This Christmas, in lieu of showering people with expensive baubles and goodies, I cooked up a storm! And not just any kind o’ cookin’… I’m talking completely from scratch, homemade, I’ve been cooking for two days cookin’! The menu included:

Homemade buttermilk blueberry pancakes (for which I successfully whipped egg whites by hand for the first time)
Warm blueberry compote
Crispy bacon
Irish coffee (mmm, Baileys and Whisky…)

We were too full, man!

Fresh slow-baked ham (I actually went to the butcher and purchased a big honkin’ slab o’ pig leg!!)
Butternut squash with quinoa (Spencer took care of this…)
Roasted brussels sprouts (and this one too!)

Read on for more food porn!

As I mentioned, I started out with a big slab of pork. My recipe called for about 5 lbs (even though there were only two of us, I usually overcook for the leftover possibilities) and I had no idea just how big 5 lbs of pork could be. When the butcher plopped it down on the scale, I thought I might die… it was about as long as my forearm and three times as wide! But luckily, I persevered.

Got it home, let it rest for a bit and then set it to simmer in some deliciously festive spices for a few hours. Then I just let that bad boy marinate in the broth overnight.

Today, I removed the ham from its slimy marinade (which had formed a delightfully disgusting layer of white fat along the surface of the broth) and let it get to room temperature. While I waited, I made a paste of horseradish, dry mustard and garlic powder. Once the ham had settled, I removed the rind (eww!) and set to rubbing the horseradish paste all over. Now, I feel compelled to mention that I have always had a serious aversion to touching raw or semi-raw meat; I hate the jiggle factor. So whenever I’m able to really get my hands dirty and handle raw meat with my whole hand (not just daintily with my fingertips) I feel a real sense of accomplishment. I’m slowly getting better at this and I think that this culinary excursion has been my best go yet! My hands were covered in pig fat residue and horseradish goo and I felt pretty okay with it. Huzzah! Then into the oven it went for a few hours!

While the ham was cooking, Spencer worked on the veggies… Loosely cubed the butternut squash and put it in the oven. Drizzled olive oil over the brussel sprouts before sprinkling them with coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper. I’ve never really been a huge fan of brussel sprouts, mostly because I’ve always found them to be so mushy and pungent, but I was instantly optimistic when I saw these little babies… yum!

Popped those into the oven and then he got started on the quinoa. First, he quickly pan-fried some garlic and shallots in olive oil. Poured the quinoa into boiling water to cook. Then he combined it all in a dish, added some seasoning and threw that into the oven as well.

While all this was going down, I occasionally basted the ham with a little butter and, after a few hours, removed it from the oven so I could sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top. This carmelized and hardened pretty nicely, just like on storebought spiral hams!

By 7:00 it was time to eat! Wanna see the finished products?

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Quinoa w/ Butternut Squash

And our glorious Slow-Baked Fresh Ham