Tag Archives: ham

Obviously Omaha

October 13, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Most holiday foods fall under the heading of “comfort food.” Turkey, ham, or roast beast. Green bean casserole, stuffing, dressing, mounds of mash pitilessly drowned in a deluge of homemade gravy. But if Americans know how to do anything well, it is coming up with something unique for the holiday table. Some dishes are a rite of passage, if we’re being honest. Who really enjoys cranberry sauce, fruitcake, or gingerbread outside of the holiday season? While candy canes are the candy corn and circus peanuts of Christmas, some foods are stunts: When America gets bored, turkeys get “turducken-ed” or fried; pies and cakes are baked with cakes and/or pies inside; riddles are wrapped in mysteries, stuffed in enigmas, covered in brown sugar, and baked. Here are five beloved, unusual holiday foods available in the Omaha metro.

Heringssalat (herring salad). What could be more Christmassy than a dish from the land of ice, snow, midnight sun, flowing hot springs, and Sinterklaas? From Westphalia to Ragnarok, proud Nordics enjoy this traditional End Times dish at many family occasions, but especially on New Year’s Eve to remind themselves that no matter how bad life gets, one can always stop eating heringssalat. For the basic version, fold together pickled herring chunks, bread and butter pickles, apples, and onion. Mix in mayonnaise at the last minute to “keep it fresh.” Advanced optional mix-ins include cream, sour cream, beets, capers, mustard, potatoes, eggs, or leftover meat. A good pickled herring is worth its weight in gelt; try Absolutely Fresh Seafood (1218 S. 119th St.) or Omaha’s go-to ziel für Deutsch küche, Gerda’s (5180 Leavenworth St.).

frogeyesaladFrog eye salad
Frog eye salad is very popular in Utah, where alcohol is not, and no celebration would be complete without several versions of this classic—including the one like grandma’s and the one your health-conscious cousin makes that no one ever eats, but she keeps making anyway. The base is orzo pasta (or any pasta resembling frog’s eyes), whipped cream, pineapple juice, and mandarin oranges. Maraschino cherries may be added. Ask for Mike in the deli at Wohlner’s (3253 Dodge St.), hand him a recipe for your favorite variant, and he’ll make a salad Joseph Smith would love.

After the Feast of Seven Fishes, blood sugar levels can drop. Enter the Sicilian nougat. Torrone is like a Mars Bar without the chocolate or popularity. Orange, honey, vanilla, almonds, and/or pistachios make it distinct. Candy-making is an intense business, and results vary. If you’d like to buy locally try around. Orsi’s Italian Bakery (621 Pacific St.) orders several cases for the holidays.   

turkishdelightTurkish delight
The Ottoman Empire was not famous for producing great Christmas dishes. Rahat loukoum, aka Turkish delight, is the exception. This 250-year-old recipe of gelled starch and sugar is flavored with rosewater, cinnamon, bergamot, or fruit. Dusted with powdered sugar, nobility used to gift rahat loukoum in a handkerchief. Nerds love Turkish delight because the White Witch fed it to Edward in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. On paper, it sounds disgusting. In reality, people either love it or despise it. Especially during the holidays, it’s available in Omaha at the Mediterranean & European Grocery (8601 Blondo St.) and Green Land Market (4087 S. 84th St.). Call ahead to check availability. Enjoy!

Menudo is a Mexican tripe soup made with cow’s feet, onions, garlic, guajillo, and cumin. A popular hangover cure year-round, it’s popular when all is quiet—except for your pounding head—on New Year’s Day. Sip the broth or enjoy the chunks of slowly simmered cow stomach and your headache will become an afterthought in a hurry. Delicious! Try it at Victor’s (3223 Q St.) on Saturdays only, and at El Aguila (1837 Vinton St.) every day. Most authentic Mexican restaurants sell their own, so check around and call ahead for large quantities.

Wines for Holiday Fare

October 25, 2012 by

There are a wide variety of dishes prepared to celebrate the holiday season, and many of these reflect back to culture and ethnicity. However, I would suspect that the three classic dishes for holiday fare are turkey, ham, and crown roast of beef. The type of wines for each of these varies somewhat, depending on the accompaniments and method of preparation, but the core philosophy for wine-food pairings remains fairly straightforward. Let us discuss the wine matches for each of these three dishes.

Matching the weight of a dish with that of the wine is the starting point for marrying a wine with food. Turkey is a medium-weight dish that will work best with a medium-weight wine—red or white—depending on the ancillary ingredients. For example, if the bird is stuffed with a standard giblet-based dressing, you could choose either wine style. My choice would be a Pinot Noir or red Burgundy. On the other hand, if an oyster stuffing was used, a crisp white wine would be the better choice. The flavor in oysters (and most seafood) is enhanced by the crisp acidity found in many white wines. This is the reason that a squeeze of lemon is frequently served with seafood. With the oyster stuffing, my personal favorite wine would be a white Burgundy.

For ham, the same principle applies—match the weight of the food to that of the wine. There are two issues to consider with ham. First of all, it’s a salty food, and salty foods call for tart wines. Second, the sweetness of the dish must be considered. In a simple, unadorned presentation, ham has no sweetness. A Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc would both be good choices. However, if the ham is cured with maple sugar or is glazed with a sweet, fruity glaze, you must bring sweetness into the equation. My mother always basted her ham with a brown-sugar-fruity glaze, and prior to baking decorated it with fresh pineapple chunks and red cherries. With this combination, we have a sweet, salty product that calls for a sweet, tart wine. There is no better wine with these credentials than a quality German Riesling. My choice would be a Riesling Spätlese from the Mosel Valley.

This brings us to the stuffed crown roast of beef. The choice is simple here. This is a big, hearty dish that calls for a big, hearty wine. There is no white wine that can stand up to the majesty and gusto of a crown roast of beef. It doesn’t matter what dressing you stuff in the roast; the sheer volume of the dish dictates the wine style. A full-bodied Cabernet or high-quality red Bordeaux will make the perfect match.

I hope that you can see how the ancillary ingredients and method of preparation can tip your hand from one wine style to another. Remember, a correct wine-food pairing can elevate a dish from simple to sublime. Happy Holidays!

John Fischer is a member and past president of the International Wine & Food Society, Omaha Branch.