Tag Archives: bacon

Cookout Co-Pilot: Broccoli-Apple Salad

3 Sep

With summer cookout season winding down, I joined fellow Forkfuller Lindsay and an assemblage of Madison’s W.A.S.T.E.D. crew for a wine tasting themed on pairings with grilled meats and veggies (Verdict: anything from Torrontes to Brut Rose Cava to Shiraz hits the spot with heat and meat).   The grillables – including t-bone steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops (YUM!) and a host of veggie-friendly items – were graciously provided by the host, so we guests were tasked with summery sides.  Lindsay brought an amazing heirloom tomato salad with a creamy dressing spiked with blue cheese while others notable sides included a spinach salad, carrot-ginger salad, and creamy white-bean hummus.

Earlier this summer, I took my first crack at a broccoli slaw/salad similar to what I detail below (minus the apples) and was smitten by its sweet-savory, creamy-crunchy dichotomy.  Granny Smith apples bring extra crunch and a hint of sweet/tartness to the party while the addition of dried cranberries and walnuts act as a hat-tip to the comforting dishes the impending cool weather brings to my table.

Broccoli-Apple Salad

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3 heads of broccoli, broken down into small florets, stems peeled and diced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 2 strips of bacon, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • dollop of dijon mustard
  • splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • dashes of tarragon, thyme, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I did it:

  • Heat minced bacon in large skillet over medium heat until fat begins to render out.  Add broccoli florets, stems, and minced onion, season with salt, and heat for 4-5 minutes until broccoli just starts to soften around the edges.  Remove to large mixing or serving/storage bowl to cool.
  • Mix in diced apple, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts.
  • To prepare dressing, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and spices and whisk until smooth.
  • Add dressing with broccoli-apple mixture and stir until well-incorporated.  Refrigerate until cool and serve with your favorite flame-charred meats or un-meats.

Check out this post and lots of other fantastic foodie content at Forkful of News.

One remix that Diddy didn’t invent: BLT Pocket

26 Feb

Look – I’m not going to pretend that you folks can’t put together a BLT.  It’s not hard.  Three ingredients on bread with a squirt of mayo.  Bacon and mayo are like crack and make everything taste better.  There’s nothing subtle here.  At the same time, a good BLT is a thing of beauty.  Something so simple, yet incomprehensibly crave-inducing that when the mood strikes – good luck satisfying it with anything else.  You gotta admit though – they aren’t the easiest thing to eat.  The toast shreds the roof of your mouth and that is THE worst.  The WORST.  That and the chewy bacon (and don’t even talk to me if you like your bacon snap-in-half crispy) pulls out of the sandwich and the whole thing falls apart.  SOLUTION: chop up all the ingredients, mix ’em together, and shove them in a convenient, mouth-friendly vessel.  Hello, pita pocket.  Hello, better BLT.

BLT Pocket

Ingredient rundown:

  • Pita pockets (I used whole wheat cuz I’m healthy like that)
  • Bacon (duh)
  • Lettuce (duh) – romaine or other crisp lettuce is best
  • Tomato (duh)
  • Mayo (duh)
  • Freshly-cracked black pepper (makes everything better, too)

How I do it:

  1. Fry up a couple strips of bacon.  Chewy, not crispy.  But you knew that already.  Chop it up.
  2. Get you some lettuce and tomato.  Chop them up.
  3. Mix all that together with some mayo and cracked pepper.
  4. Stuff that pita.  One of life’s simple pleasures is in hand.  The roof of your mouth will thank you later.

Pantry Raid: Carbonara Potstickers

19 Oct

Carbonara Potstickers

My affinity for pasta carbonara has been mentioned here before.  Its simple decadence lends itself to  any situation where comfort food is calling.  My recent foray into the world of potstickers inspired my inner mad scientist to experiment with new combinations of fillings and this gem immediately jumped to the forefront.

The bacon and cheese alone would make a passable filling, but the onions, mushrooms and fresh garlic that usually find their way into my carbonara would do well to flesh it out.  The wrapper of the potsticker made an easy analog for the pasta and the creamy egg, cheese and bacon drippings would make a worthy sauce without the need to dip.  The end result is a kind of carbonara tortellini or ravioli that captures the essence of the original dish in a novel package.  Chopsticks are purely optional here.  I went with a fork.

Dish: Carbonara Potstickers

Ingredient Rollcall:

  • 15-20 wonton wrappers
  • 3-4 slices of thick-cut bacon, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 mushrooms, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Italian herbs, ground
  • salt and cracked pepper, to taste

How I do it:

  1. Saute minced bacon and mushrooms for a minute or two with balsamic until some fat has rendered out, drain and reserve drippings.
  2. Mix minced bacon, mushroom, onion, garlic, 1 beaten egg, breadcrumbs, half of grated cheese, salt, pepper and dash of ground herbs in small mixing bowl.
  3. Assemble and cook potstickers as instructed in my previous recipe, with help from my main man, Alton Brown.
  4. Mix other beaten egg, remaining cheese, and a healthy portion of cracked black pepper.
  5. Return cooked potstickers to the the pan over medium heat with a splash of water until water begins to steam again.  Remove from heat and add egg and cheese mixture and a splash of bacon drippings.  Toss and stir until the potstickers are well-coated and sauce thickens.  Serves 2 (or 1 if you’re me).

Like the back of my hand: Spaghetti alla Carbonara

17 Sep

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

The first in a series of recipes that I have made so many times that I could make them blindfolded – Spaghetti alla Carbonara.  A dish introduced to me by my best high school friend and his Italian mother, I was given this disclaimer beforehand which I pass on here – you might not want to know what goes into the “sauce”.  Forget any ideas you had about having a nice, light pasta dinner.  If I told you a sauce was made out of bacon grease, raw eggs and cheese – is that something you might be interested in?  Well, apparently my answer was something along the lines of Bring it ON, because here I am 7 or 8 years later making this dish a couple times a month.  Traditionally, SaC is a simple sauce of pancetta and its drippings, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and plenty of fresh-ground pepper tossed with hot, al dente pasta which melts the cheese and  “cooks” the eggs just enough to thicken into a sauce.  Of course, I’ve never been one to stick with tradition and tend to tinker and embellish based on what sounds good to me or what I have on hand.  Here’s the version I made tonight:

Dish: Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Ingredient Roll Call:

  • 1/2 lb long-format dried pasta ( I like bucatini)
  • 3-4 strips of bacon (or pacetta or guanciale if you can find it.  Bacon works just fine, though)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated hard Italian cheese (parmesan, romano, etc)
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • My Embellishments:
    • half an onion, thinly sliced
    • half a red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • splash each of balsamic vinegar and red wine
    • dash of dried Italian herbs
    • Serves 1 giant plate or 2 normal-person servings.  Don’t judge me.  I’m a growing boy.

How I do it:

  1. Slice bacon into thin strips and saute over medium heat with a splash of olive oil until fat begins to render out
  2. Add onion, red bell pepper and garlic with a dash of salt and balsamic vinegar and continue to saute until softened, 10 minutes or so
  3. Combine beaten eggs, grated cheese, dash of salt and ground pepper in a bowl and set aside
  4. Boil pasta until 3/4 or so cooked, drain and add to saute pan with bacon and other ingredients
  5. Add a splash of wine and cook on high for a few minutes until wine is more or less cooked off.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes before adding egg and cheese mixture
  7. Stir quickly until cheese melts and eggs coagulate into a rich sauce.
  8. Warm a plate in the microwave for a minute or two before plating pasta.  It’ll keep your food warm longer.  It makes a difference.  Trust me.

Is this health food?  GOD no.  Is it high brow?  Not exactly (it was named after the coal miners of Italy).  What it is is amazingly simple comfort food that is ready in half an hour and hits all the right spots.  Just don’t think about the sauce.  Some things are better when you just indulge.

Disclaimer: Do NOT eat this every day.  It will undoubtedly make you fat.  It also contains raw/undercooked eggs.  If that freaks you out – first, settle down.  Second, don’t eat it.  Make a nice alfredo or something.

Dazed and Infused: Chile/Lime and Bacon/Pepper Vodkas

7 Sep

The pressing need to improvise a wedding gift a few weeks back provided the spark to try something I’d been wanting to do for a while now – make my own infused spirits.  I had been seeing a display of upscale bloody mary accouterments over at Barriques recently and was inspired to make a couple different vodkas to go with a nice mix and some fancy garnishes.  I was reminded of one of the better bloody marys I’ve had (@ the Double Diamond Bar at Tyrol Basin of all places) that used a jalepeno-infused vodka that added such a fresh, lively heat that you just can’t get with a couple squirts of Tabasco.

I was lucky enough to have a bag full of assorted chiles that my roommate had picked up at the Dane County Farmers’ Market and a bag of key limes that I like to keep around for both food and drink purposes.  After I got back from Barriques with a couple 375ml bottles of Svedka (my go-to “bang for your buck” brand of vodka, btw), I got to work splitting the chiles and limes (for these smallish bottles I ended up using 3 chiles of various colors and 2 small limes).  I then emptied the vodka into a pitcher, put the sliced chiles and limes in the bottle, then poured the vodka back in.  Of course, there was some vodka left over after displacement, and I was forced to make myself a drink with the remainder (the sacrifices I have to make sometimes in my culinary pursuits…).

As I have mentioned before, the merits of bacon need no promotion from a neophyte food-blogger such as myself and I am certainly not the first to think of bacon-infused vodka.  In fact, numerous bars and commercial distilleries are adding the libation to their repertoire all the time as bacon furthers its status as the Chuck Norris of cured meats.  But damn if it doesn’t seem like a pretty amazing compliment to a good bloody.  To spice things up a bit, I decided to add some freshly cracked pepper (a white/black blend from Penzeys), again, inspired by my man AB (jump to 7:08 for his pepper vodka procedure).  The biggest question mark for me pertained to the best means of imparting the bacon essence to the vodka.  In the interests of a.) presentation and b.) fitting in the smaller-sized bottles, I decided to wrap two strips of bacon around chopsticks and bake them @350° until crisp (~20 mins).  The resulting meat-spirals, while somewhat challenging to remove from the chopsticks, fit nicely in the bottle and lent an appealing visual effect if I do say so myself.

Unfortunately, the fact that these were a gift and they were made the day before the wedding precluded me from sampling the final product.  If I had kept them, I would have filtered them through a coffee filter after a week or so and tried to remove the spent infusion-fuel from the bottles before replacing the newly-awesome-er vodka and making some kick-ass bloodies.  My recent craving for the savory cocktail will hopefully lead to a couple infusions in my near future.  Ginger/lemon/lime is another combination I think would work great, though not necessarily for use in bloody marys.  Or green tea and ginger.  I can see this getting out of control.

Saturday Morning Hangover: Curried French Toast and Bacon

7 Sep

Hangover, meet your match.

We’ve all been there.  Had a little too much fun on Friday night.  Proper hydration was not high on your list of priorities.  You wake up Saturday morning with a vise on your temples and dry-mouth seemingly unquenchable by a dozen Vitamin Waters.  Oh, and you have to be at a wedding in an hour and a half.  Luckily, I have an ace up my sleeve that has come through for me before:  curried French toast.

I’ve never been the sweet-tooth type, so breakfast has always been about stick-to-your-ribs savory for me.  Occasionally a Belgian waffle or slice of French toast would find its way on my plate, but they were rarely dishes I craved.  My solution?  Take the savory flavors I love about breakfast and infuse them into a traditionally sweet dish.  For me, the bold spice and subtle sweetness of curry was a natural match for French toast.  And you don’t need me to espouse the merits of bacon as a general improver of anything it touches.  So here’s my 15-20 minute kick-in-the pants that will shake-loose the cobwebs and get you well on your way towards not puking on the bride in the receiving line.

Curried French toast

Ingredient roll-call:

  • 2 slices of bread (I used “country white”…not exactly sure what makes it country)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • splash of milk
  • ~1/2 tsp sweet curry powder (I’m lucky enough to have a local Penzeys at my disposal – I highly recommend them for all your spice needs)
  • dash of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 strips of bacon
  • Serves 1 light-sensitive, familial obligation-cursing over-indulger

How I do it:

  1. Fry bacon over medium heat until fat renders out and texture is to your liking (I know there are some masochists out there who like their bacon to resemble a tongue-depressor, I prefer mine crisp around the edges but still chewy in the middle and you should, too)
  2. Drain bacon drippings a small container and reserver for later
  3. Mix eggs, milk, curry and s+p and whisk to combine.  I like to put the egg mixture in a sandwich-size tupperware container to make dipping the bread easier.
  4. Add a tablespoon or so of the bacon drippings back to the fry pan and return heat to medium/medium-high
  5. Dunk the bread in the egg mixture, making sure both sided are well-coated, but avoiding getting the bread too soggy
  6. Place the coated bread in the heated pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until eggs have set and browned
  7. I ended up with extra egg mixture and decided to scramble that up to go along with the toast and bacon.  Depending on the size and porosity of your bread, you may or may not have much leftover.  Of course you could always make another slice of toast to use it up as well.
  8. You can thank me later.  Or buy me a drink after the reception.

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