In Honor of President’s Day

Next Monday, all across America we will celebrate the births of our first and sixteenth Presidents – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  We do so by having giant sales – everything from electronics to new cars. I never could figure out why there were all those President’s Day sales. Years ago, in honor of President’s Day and to avoid all the spending hype, I decided to create a special menu to commemorate the day.  It’s been a tradition in our house ever since.

Virginia Ham seemed the obvious choice for George Washington.  (I haven’t a clue if George ever dined on Virginia Ham – especially when you consider his limitation – having painful dentures limited him to soft foods, but President’s Day seemed a good excuse to have a nice ham dinner). Honest Abe was a bit more difficult to nail down. Truth be told, Abraham Lincoln was a man of humble beginnings and simple tastes.  It has been said that Mr. Lincoln liked a good cup of coffee, enjoyed nibbling on fruit throughout the day and was partial to biscuits.  Not much to work with, but it’s enough. And then there’s the rich history of this country – the inspiring as well as the not-so-honorable moments of our past as a nation.  I drew from all these things to create our President’s Day feast.

Our menu consists of Country Ham (another name for Virginia Ham – the difference is not how the ham is cured but rather WHERE the ham is cured), sweet potatoes, warm biscuits and buttery peas.  I am particularly fond of Kahlua-Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes.  As it turns out Good Ol’ George was also fond of sweet potatoes, especially mashed with a little butter.  However; my guys aren’t sweet potato fans, so for them I added baby peas as an optional side.  Mr. Lincoln’s contribution to the mix are delicious, easy to make Herb Biscuits.  And it wouldn’t be much of a celebration without something wonderful for dessert.  Boston Cream Pie seems just the ticket.   As we all know, Boston Cream Pie isn’t a pie at all, but rather layers of cake with a cream filling and marvelous chocolate Ganache.

yams

Before I get down to the recipes – let’s talk for a moment about sweet potatoes and yams.  In America, we do not eat yams. We might call sweet potatoes yams, but they simply aren’t yams. So why do we do that? The word yam comes from African words njam, nyami, or djambi, meaning “to eat”.  When slaves first saw sweet potatoes, they were reminded of the tuber of a tropical vine found in Africa and the Caribbean.   The name stuck.  In reality, yams and sweet potatoes aren’t even in the same family.   Yams, true yams can grow to be five-feet long.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anything five-feet long in the produce section of my local grocery store.  That is not to say we can’t find true yams in the US.  The smaller yams have managed to work their way into some of the International Specialty Markets, particularly those that stock Latin or Caribbean foods.   One of these days, I just might experiment with true yams – which will be a post for another day . . .

President’s Day Menu
Country Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Glaze
Kahlúa-Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Honest Abe’s Buttermilk Herb Biscuits
Buttery Le Sueur Peas with Shallots and Garlic
Boston Cream Pie

 


The Boston Cream Pie can be made a day ahead of time, then kept in the refrigerator.  Just take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. Or you could always cheat a little, and buy one from a good bakery.

Boston Cream Pie
Cake:
1 Yellow Cake (from box or favorite recipe)

Bake cake according to recipe or mix. Allow cake to cool fully. Wrap and store at room temperature until ready to assemble.

Cream Filling:
1 ½ Cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs, whole
4 Large Egg Yolks
½ Cup Sugar
¼ Flour
Pinch of Salt

Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat (do not boil). Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and salt and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then gradually whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture.

Pour the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until thick and pudding-like, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula to push the pudding through.

Let cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Chocolate Ganache:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Heat the chocolate, cream, vanilla and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before using.

To Assemble: Slice cake in half. Place on serving plate, cut side up. Top with cream filling, to ¼ inch from edge. Carefully top with top half of cake. Press down slightly. Pour Ganache over the cake and smooth with an offset spatula.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours before serving.

**********

Country Baked Ham
6-7 lb Smoke Cured Ham, bone-in
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices, juice reserved
15 whole cloves (Optional)
1 small jar maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Remove ham from refrigerator and let rest on counter 20 minutes.

Score ham to create diamond pattern in skin. At each intersection, insert whole clove. Decoratively arrange pineapple rings with cherry in center of each ring. Secure with a toothpick. Place ham in shallow baking pan, tent with foil and place in the oven to bake.

Place ham in shallow baking pan, tent with foil and place in the oven to bake, 25 minutes per pound, about 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

Ingredients – Glaze
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
Reserved Pineapple Juice

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and just enough of the reserved pineapple juice to make a thick glaze. Spoon the glaze over the ham and bake for the remaining 30 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and carve.

**********

Kahlua-Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes
4 Sweet Potatoes, cooked
12 Tablespoons butter (1 ½ sticks)
¼ Cup Kahlua
1 Cup Honey
¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg

Place Sweet Potatoes in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil and continue to cook at a rolling boil until Sweet Potatoes are tender but firm. Remove from pan, cool slightly.

Peel and cut Sweet Potatoes into serving-size pieces.

In a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add Sweet Potatoes, Kahlua, and honey. Season with cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, gently toss Sweet Potatoes to coat in mixture. Cover and simmer until Sweet Potatoes are heated through and sauce has thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

**********

 

Honest Abe’s Buttermilk Herb Biscuits
2 Cups Self-Rising Flour
¼ Teaspoon Dried Sage
¼ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
¼ Teaspoon Crushed Rosemary
¼ Cup Mayonnaise
1 Cup Buttermilk
Cooking Spray

Heat oven to 400-degrees. Spray 12-muffin tin with cooking spray. Set aside until ready to use.

Whisk herbs into flour. Use a dinner knife to mix in mayonnaise and buttermilk. DO NOT over mix.

Divide biscuit batter into muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes.

**********

Remember those peas I talked about?  This is oh so simple, and oh so delicious!

Buttery Le Sueur Peas with Shallots and Garlic
1 Shallot, minced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Can Le Sueur Peas, drained

In a small food processor or hand-held chopper, mince shallot and garlic together. Set aside until ready to use.

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Dump shallot-garlic mixture into pan and stir with a wooden spoon until shallots are tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Add drained Le Sueur Peas and GENTLY stir to blend the peas, shallots, garlic and butter together. (Take care not to “mash” the tender peas).

Lower heat and continue to warm until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer peas to a warm serving bowl, serve table-side and enjoy.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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