“We’re having leftovers tonight?!”
I happen to think many things taste even better the next day. So instead of writing (much) about our Easter dinner, I thought I would tell you about our beloved leftovers, which are equally as exciting to me.
Growing up, we always went to my grandmother’s house on Easter. You may already know a little bit about my Italian grandmother, who I wrote about here, but I’m talking about my French grandmother (mom’s mom), Ramona Rose (rosebud was named after her) or “Mona” as she was called. To me and my brother she was “Gram”.
Well, Gram wasn’t much of a cook.
Just the other day my mom was telling me that the reason she doesn’t like potatoes (I know, shocking) is because when she was a kid, Gram served plain boiled potatoes with just about every meal. Not mashed with butter. Not baked with sour cream and chives. Not roasted with olive oil and salt. Just boiled.
Dinners were pork chops with canned corn and boiled potatoes. Or maybe, meatloaf with canned green beans and boiled potatoes. Nothing fancy and she didn’t use spices. At all. Although apparently she did butter the canned vegetables.
Yes, I did say canned. I understand the idea behind canning, and I do realize that fresh produce isn’t cheap. Also, I am a big believer in butter-makes-everything-better. But canned vegetables? No.
No no no no NO!
That being said, Gram was one of 10 kids growing up in early 1900’s Chicago, so I have to give her a break when it comes to culinary creativity. I’m pretty sure she didn’t grow up eating anything “fancy”. I know my great-grandparents must have had to stretch whatever food they had to feed all of those kids.
I’m guessing they ate a lot of boiled potatoes.
Anyway, Easter dinner was the one and only annual meal Gram would make for us. Considering the fact that cooking wasn’t her thing, she was really good at Easter dinner.
The menu was simple, and never altered.
A bone-in smoked ham with a brown sugar and mustard glaze, topped with cloves, pineapple rings and maraschino cherries to make it look pretty.
Mashed potatoes (not boiled!), candied sweet potatoes, brown-and-serve rolls with butter, and coleslaw.
Now I know you’re thinking coleslaw sounds picnic-y and not-so-much-a-holiday-kind-of-food. I do as well. But, there it was on the Easter dinner table every year, right next to that big, beautiful ham. Nobody really knows why or how this came about. I think it was because Gram was not a fussy person and she didn’t have a pretentious bone in her body. If she liked it, and it went well with ham, she made it. Even if it was a holiday.
Ah, that is just one of the things I loved about that woman.
Well, I have to tell you, her coleslaw was absolutely delicious. And so good with ham. Basically it was grated cabbage mixed with ½ a finely chopped onion, a little bit of mayo, a little bit of mustard, some salt and pepper, and a splash of milk for creaminess. Nothing fancy, and we couldn’t get enough of it. And so yummy the next day on ham sandwiches.
This year, Easter was at my house. In addition to Gram’s Easter menu, which I wouldn’t dare alter, I also made pasta.
No, we didn’t get pasta at Gram’s house on Easter, but we Italians have pasta at every holiday meal, in addition to whatever else we are making. We’re like that.
So cute! We hung them here (on clean towels) as we made them so they didn’t stick together, and then we froze them overnight.
Then rosebud cranked out a side of spaghetti for lunch that day, all by herself!
I mentioned here that I wanted to try this fabulous pasta dish made with spinach and ricotta cheese that I had recently had and loved, so I made it for Easter with the pappardelle.
Well, I didn’t exactly get the ricotta cheese part right. It turned into more of a cream sauce and not really what I wanted, but everyone seemed to enjoy it anyway. It actually did taste good, but wasn’t quite blog-worthy, so I will attempt it again and let you know.
So, about the leftovers.
I made a 10 lb. ham for 7 adults and 3 kids, so that meant plenty of leftover ham. And that by the way was no happy accident.
After sending my loved ones home with nice-sized ziplock bags of ham, I still had plenty for myself.
And that meant it was time for the star-of-the-leftovers-show, Split Pea Soup!
I absolutely have to make split pea soup with leftover holiday ham. Then again, doesn’t everyone?
The secret to really good split pea soup is the ham bone. We are big on bones in my family (we know that’s where the real flavor is). And since dinner was at my house this year, that bone was mine! My brother actually tried to stuff it into his jacket pocket on his way out, but I wrestled him to the ground for it, and won.
Our split pea soup recipe is simple, nothing fancy, and amazing. Like Gram.
(I’m guessing she had something to do with it.)
So for lunch the next day, rosebud and I happily devoured mouth-watering ham sandwiches, mine piled high with Gram’s coleslaw (rosebud likes hers plain with mayo), and a bowls of deliciously hammy split pea soup.
We were happy girls.
Split Pea Soup
Inspired by Ramona Rose Samson Mossey
(1) ham bone, fat cut off, some ham remaining
(2) 1 lb bags of dried split green peas, rinsed
leftover ham, 4-6 cups, depending how you like it, roughly chopped
Some people like their soup on the “hammy” side, but if you prefer more peas than ham (like me) just eye-ball it and add what you like.
Personally, I don’t like chunky squares of meat in my food (to me it’s not natural-looking), so I like to roughly chop it and then pull it apart by hand so it’s more shredded and not cubed.
1 large white onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
6 large carrots, or more depending on how much you like, cut into ¼ inch discs
approximately 8-12 cups of water
2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil and sauté the onion and carrots on medium heat until the onions are translucent and carrots are starting to soften. About 5 minutes.
Add the ham bone, extra ham, peas, bay leaves, and 4 cups of water. Turn the flame down to low and bring to a simmer. When it starts to thicken, add another cup of water. Keep simmering and stirring every once in a while so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Gradually add more water as it thickens working up to 12 cups. If it seems the right consistency before 12, STOP. You don’t want to make it watery. Just eye-ball it and you will be fine.
The reason for adding the water slowly is because you want to make sure you don’t add too much water. Runny pea soup is not a good thing. Eye-ball it until you think it’s the right consistancy. I like pea soup a little on the thick side, but if you don’t, just add a bit more water. If you do add too much water and it seems thin, don’t panic, just cook your soup longer. The water will cook out and it will thicken up again.
Grind a layer of black pepper on top and stir that in. Do this a few times as you’re adding the water and stirring.
Cook for at least 2 hours, or for as long as you can stand it without having a bowl. Longer is better, but for me it’s usually a couple of hours and I crack. Discard the ham bone and the bay leaves.
Add salt and pepper to taste. The ham is salty, so you probably won’t need much salt, if any. But make sure to taste it to be sure.
Spoon into individual bowls. Top with fresh ground pepper and crispy croutons.
For the croutons: chop a french baguette into crouton sized pieces and drizzle with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper . Toss them on a cookie sheet and place in a 450 degree oven. Keep an eye on them and bake until crispy, turning a few times. Warning: these are addictive.