Growing up, a cooked Sunday dinner was the routine, whether it was beef, pork, chicken, a Traditional Newfounndland Jiggs Dinner, (which, try as I may, I just can't seem to healthy-up...yet), or baked ham. Mom was discharged from the hospital on Friday, my sister, Geri, was in town, and I thought, rather than get them all to come here for supper, I'd bag up everything I needed and head down to my parents' condo to prepare Sunday Dinner, (and perhaps indulge in a glass of wine or two and a game of cards while everything was cooking). The easiest meal, and still a family favorite, was Glazed Baked Ham with Scalloped Potatoes, corn niblets and a Raisin Bread Pudding for dessert.
The Scalloped Potatoes would need approximately and hour and a half to cook, so I started there first. I considered doing au gratin potatoes, (potatoes cooked with cheese), but decided on going lighter. First, I sauteed some garlic in melted butter in a medium sized saucepan. Then I added flour, chopped fresh thyme, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. This would become my 'roux', or thickner, for my bechamel sauce for the potatoes. A roux is made by combining equal amounts of butter and flour, and cooking out the 'raw' taste of the flour. How long you cook it for depends on what you want to thicken with it. For a white bechamel sauce, and I'll explain what that is in a moment, you want the floury paste to be white. For soups, you might cook it a little longer to a beige colour. For gravies, cook even longer until it turns darker in colour.
Bechamel is a white sauce made from a roux of flour and butter with milk. It is one of the 'mother sauces' of French and Italian cuisine and can be used as a base for other sauces such as a Mornay Sauce, which is a bechamel with cheese, or Alfredo Sauce, which is a bechamel with parmesan and garlic. After cooking out the flour in butter with the seasonings, I gradually whisked in two and a half cups of 0.5% milk and let it come to a boil and thicken. In a lightly greased casserole dish, I layerd thinly sliced Yukon Gold potatoes and thinly sliced onion, and poured my Behcamel Sauce on top. I then baked the Scalloped Potatoes in a 350F oven for an hour, covered, and an additional half hour uncovered, so that the top would be golden in colour.
While I was preparing my potatoes, I placed my ham in a large pot of water, brought it to a boil, and then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about an hour. I then placed the ham in a roasting pan, glazed it with 'no sugar added' orange marmalade jam, inserted whole cloves into the top portion of the ham, and added pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. I baked the ham in the oven, uncovered, along with the Scalloped Potatoes for a half hour. Let me tell you, there are few things that smell more comforting and wonderful than Glazed Ham with cloves, marmalade, pineapple and maraschino cherries!
Last came the prep for my Raisin Bread Pudding. Bread pudding is a popular bread based pudding made all over the world in one form or another. Food historians trace bread pudding back to early 11th and 12th centuries when frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. In 13th century England, it was known as 'poor man's pudding' and was a popular dish amongst the lower classes. Nowadays, bread pudding has shed it's humble roots and is a popular featured dessert item on trendy restaurant menus aroud the globe.
To make Raisin Bread Pudding, butter 5-6 pieces of bread, cut the bread into cubes and sprinkle it into a large lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle in the raisins and a little cinnamon and then pour in a heated mixture of 0.5% milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla. The casserole dish then gets placed in a 'bain de Marie', which is, quite simply, a larger pan of water. This lets the pudding set and prevents it from drying out. We serve Raisin Bread Pudding with a little cold milk poured on top, but some prefer ice cream or perhaps a rum sauce.
While we waited for dinner to cook, my father and I took on my sister and mother in a game of cards. (Dad and I won!). My brother called and asked if we had enough food for one more, which, of course, we did. My youngest daughter, Mackenzie, was the only grandchild present and my husband, as well as my brother in law and sister in law, wasn't able to make dinner. At one point, after Mackenzie had eaten, there was just the 'original five' of mom, dad, my sister, Geri, my brother, Mike and myself sitting at the table. It occurred to us that it was probably the first time since Christmas 1980 that it ws just the five of us at the dinner table, which made the meal particularly memorable for me.
It was a delicious meal and there were enough leftovers for lunch, (and a piece of fried ham for breakfast for me), for today. The oven did most of the work which left plenty of time for cards and a glass of wine or two before eating. By using 0.5% milk, boiling the ham for an hour first, and minimizing the salt added, Sunday Dinner of Glazed Baked Ham, Scalloped Potatoes and Raisin Bread Pudding was easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND, most certainly, delicious!