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Familiar Comforts

November 17, 1985|BETSY BALSLEY

Comfort food. Utterly predictable, not fancy, things that Mother made us when we needed cheering up. Like tapioca pudding or macaroni and cheese. Simple, straightforward, totally honest foods. Foods that developed because good, imaginative cooks had respect for simple, readily available ingredients. And sometimes, these foods are a means of avoiding waste because they let you use up leftovers in genuinely creative ways.

One longtime American favorite in that category is the old-fashioned ham loaf--an ideal recipe when you're faced with all those scruffy bits and pieces of ham that cling so tenaciously to the bone or flake off when a less-than-expert carver snips off a slice as a snack. But merely because a ham loaf makes the most of leftovers doesn't mean that it won't make a delightful centerpiece for a fancier menu. When a ham loaf is prepared with a deft touch and seasoned with flattering spices, it actually makes quite a spectacular presentation.

Our orange-topped ham loaf would even be appropriate for a Thanksgiving menu, particularly for small households where a turkey might last forever. Served on your best platter, garnished with spinach leaves and accompanied by a simple vegetable dish and salad, a ham loaf will make an attractive presentation. And, like the turkey it replaces, it has the attribute of being almost as good cold as it is hot. A recipe for the ham loaf can be found below. PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER FOOD STYLIST: NONA BAER HAM LOAF WITH ORANGE GLAZE 1/2 cup orange juice 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs 1 pound ground lean ham 1 pound ground pork cup chopped onion 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 2 eggs, lightly beaten cup brown sugar, packed 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1 teaspoon flour 5 to 6 thin unpeeled orange slices, halved

Pour orange and lemon juices over bread crumbs in mixing bowl. Add ham, pork, onion, parsley and eggs. Mix gently but thoroughly. Combine brown sugar with dry mustard and flour and sprinkle mixture over bottom of greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Overlap orange slices on sugar mixture. Pack meat mixture into pan over orange slices. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour 15 minutes. When done, place serving platter over top of loaf pan and turn pan upside down. Garnish with additional orange slices or wedges, if desired. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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