Saturday, April 12, 2014

Maple mustard glazed ham & polenta fries


      We all know the best thing about the holidays is pigging out, and what better dish to pig out on then a good ol' Easter ham? Especially when it's smothered in mustard & maple syrup. Those two ingredients, along with a little dash of soy sauce is all you need to make that Easter ham sing. 

    When it comes to choosing a ham, I have one simple rule: go for the ones made by any small local producer. Hams manufactured by the big national companies tend to be pumped full of water, and may even contain artificial flavours. Don't be fooled by the label "All natural - no added preservatives" that you sometimes see on industrially produced hams. Using nitrates is part of the process of making ham and the big boys get away with the 'all natural' label by using cultured celery extract, which just happens to contain, you guessed it: nitrates! 

          You don't necessarily have to pay top dollar on an organic ham to get something good. Basically, just avoid the big name brands, or anything that is already flavoured because you will be dressing it up yourself with the maple mustard glaze. After that, whether you go for big, small, bone in, boneless, smoked, or plain that's up to you. Sometimes I like to go for the small 'jamboneau' hams, because they heat up really quick in the oven. If you are having a lot of people over, better to get one big ham, because there is less risk of it drying up in the oven. 

     Whatever ham you choose, make sure that you have a good meat thermometer handy. Any ham you buy will be already cooked and you just want to heat it through. Once the ham reaches an internal temperature of 70C / 160F, leave the ham in the oven on low until you are ready to serve. 

   The accompaniment I choose for my ham is somewhat untraditional, but sure to please everyone: polenta fries. They're crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and dressed with an awesome wild mushroom seasoning. When I make them at the restaurant, I deep fry them to get an extra crispy texture. This can be a bit tricky to do at home, so I'm giving you two alternatives for this recipe: fried or baked. Either way, the wild mushroom seasoning makes them ultra delicious!      



Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: about 1 hour. Serves 5

Ingredients:

900g (2 lbs) ham
120ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup
140ml (1 cup) dijon mustard
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Polenta fries:
1 1/2 cup medium / fine corn meal
1L (4 cups) milk

2 tablespoons montreal steak spice
40g (1 1/2 oz) dried wild mushrooms, preferable black trumpet

oil for frying

Pre-heat the oven to 350F

1. Place the ham in a baking dish and spread half the mustard over the exterior of the ham. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining mustard with the maple syrup and soy sauce. Coat the ham with the maple mustard glaze and pour the rest over the top of the ham, allowing it to pool over and collect at the bottom of the baking dish. Add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of the baking dish.

2. Place the ham in the oven at 350F and bake until the center of the ham reaches 70C / 160F, about 15 - 20 minutes per pound (454g) As the ham bakes, use a spoon or ladle to occasionally bast the ham with the glaze as it cooks.

3. Heat the milk in a medium sized sauce pot. Add the corn meal, along with a pinch of salt to the milk and stir constantly until the polenta starts to come away from the sides, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to minimum and keep stirring for another 5 minutes.

4. Spread cooked polenta out on a backing tray in about a 1 inch layer. Allow to cool ten minutes on the counter and then at least another 45 minutes in the fridge.

5. Cut the chilled polenta into 1/2 inch by 3 inch sticks.
    - To fry: heat about 1 inch of oil in a large pot to 350F and add the polenta fries. Do not over            crowd, work in small batches. Use metal tongs to gentle move the fries around to keep the from sticking to    the bottom of the pot. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes.

      - To bake: Lay the fries out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and bake in the oven at 350F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

6. Place the dried mushrooms, along with the montreal steak spice in a coffee grinder or food processor and pulse until they become a coarse powder.

7. Toss the polenta fries in the mushroom powder. Serve with the glazed ham. 


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