Thanksgiving is over. Time to stop talking about it, it’s done, let’s all regroup on this topic next year. (That was primarily a note to myself, goodbyes are hard.)
But seriously, it’s time to shelve all of the Thanksgiving talk because truly, we’re deep into the holidays at this point. We need to shift gears. We need to talk about things like snowflake cookies and Yule logs.
Unfortunately, right now I have limited pictures of our holiday food to share with you. Why? Because last year at this time I didn’t have the faintest clue that I’d one day write a blog. But here I am, fessing up, and facing a bit of an emergency: I have to tell you about our Christmas Ham and have no pictures of the end product.
I hope you can forgive me. I’m only a team of one. I’m not Bon Appetit magazine with a staff of recipe testers who start buying, cooking, and photographing holiday hams in June. If I bought a Ham right now for picture purposes, we’d be eating ham leftovers for weeks. Come Christmas I’d be so over ham. And what a horrible tragedy that would be.
But thank heavens for ham steaks, which are available at Whole Foods. Perfect when you’re in a ham pinch but you don’t want to buy the full beast. And it’s just enough meat to showcase the best part of our ham dinner, the king of condiments: mustard.
We haven’t always been Christmas ham devotees. In fact I cooked my first just a few short years ago. In the past we used to serve turkey, a family tradition.
But that was in Canada, where Thanksgiving and Christmas are separated by months, not weeks. In the US, I’m just getting through my freezer stash of turkey leftovers when it’s time for another bird. Too much, too soon. I apologize turkey lovers, apparently I’m showing my true stripes and it’s not impressive. But really, I can only do so much turkey.
So I put my foot down one year. I shook things up. I cooked a capon.
Which is about as different from a turkey as a strip steak is from a T-bone.
But the capon was a foot in the right direction. Old traditions die hard, and this was a tough one to move past.
The following year, emboldened, I thought I’d take an even bigger step. Go for something a little more Dickensian. A goose? Perhaps. But after floating the idea around the family, there was some resistance. Goose didn’t seem appealing to the majority of those polled.
We needed something mainstream, and so we picked ham. Hallelujah, a new tradition was born.
It just so happens that we were having a bunch of friends and family to the lake to celebrate Christmas dinner that year and I wanted an easy dinner. I was wiped out after three straight weeks of ordering, unboxing, sorting, wrapping, labeling, hiding the mountain of gifts that would end up under our tree. While not a spoiler during the other 11 months of the year, I fall hard for the holidays.
So I planned ahead for dinner: I bought a big smoked ham from my butcher Mike, got a bunch of rolls and different kinds of bread from Amy’s in Chelsea Market. (And hey! I was able to dig up some photographic evidence):
And best of all, I stocked up on all kinds of mustards – spicy, sweet, and whole grain. When you’re taking the easy road with dinner, you have to impress with something, and pretentious mustard fits the bill. (By the way, here’s what I’m serving with our dinner this year):