Whether or not you made what you put on the table for dinner is nobody’s business but your own. I know I am supposed to be encouraging you to make your own food, but the truth is, sometimes it’s just not possible to cook, or at least not to cook the whole meal. I like to think about supplementing the table with food from the outside as the same kind of thing as buying a padded bra, or hiring a babysitter. It’s all good in the name of getting the job done. The trick is, where do you find food that looks homemade? For those of us living in the big city, if you are willing to walk or get on the train, you have no problems. Just over the bridge from me is Greenpoint. I can buy stuffed cabbage, brioche, peroghi, and any kind of soup for less than I could make it for, and maybe not my mom or pop, but somebody’s mom or pop made it that morning. In Manhattan I can get brisket or knish on the lower east side, homemade cupcakes at Magnolia in the West Village, cooked shrimp at Citerella uptown, or homemade noodles and sauce in Little Italy. If you live in a small town and there isn’t the selection, get a friend who makes great sauce to make extra for you, and then give her half your turkey.
In any grocery store, you can buy quality pre cooked hams–look for ones with no water added–and then just cut any skin and most of the fat off, and spread on a mixture of half brown sugar, half dijon, and a Tablespoon of orange juice, before you stick the ham in the oven at 350 degrees to get it hot. Heck, you can even mail order hams if you’re really feeling like treating yourself. I found an excellent midwestern location, from a great book called “Celebrating the Midwestern Table”, that my friend Jill gave me: Lewright Meats at 515-448-4286. An 8 to 9 pound ham will cost you about 42 dollars, and then another 15 or so to ship it. This is expensive; you could do it when you’re having a dinner party, your budget is under a hundred dollars, you have no issues asking people to bring a bottle of wine, and you want something absolutely guaranteed to be done and delicious so that you don’t have to worry. That could be worth sixty bucks.
Once you have the ham, all you have to make is bicuits (go ahead and buy the Pillsbury; I won’t tell), peas with shallots browned up in a little olive oil and butter, roasted new potatoes, warm carrot salad with pine nuts and raisins, (just boil the carrots and add a little red vinegar, a pinch of sugar, some salt and some fresh parsley), and some sweet fresh pineapple for dessert, along with vanilla ice cream, flaked, sweetened coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice. That’s from my friend Kathy. Remember that a pineapple is ripe if you can pull a leaf out easily from the center.