We’ve been taking a cue from Mark Bittman’s latest book around here and making meat even less of presence than it usually is on our table. One of the things he suggests is to keep meat as a side course, not the focus of the meal. This is good for the eater and good for the environment. This week, this strategy happened kind of by accident, but it was terrific: economical, efficient, and versatile.
Remember that ham steak? That’s half of it on the plate. The kids ate only half of that, and the husband and I ate the other half. The following night, I cooked another quarter, choppped it up, and used it for our baked potato bar. Which was a big hit.
We still didn’t finish it, so the next night that leftover chopped up ham went into a country omelete with chives and cheddar cheese.
And we still had a 1/4 of the ham left. Kory and I finished it a few nights later with a potato/celery root mash & the left over pan sauce (which I had kept in a glass jar for just this eventuality). On the side we had roasted beets & puntarelle, and it was a perfect cold winter night’s meal.
That makes 4 meals (3 for 4 people, 1 for 2 people) for about $6 worth of meat, which in this house is an accomplishment.
Most of us have experienced this moment: You set the plate of food on the table. The kids eye glare at it with disdain. They groan, or turn up their noses, or pretend-barf. They say, “I’m not a (fish/meat/chicken/potato) person” or “That smells bad” or “What’s that?” (meaning, how in the hell did you ever think to cook that disgusting mess of so-called food?).
This happened at my table the the other night, in reaction to something I’ve cooked many times–a simple ham steak with a really quick country mustard sauce.
I said, “Fine, you don’t have to eat it.” But I asked them to try. And this has been my attitude of late: I let them choose what to eat. So far, they haven’t gone hungry.
On this particular night, my son braved the food first. “Huh,” he said. “It tastes better than it looks”
That was all the encouragement his sister needed, who agreed with him about the taste. I didn’t think it looked particularly bad, but I suspect it was the grain of the mustard that looked weird to them
I’m not really sure exactly what I’ve done to get my kids to be moderately brave about food. Certainly, some of it is how their wired, but I suspect some of it is habit and expectation. Certainly, it works in my favor that they like and trust each other. If one likes something, the other is more willing to try. I set things in front of them over and over and over again. I don’t argue or pander, but I give them a range of good choices. I never force them to eat, but I do ask them to try small bites of new food. Seasonal eating helps too–they expect certain things at certain times of year, and while there is sometimes a re-acclimation period (witness the ham, which I never cook in the summer), their memory is downright Proustian.
This ham is one of those fast weeknight dinners that I don’t cook too often, but it’s so easy, that probably I should.
Ham with Country Mustard Pan Sauce
Shallot, chopped finely
Beer–a lager or light ale works well
Apple cider or apple juice or water
Fry the ham steak in a large skillet until warmed through, just a few minutes on each side.
Sautee the shallot in a few tablespoons of olive oil until soft.
Deglaze your pan with a few splashes of beer.
Swirl in about 1 Tablespoon of mustard
Add about 1/4 cup of cider, juice or water. The cider or juice will make it sweeter, but water works too.
Simmer until the pan sauce reduced to about a 1/4 cup. Taste and adjust seasoning.