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Cook up Barefoot Contessa and Tamron's holiday meal: Baked Virginia ham, sweet potatoes

It's always been a dream of Tamron Hall's to cook with Ina Garten, whom she calls a "cooking angel" because she used her books to learn how to cook after her stepfather passed away six years ago. Well, that dream became a reality when the Barefoot Contessa invited the TODAY anchor into her home to learn how to prepare a full holiday meal.The two made dishes from Garten's new cookbook, "Make It Ahe

It's always been a dream of Tamron Hall's to cook with Ina Garten, whom she calls a "cooking angel" because she used her books to learn how to cook after her stepfather passed away six years ago. Well, that dream became a reality when the Barefoot Contessa invited the TODAY anchor into her home to learn how to prepare a full holiday meal.

The two made dishes from Garten's new cookbook, "Make It Ahead," including baked Virginia ham, twice-baked sweet potatoes, winter slaw and pumpkin mouse parfait.

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Baked Virginia ham
Serves 35 for dinner, 50 for cocktails

This is the ultimate holiday party dish. The glaze takes only a minute to make and the ham tastes like you worked for hours. We order a “spiral-cut” smoked ham from the butcher, so we don’t even have to slice it! How lazy is that? I like to serve it for cocktails with mini corn muffins or for dinner with extra mustard and chutney.

Chef tip: Choose the best quality ham you can find, and either buy a “spiral-cut” ham, or have the butcher slice and retie a whole smoked ham.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14- to 16-pound) fully cooked, spiral-cut smoked ham
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 8 1/2 ounces mango chutney
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ham in a heavy roasting pan.

Mince the garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the chutney, mustard, brown sugar, orange zest, and orange juice and process until smooth. Pour the glaze over the ham and bake for 1 hour, until the ham is fully heated and the glaze is well browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Twice-baked sweet potatoes
Serves 6

This is the perfect side dish for any roasted meat or poultry dinner. Bake the potatoes, scoop out half of the potato, mash with shallots, thyme, butter, and Taleggio cheese, and then pile it back into the potato shells. Try them at your next Thanksgiving!

Make it ahead: Assemble the sweet potatoes and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours. Bake before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed (12 to 14 ounces each)
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 shallots)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, plus 6 sprigs for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces Taleggio cheese, small-diced (6 ounces with the rind)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the potatoes on the prepared sheet pan and cut a few slits in each potato to allow steam to escape. Bake the potatoes for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until very tender when tested with a skewer. Set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, heat 11/2 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the thyme and cook for 1 minute. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out some of the warm potato into a medium bowl with a teaspoon, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell of sweet potato. The potatoes should look like little canoes. Sprinkle the potato shells generously with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the scooped-out potato flesh and mash it with a fork. Add the egg, shallots, Taleggio, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the sweet potato shells and top each with a sprig of fresh thyme. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Winter slaw
Serves 8

Kale is so popular now that happily, it’s available in grocery stores everywhere. Most markets carry both curly and flat varieties, but for this recipe I prefer the curly kind. Winter slaw is like coleslaw but with kale, Brussels sprouts, and radicchio instead of cabbage. I like it with a lemon vinaigrette and big shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Make it ahead: Prepare the salad ingredients, store in plastic bags, and refrigerate for a day or two. Make the vinaigrette and refrigerate for up to one day. Toss together a few hours before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound large kale leaves, center rib removed (6 to 8 leaves)
  • 6 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, and cored
  • 1/2 small head radicchio, cored
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (6-ounce) chunk good Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

With a very sharp chef ’s knife, cut the kale, Brussels sprouts, and radicchio crosswise in thin shreds, as you would cut cabbage for coleslaw, and place them in a large bowl.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour enough dressing on the salad to just moisten it, reserving the rest.

Shave the Parmesan in big shards with a vegetable peeler. Add the cheese and dried cranberries to the salad and toss it carefully to avoid breaking up the cheese. Check for seasonings, add more vinaigrette, if necessary, and serve cold or at room temperature.

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Pumpkin mousse parfait
Serves 8 to 10

I’m always looking for holiday desserts that aren't the usual pumpkin and pecan pies, and besides, who really likes to make pie crust? I decided to make a pumpkin mousse and layer it with whipped cream and chopped ginger cookies. It certainly wasn't the worst dessert I’d ever invented.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream (recipe follows)
  • 8 to 10 chopped Ultimate Ginger Cookies (recipe follows or store bought)
  • Crystallized ginger, for decoration (optional)

Place the rum in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set the bowl of gelatin over a pan of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear. Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture.

To assemble, spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into parfait glasses, add a layer of whipped cream, then some chopped cookies. Repeat, ending with a third layer of pumpkin. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, decorate with whipped cream and slivered crystallized ginger.

Sweetened whipped cream
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don’t overbeat!

Ultimate ginger cookie
Makes 16 cookies

Chef's tip: You want the dry crystallized ginger, not the wet one.If you measure the oil before the molasses, the molasses won’t stick to the measuring cup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces)
  • Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.

Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them slightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a minute or two, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.