of the leftovers the ham created. It's made plenty of platters, sandwiches, and snacks. I may or may not make some sort of chowder or chili with the leftover bone. We'll just see! There's just so much you can do with ham and so many ways you can use it to dress up all of your existing favorites.

We eventually decided the roast we originally bought would make a great New Year's dinner. Normally I do some sort of pork dish paired with greens and a black-eyed pea option like Hoppin' John. I'm sort of sick of the idea of cooking the same old thing this year though, so I'm not sure if I'll actually be doing that or not. I'm more on board with a nice roast, au jus sauce, and some sort of baked macaroni and cheese side dish at this point.
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