Around a decade ago and before my youngest child was born, I used to host Christmas Dinner for everyone in Carl’s family. And I didn’t mind. It was something I loved to do and not least because it spared me from going to his parents’ house and (I say in the nicest possible way), suffering his mother’s cooking (lovely though she is, she and cooking just don’t get along).
One year the weather in the lead-up to Christmas Day was as hot as Hades and when you combine hot, sweaty days and sleepless nights with an overloaded schedule and relatives who are well-meaning but infuriating, tempers fray.
To avoid any potential homicides I told Carl’s family to stay away and do nothing to help. ‘Just turn up on Christmas Day; that’s all I ask’. But no, no, no, that wouldn’t do and my mother-in-law kept insisting that Carl’s brother wanted to contribute. ‘How can he help?’ she asked. And I wanted to say, ‘He can’t help because he’s useless’, but I thought that might have been a tad mean.
Her persistent cries of, ‘He wants to help’, started to wear me down and I was thinking I was actually a very unkind and unreasonable person and perhaps a control-freak as well as a sinner for thinking such mean thoughts about Carl’s family.
Because Carl’s brother is actually very lovely and I get on with him extremely well and he would drop everything to rush around and babysit Archie and Arabella and he always remembered their birthdays and bought them thoughtful and generous gifts, and he has the patience of Job and is a lot of fun to be around, etc. (Have I said enough nice things to get on with the story?)
So, weakened by my MILs persistent begging and the sad look on her face that screamed, ‘You’re a monster’, I backed down. I said, ‘Okay, okay; if you insist. Here’s how he can help. I’ve ordered a ham but it’s from the other side of town because I wanted it free-range and organic. Do you think he could go and pick it up for me on Christmas Eve and drop it back here?’
‘Of course, honey-one. He would love to. He wants to help’.
Here we go!
So, very early on Christmas Eve, Carl’s brother phoned for the address of the far-flung organic butcher and I gave him all the info he needed. He told me he was super-organised and had an esky packed with ice in the boot of his car ready to collect the Christmas ham and prevent it from spoiling. All good so far.
I got on with my last minute grocery shopping and present buying then came home and started preparing the turkey and wrapping presents and setting the table and icing the Christmas cake and telling the kids if they don’t stop fighting there’s no way Santa will be visiting. ‘He’ll just fly right over the house and keep going’, I screamed.
At about 5pm and after I’d finished making an onion relish and a fig-jam glaze for my organic ham, it occurred to me that there was no ham. And Mr Reliable didn’t have a mobile phone and was therefore not contactable. A quick call to the in-laws let me know they hadn’t seen or heard from him either. ‘But don’t worry, honey-one, he’s very reliable’.
Midnight: No ham.
Christmas Day dawned: No ham. I did wonder if under the cover of darkness he had dropped it off at the front door but no, no ham delivery.
Everyone was scheduled to arrive at 3pm allowing time for exchanging gifts, some appetisers then an early dinner because the young and the old like to eat before the sun sets.
At around lunchtime I phoned the in-laws. ‘Have you seen my ham and Merry Christmas’.
‘Oh yes, honey-one. Yes we have. He has it in an esky’.
‘Yes, but I need it’.
‘But he was going to bring it at three when we come for the meal’.
‘I need to prepare it before everyone arrives’.
‘Honey, my husband can slice it for you. He won’t mind. He does very good thin slices’.
‘It’s not about slicing it. I’m glazing it and baking it in the bar-be-cue and that will take about an hour and a half. Where is he?’
‘Well he didn’t stay the night. He dropped in on some old friends and then decided to sleep over and then this morning he came with us to church and then the dear boy was so tired he had a sleep and he just asked if it would be okay to go down to the beach for a few hours and we said yes of course because it’s such a lovely day. We didn’t know you needed the ham’.
I swear there’s a deliberate plot to tip me over the edge?’
At 3pm the doorbell rang and there were the in-laws minus Mr Reliable and his esky. ‘Where is he?’
‘Now honey; don’t get upset. He’s only just come back from the beach so he’s having a shower and then he’ll be here in a little while. He said we should start without him’.
It’s like a red rag to a bull. ‘Did you think to bring the ham?’ The in-laws exchange looks of shame while they think of a reason to have left it behind.
‘He has it in his car.’
‘It’s in his car? It’s been in his car all this time? He hasn’t thought to bring it inside?’
‘Honey, let’s just thank the Lord for giving us such a beautiful day. How are you honey? Have you had a chance to rest? Did you get down to the beach?’ At this point I just had to walk away. Walk away before someone got slapped.
The ham arrived. It arrived in the esky at about 4.45pm and too late to serve with the meal. Despite assurances that cold ham is just as nice and my reply of, ‘Should I just throw out the glaze then?’ and added assurances that my FIL can do ‘very nice thin slices’, I put the ham into the fridge for another day.
When you do get to enjoy a baked glazed ham on Christmas Day, there is almost always some left over. Recently I saw a Pressed Brick Sandwich on my friend Lizzy’s blog, That Skinny Chick Can Bake. I thought this would make an excellent Boxing Day sandwich.
Pressed Brick Sandwich
Serves: 6-8 (Lizzy said it serves 10 – no wonder she calls herself the ‘skinny chick’)
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Hands down, this has to be the most expensive sandwich ever. That’s my experience because I had to go out and buy every single item apart from the dressing ingredients. However, I think this sandwich can be made much less expensively if you make this when you have lots of little bits and pieces you need to use up – like a Christmas ham that never appeared.
- 1 ciabatta loaf
- 1/2 cup black olive tapenade
- 2 red capsicum, roasted, skins removed then cut into strips
- 100g goat’s cheese, crumbled
- 200g marinated artichoke hearts, drained
- 100g sliced Provolone cheese
- 200g thinly sliced leg ham
- 150g Prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 150g salami – I used hot Sopressa
- a couple of handfuls of loosely packed herbs. I used basil and parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar – I used the balsamic given to me by Tania
- 1 1/2 tspns dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Horizontally slice the ciabatta and scoop out the bready interior. I saved the bread and will dry it out and turn it into breadcrumbs). Spread the bottom half with the tapenade. Layer the capsicum over the top then scatter with crumbled goat’s cheese. Arrange artichoke hearts over the goat’s cheese. Drizzle with half of the dressing. Arrange Provolone cheese slices along the length of the loaf, then do the same with the ham, the Prosciutto and the salami. Top with the herbs then drizzle remaining dressing.
Wrap in cling film then weight down the loaf with bricks (or similar) for at least an hour.
For the Dressing:
Combine olive oil with vinegar and mustard and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Lizzy’s Pressed Brick Sandwich. Thanks Lizzy for the best sandwich ever!
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