Simple Potato Salad

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There is a softness in my soul towards simple food made from scratch. On this beautiful October day I’m making potato salad to go with my husband’s smoked brisket. Here’s the brisket after four hours in the smoker at 200 degrees. He uses charcoal briquettes, lump charcoal and hickory chips for the smoke. We finish it in the oven, at 250 degrees covered for another four hours.

DSC01815Everyone has their version of simple potato salad. Here’s mine. Hope you enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds of red potatoes, boiled in salted water with skin on, then peeled
  • 2 boiled eggs, chopped ( optional)
  • chopped green onion to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 5 tablespoons Miracle Whip Salad Dressing (we like the sweetness, you can use mayonnaise)
  • salt, pepper and paprika to taste

Directions

DSC01818I had large red potatoes so I quartered them and boiled them in salted water until
fork-tender. After they cool down enough you can handle them, peel the skin off. You don’t have to do this, I just think it tastes better.

At the same time I boiled the potatoes I boiled two farm-fresh eggs from a dozen that my friend Amy gave me. Peel, cool and chop roughly.

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While the eggs and potatoes are boiling I get my onions chopped and get out my spices.

DSC01822Put the spices and dressing on when the potatoes are still warm. Smells so good. The salad should be wet because it absorbs so much of the dressing as it cools. Add more dressing if you need to. Yum.

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George’s Christmas Ham

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My husband George is a great cook. Never scared to try something new, this year he wanted to make his own Christmas ham. Not the pre-cured ham that comes already cooked but the real thing; a fresh ham shank, butt end. He started with a great recipe from Weber’s at http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/pecan-smoked-fresh-ham-with-maple-glaze-on-the-wsm and modified it a little for our tastes. Tender and juicy, the meat has the best characteristics of pulled pork mixed with a not-too-salty ham taste. Definitely a keeper!

 

The Pig
9-10 pound ham shank (not precooked, some people call these “green”, which sounds a little weird) A note of admiration here for our butchers at Brookshire’s Grocery Store in Weatherford, Texas, who talked with George about this little project and held us a ham shank from their Christmas order. He told us they usually only get these in at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can request one anytime.

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Ham shank and rub.

 

The Rub
½ cup brown sugar, dark
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper, ground coarse
2 tsp cayenne pepper, ground (optional)

the-rub

Score the fat cap on the ham shank to allow the rub to soak into the meat. Mix rub ingredients and apply to the meat liberally. He wrapped ours in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 48 hours. Reserve some rub for application right before you smoke it. Make sure you set the meat out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before you put it on the smoker. We used the coarse ground black pepper, but next time will use a smaller grind to keep it out of your teeth.

wrapped-up

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Scored and dry-rubbed ham.

The Glaze:
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup (not imitation flavored)

Mix ingredients and bring to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce by half. Be sure to watch this carefully because it can boil over really easily. I won’t tell you how I know that. Glaze the ham every two hours. He used a foil pan underneath to catch the fat drippings. Makes clean-up easier.a-thing-of-beauty

 

 

 

 

The Wood:
8-10 pc apple wood chunks (presoaked in water)
apple wood-infused charcoal

The original recipe called for pecan wood, which is a little strong for our tastes, so we used apple wood instead. After he set the smoker bed with charcoal, he also needed three additional chimney starter’s full of charcoal to maintain the desired heat for the six-hour smoking time.

We have a big off-set smoker so the temperature that Weber wanted, 250 degrees, is a little tough to maintain for six hours. He cooked the ham shank six hours between 200 and 220 degrees on the smoker and finished it in the oven covered with foil at 250 degrees for at least two hours. We use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the meat is at an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Happy eating!

Smokin in Texas

My husband has the smoker bug. For most Texans, BBQ is an obsession that borders right up to the scary side of hobbyland. Up till now we have “grilled” the occasional burger and hot dog feast, had a few flings with ribs and roasts, but nothing serious. But as I am now out of school for the summer and with the stated purpose of doing several days cooking on one day, we have fledged out of the casual smoking nest today by cooking both a six pound chicken and at least ten pounds of pork butt at the same time. I feel a need to emit some sort of Tim Allen grunting noise.

Now for my super meticulous guy, a man who gives mere meticulous a bad name, smoking can be a stressful experience. Our first smoking forays were all-day affairs filled with nervous glances at temperature gauges and refueling briquettes or soaked wood chips.

Today he (we) have developed a more “darn the torpedoes, full-speed ahead” approach and have arisen at 6:30 a.m. (did I mention I’m on vacation?) to fire up the giant smoky beast. After my husband’s secret-rub-mix tango, the meats are stashed in the hellish maw of the smoker and the lid gets CLOSED. Period. No peeking for at least a couple of hours. Right now the neighbors are getting the benefit of what I call “the drift”. The drift is that siren-call aroma you get when a neighbor is smoking or grilling something wonderful. The best part of our more laid back process now is that after getting the prerequisite smoke ring and texture change (about half a day’s maintenance), we happily stash all hunks of meat in foil covered pans into the oven to baste for several more hours in a much less temperamental oven. Hey, those hours of watching Bobby Flay have paid off. This is supposed to be fun, right?

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My part in this extravaganza is to make the sides, which for now include a giant casserole of “steamed veggies”, my mother’s recipe, which is basically sliced potatoes, onions and zucchini tossed with butter and salt and pepper and steamed in a foil pan in the oven. I also branched out to make an Alabama white sauce to go with the chicken. This is a vinegary, mayonnaise based sauce. We’ll see how that ends up. Southern Living says it’s great for chicken and who am I to argue with Southern Living? What does Southern Living say about food comas? We’ll soon find out.