Monday, March 06, 2006

March Menu: Ham & Morels, Wild Rice, and Pear Tart

The recipes in this menu serve up to 6 people. Serve with steamed broccoli and baked yams for a special family meal or a dinner party. All of these recipes can be made in advance if desired.

Wild Rice

1 cup raw wild rice
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 T butter
1/2 white onion
1 or 2 carrots
1 or 2 stalks of celery
8 to 12 white button mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Put wild rice, water and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, which will take from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the age and variety of wild rice. If there's any excess water, strain it and discard.

Dice the vegetables into tiny pieces. Sautee them lightly in the butter.

Mix cooked rice, vegetables and pecans in a buttered casserole. You can now refrigerate the dish and heat it later, or use it right away. In either case, bake the uncovered casserole in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until hot through.

Ham Steaks with a Morel Brown Sauce

2 lb ham steaks (about)
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 10 oz can beef broth
1/3 cup sherry
1 bay leaf
1 T dried morels or 4 fresh
1/2 cup whipping cream

Melt butter, stir in flour, and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Stir in broth, slowly at first so it doesn't lump. Add sherry and bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, until it reduces by about a third, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

If you are using dried morels, they might have dirt and grit. To get rid of this, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes. Put a paper towel in a seive and drain, draining the liquid into the sauce. Dice the morels and add to the sauce. Stir in the whipping cream. If the sauce is too thin you can cook it down some more. Taste: you may want to add more morels, depending on how flavorful yours are.

Ham steaks are already cooked. Fry them to brown the outside and heat through. Put on a platter and top with sauce to serve. If you have extra sauce, serve it on the side.

Pear Tart

This easy tart has a shortbread crust, a thin layer of pears, and a sweet glaze.

1.5 cups flour
3/4 cup cold butter (One and a half sticks)
2 T sugar
pinch salt
3 T ice water (about)

Put the flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Process for a few seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. With the machine running, add the water and process for about 30 more seconds. If the dough does not form into a ball, add a little more water and process until it does form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour.

Roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Put it in a 9-inch tart pan. It's especially good if the crust is fairly thick. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. While you're preparing the filling, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes before adding the filling.

2 or 3 medium-ripe pears, peeled and cored
5 T sugar
4 T butter
1 T fruit liqueur, brandy, or orange juice
1/2 cup flaked almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the pears into very thin slices. Fan the slices over the cooled pie crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and dot the pears with the butter. Sprinkle with the liquor or orange juice. Optionally, sprinkle with almonds.

Bake until the pears are carmelized and the crust is brown, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before applying glaze.

1/2 cup apricot jam (or another type of jam or jelly)
2 T fruit liqueur, brandy, or orange juice

Heat the jam and liquor or juice in the microwave until it's liquid. If it's lumpy or has pips, put it through a strainer. Spoon the glaze over the baked tart.

Good served warm or cold.

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