Archive for the ‘bacon’ Category

Thinking a lot about my Mom these past few days…and, of course, I thought about the family favorites she would cook. If there’s one dish that my Mom made all the time but I didn’t appreciate until I got older, this is it. Stuffed cabbage, cabbage rolls, or balandėliai, as we say in Lithuanian, was a staple in our home and one of my Dad’s favorites. 

I had seen my Mom make these beauties so often in my childhood, I didn’t even need to check online recipes out for guidance. That doesn’t mean I make them exactly like Mom, but my version came out pretty good. I think she would’ve been proud.

 

image

 

4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
1 lb. ground pastured pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 large head cabbage
1 pint homemade chicken, beef or veal stock
750 g diced tomatoes (1 Pomi container)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion

Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry them until crisp. Finely chop the onion, and add it to the bacon and rendered fat in the pan, cooking until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Mix well, and remove from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, and cooled bacon and onion mixture. Place it in the fridge to firm up.

Let a large pot of salted water come to a boil. Core the cabbage, leaving the leaves whole, and carefully immerse the head of cabbage into the hot water. Little by little, the outermost leaves of the cabbage will come off the head, and you can remove them with tongs, so you don’t burn yourself with the hot water. Set the leaves aside to cool, and continue doing this until you can no longer remove leaves from the remaining head of cabbage.

Remove the remaining head of cabbage from the hot water, and using your hands or a knife, break it into flat pieces. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with the pieces. These will keep the stuffed cabbage from burning and sticking to the bottom.

Time to roll the stuffed cabbage. Take the meat out of the fridge. Lay a cabbage leaf flat on the counter, and add some of the meat mixture inside. Roll the cabbage around the meat, folding the sides in as you go, much like a burrito. You might need to slice away the thickest part of the leaf stem to make rolling easier. Lay the stuffed cabbage in the roasting pan on top of the leftover cabbage pieces. (Unlike Mom, I don’t use toothpicks to hold the stuffed cabbage rolls together.)

Continue stuffing and rolling the cabbage leaves until you’ve got a pan full of them, shoulder-to-shoulder.

In a blender, food processor, or whisked in a bowl, combine the stock, diced tomatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Pour this mixture over the top of the cabbage rolls in the roasting pan, covering them.

 

 

If you have leftover cabbage, you can place another layer of them on top. Otherwise, cover the roasting pan with foil and place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Cook for an hour.

 

 

After an hour, remove the foil and cook further for another 45–60 minutes.

 

image

 

Really delicious and an instant flashback to great memories of dinner at home….thanks to Mom.

 

 

Quarantine time is a time to try new recipes. So when I got a couple of pounds of ground venison from my buddy, Bruce, an avid hunter here in my town, I started thinking about what I could make with it.

 

 

I didn’t want to go with a venison burger right out of the gate. After all, venison is very lean, containing half the fat of beef, but with more protein. In fact, venison even challenges chicken in the protein department. But being really lean, it would dry out as a burger, so I decided to go with the safer option of making a taco with it.

Well, somewhere in the process of taco making, I thought of pork and beans and said: “Yeah, what if I made something like venison pork and beans? How bad could that be?”

Well, venison and beans can almost be called chili (depending on what rules you have about beans in chili), and I thought: “But I don’t really like chili.” But then I thought: “It’s not chili if I don’t call it chili.” Problem solved!

 

I used small red beans, but you can use what you like.

 

So what I finally came up with is a venison pork-and-bean chili taco…or something like that.

Whatever…it tastes pretty good!

And obviously, if you don’t have venison, you can use lean (like 93%) beef for this recipe.

 

 

1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 strips (about 40g) pre-cooked bacon, finely chopped
1 lb. ground venison
Taco seasoning (see the recipe below)
20 grape tomatoes (100g), chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard (I like Gulden’s)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (Only Lea & Perrins will do)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) of small red beans, not drained

 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a baking pan with oil spray (I use avocado) and set aside.

In a large pan, heat the avocado oil and add the chopped onion. Sauté the onion until it’s translucent.

Add the chopped bacon, and sauté until some of the fat starts rendering out of it.

Add the pound of venison, and cook until the meat has browned nicely, adding the taco seasoning to the meat as it cooks, little by little, until you’ve used all the taco seasoning up.

Add the chopped grape tomatoes, and stirring after each addition, add the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, and brown sugar.

Pour in the two cans of beans, liquid and all, and stir gently, letting it all come to a boil.

 

 

Pour the contents of the sauté pan into the baking pan, cover it with foil, and place it in the 350-degree oven to cook for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, remove the foil off the pan and cook another 10 minutes.

 

The Taco Seasoning…
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon paprika

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and set it aside.

 

 

Once the venison pork-and-bean chili taco meat has finished cooking, I like to use it in a flour tortilla, with shredded lettuce and a little shredded cheese on top.

 

Shredded lettuce, grated cheddar cheese, some raw Vidalia onion, and a touch of 1000 Island dressing!

 

 

REUBEN SOUP

Posted: April 1, 2020 in bacon, cheese, Food, Recipes, sauerkraut
Tags: , , , ,

Why have soup and a sandwich when your soup can be your sandwich? I had all the ingredients to make a Reuben sandwich. But I wanted soup. So I made Reuben Seup…I mean Soup!

Think French onion soup, but using Reuben ingredients…

 

Rye bread slices
Sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
Chicken stock
Pastrami, sliced thinly
Swiss cheese, sliced thinly

 

I like to take the sauerkraut, rinse it under cold water, then toss it in a pot that already has some finely chopped bacon and onions cooking in it. Once the ingredients have cooked down, set it aside. (If you prefer not to use bacon and onions, that’s fine, too.)

Find a source for great pastrami, like a good deli in your neighborhood. I make a stop at the Forest Pork Store in Huntington, NY, every time I visit my Mom, and they have incredible pastrami you only dream about.

Heat the chicken stock in a pot. Take the thinly sliced pastrami and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. Place the pastrami in the chicken stock to warm through. Keep the stock warm on low heat.

Now you’re ready to assemble…

rye

Take an oven-proof soup bowl. Line the bottom with some rye bread.

 

kraut

On top of that, place a nice helping of the sauerkraut.

 

stock

Pour the warm chicken stock with the pastrami over the sauerkraut.

 

swiss

Layer slices of Swiss cheese over the top of the bowl. Place it under the broiler until melted.

 

melty

Eat!

 

eat

It satisfied my soup and sandwich craving!

 

Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the greatest sandwiches on planet Earth.

 

BLT wraps: home-cured and smoked bacon, local farmstead romaine, home garden tomatoes.

 

If I’m buying bacon, I go on-line to Burger’s Smokehouse, a family run business in Missouri that has made great bacon for decades. The prices are good, and they include shipping. (www.smokehouse.com) I buy in quantity and freeze what I don’t need right away. My favorite is the thick-sliced country bacon “steaks.”

But nothings beats making your own.

Bacon comes from the pork belly, and they’re easy to find in any good butcher shop. But to get something a notch above, I’ll buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire pork, from Heritage Pork International. (www.heritagepork.com)  I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is salt and sugar, and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you would find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink to let you know that it’s a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is: nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this. (I buy uncured deli meats and hot dogs at the supermarket, because processed meats are a different story. But since I know exactly what goes into my own bacon, I’m not worried about the level of nitrites.)

 

Just out of the smoker! Diamond-shaped slashes in the fat allow more of the rub to penetrate while curing.

 

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar or turbinado sugar
1 oz. pink curing salt

Mix the ingredients well.

An important note: all Kosher salts do not all weigh the same! The two largest brands, Morton’s and Diamond Crystal, for example, are very different (Morton’s is heavier), so always go by the weight and not by a cup measurement.

Once the dry cure is mixed, I keep it stored in my pantry, ready to use when I need it.

When it’s time to be makin’ the bacon, I combine the dry cure with other ingredients to make my bacon rub.

 

My improved bacon rub:

1 cup basic dry cure (above)
3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal in my recipes, for consistency)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion

Mix these ingredients well. Rub it generously all over the pork belly. I like to slash the fat side of the pork belly with a knife, to make sure the rub permeates the meat.

I have a large plastic container with a lid that fits one slab of pork belly perfectly. I place the belly inside it, put the lid on, and place the container in the fridge. The pork belly stays there for at least a couple of weeks, maybe three. I flip the belly every few days. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there. Just flip it, push the belly down into the liquid, then put the lid back on the container, and back in the fridge.

 

Pork belly in…bacon out!

 

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has cured, rinse the belly with cold clean water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours…or smoke it. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for at least 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

Smoked bacon

And now it’s bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort.
Smoking the pork belly won’t necessarily cook it all the way through, so you still have to slice it and fry it before eating. (Would you eat a raw package of bacon from the store? …Exactly!) That first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make two or three? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!
Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

 

Slicing the bacon up for freezing.

Few dishes scream out “comfort food” like meatloaf. My Mom’s meatloaf was awesome, and she’d cut a huge slab of it onto my plate, with fantastic butter-loaded Pennsylvania Dutch egg noodles on the side. I couldn’t stop eating it.

I never thought of making meatloaf when I moved away, because it gave my Mom something special to make for me when I came home to visit. She was thrilled that there was a dish she could make that I would devour every time, without hesitation. (The others were her roasted lamb and Lithuanian pierogis called koldūnai (kol-doon-ay).

But now that my Mom is in an assisted living facility, I’ve had to take meatloaf matters into my own hands. I never got my Mom’s exact recipe. But I had an idea of what went into it, so I gave it a shot.

The standard mix for my Mom’s meatloaf was one-third each ground beef, pork and veal. I go 2/3’s beef and 1/3 pork instead, unless I can get my hands on humanely-raised veal from a farm down the road. My Mom used Lipton onion soup mix in her meatloaf. I chose to stay away from packaged ingredients which have chemicals and preservatives. And instead of layering slices of bacon on top as many people do, I fry and chop the bacon and mix it into the meat, giving my meatloaf delicious smokey bacon goodness in every bite!

To keep this dish gluten-free, I use GF breadcrumbs. I buy loaves of Udi’s frozen gluten-free bread, toast the bread slices, then put them in a food processor to make great-tasting bread crumbs that have all the flavor of regular bread crumbs, without the gluten.

 

image

4 strips bacon, fried and chopped
1 yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pork fat or olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
2 eggs

 

Fry the strips of bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and chop it fine. Set it aside.

Keeping the rendered bacon fat in the pan, sauté the onion with it until translucent. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Set the pan aside, letting it cool to room temperature.

 

 

In a bowl, combine the meat, bread crumbs, ketchup, bacon, eggs, and the sautéed onion mixture. Form it into a loaf and place it in a loaf pan. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

 

Delicious, caramelized meatloaf. Leftovers are always welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been experimenting with my coffee rub, one that combines coffee with cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, garlic and onion. I’ve tried it on various cuts of beef, on chicken, and pork…and it works well on everything!

 

A Berkshire pork belly, cured for several weeks, then rinsed.

 

I took some of the rub and cured a beautiful Berkshire pork belly with it, to make bacon. I simply scored the fat side of the belly, then massaged both sides of the belly with the rub, and placed it in a container in the fridge for several weeks. I flipped it over every few days to allow both sides of the belly to come in contact with the liquid that formed when the salt in the rub extracted moisture from the meat. After several weeks, I removed the belly from the container and rinsed it well with clean water, drying it with paper towels. I then re-rubbed the pork belly with more of the coffee rub and placed it in the smoker for 2 hours at 250 degrees, smoking it with hickory, my favorite wood for bacon.

 

The pork belly, re-rubbed and ready to smoke.

 

It just so happened that on the weekend I was smoking the belly, I decided to smoke a couple of racks of pork ribs for myself. These also came from a beautiful heritage Berkshire pig, and I coated them with the coffee rub, allowing them to rest in the fridge for 24 hours putting them in the smoker.

 

The Berkshire pork ribs, rubbed and ready to smoke. I cut the racks in half for easier handling.

 

Since the ribs and belly were in the smoker at the same time, the ribs first smoked at 250 degrees with hickory along with the bacon, for about 2 hours. Once I removed the bacon, I dropped the temperature of the smoker to 225, and smoked the ribs for 2 more hours. I then removed the ribs, sprinkled them with a little more coffee rub, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, before returning them to the smoker for another hour.

 

 

The ribs, and the bacon, were absolute perfection!

 

 

The ribs, smoked for several hours.

 

Re-sprinkling a little coffee rub on the ribs.

 

Wrapping the half-racks in foil. Some go back to the smoker, some head for the freezer to be enjoyed later.

 

Since I had 2 full racks of ribs, more than enough for several meals, I cut each rack in half before smoking for easier handling. Once I wrapped them in foil, I let a couple of them cool on the counter before placing them in a freezer bag and putting them in the freezer for future use. Already smoked and cured, all I’ll need to do is take a foil package out of the freezer, and place it in a 250-degree oven for a couple of hours to warm the ribs up and make them fall-off-the-bone tender.

 

The ribs, after another hour in the foil.

 

Here’s my coffee rub recipe. Make a lot of it and use it on everything from burgers to whole chickens to pulled pork sandwiches.

 

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

 

Rib perfection!

 

I love shrimp scampi, and had the need to satisfy my cravings the other day. But what started as a simple scampi recipe, turned into something a bit more. I may never make scampi the same way again!

 

image

1 lb. wild-caught American shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons Spirgučiai (see below)
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
oregano, for sprinkling

 

Thaw the shrimp under cold water. Place in a colander to drain.

Spirgučiai is a Lithuanian favorite: chopped bacon and onions, fried until crisp and usually sprinkled over anything and everything in Lithuanian cooking. I always have some in my fridge, already prepared and just waiting to be used.

In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic salt, oregano, onion, pepper and Spirgučiai.  Heat only until everything melts and combines. Don’t let it burn. (If you don’t have Spirgučiai, all you need to do is take a couple of slices of bacon, chop them up, and fry them in a pan until crisp. Keep the bacon and the fat in the pan and then add the butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic salt, oregano, onion and pepper.)

In a small sheet pan lined with foil, lay the shrimp in a single layer and cook them halfway in a pre-heated 400-degree oven to remove the moisture from the shrimp.

Take the pan out of the oven, and drain off the moisture, if any. Pour the butter mix from the saucepan all over the shrimp and toss to coat. Return the shrimp to the oven for a few minutes, until they’ve heated through and are almost completely cooked. (Careful: never over-cook shrimp!)

Take the pan out of the oven, and place pieces of mozzarella on top, garnishing with a little oregano. Set the oven on broil and cook until the cheese has melted.

Slice with a spatula and serve on top of pasta, making sure you get some of that buttery scampi sauce.

 

image

As a low-carb option, you can serve this on broccoli or roasted spaghetti squash.

Don’t let the innocent photo fool you. This stuff is addictive, thanks to the addition of bacon and bacon fat! And the food processor makes this aioli light as a cloud. Spread it on burgers. Use it on a BLT. Goes great with tuna. Or just get some chips and use it as a dip. Inhale!

 

avocado

 

3 avocados, seed removed and scooped out of their skins
6 strips of bacon, fried crisp, chopped and cooled…bacon fat reserved
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, room temperature
1 clove garlic
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, preferably Fleur de Sel
Freshly grated black pepper

In a food processor, blend the avocados, bacon pieces, lemon juice and zest, eggs, and garlic. With the processor still running, add the bacon fat slowly, then add the olive oil. Add a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

You can substitute vegetable oil for the olive oil if you feel it’s too strong. But this is not for the weak!

Note: Yes, this baby uses raw eggs. If you’re queasy about that, there are raw egg substitutes in many supermarkets. I don’t use raw eggs often, but I do here…and in a really good Caesar salad.

Although my daughter goes crazy for my Ragu Bolognese, pasta with meat sauce is one of the easiest things to make, with ingredients you probably have in your home. This sauce is really rich with flavor, and once you put all the ingredients together, it requires nothing more from you than an occasional stir every now and then.

 

image

 

1/4 cup olive oil
3 strips bacon, finely chopped, raw or pre-cooked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 lbs. ground beef (I use grass-fed beef)
2 cans (28 oz. each) whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 bay leaves
1 small can (6 oz.)  tomato paste

image

 

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the bacon. Once the bacon is sizzling, add the onions and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic salt and mix. Add the ground beef and cook until it has browned.

Pour the 2 cans of whole tomatoes into a food processor and blend until chunky…or go the old-fashioned route and simply squeeze the tomatoes with your hands, breaking them up. Pour the contents of both cans into the pot and stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the orange tomato foam disappears.

Add the oregano, basil and parsley and stir. Add the salt and pepper and stir. Add the anise seed and fennel seed and stir. Throw in the 2 bay leaves and stir. (I think you get the idea, there’s a lot of stirring going on!)

When the sauce starts to boil, add the tomato paste and stir well. Let it come up to a boil again–the paste thickens best at high heat–then turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pot.

Let the sauce simmer on low heat for several hours. Whenever you walk by, give the sauce a good stir.

Serve the sauce over pasta, with some grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.

 

image

 

 

 

 

Growing up in New York, we just called them chili dogs. But when I moved to New England, they called them Coney Island dogs. Here in Rhode Island, they’re hot weiners. In fact, the Olneyville NY System restaurant has made it to “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri, “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern, and even won the 2014 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award.

A weiner. All that. Because it is all that.

Nothing beats going to the Olneyville NY System in lovely Olneyville, RI. But if you’re not fond of having your dogs lined all the way up the cook’s hairy arm…or if you’d rather just enjoy them at home…it’s really not that tough to do. You may not have the atmosphere that only a 70-year tradition can bring, but it’ll be pretty damn tasty nonetheless.

Of course, you can buy a packet of their special spices, but that’s cheating, isn’t it?

 

My chili sauce adds a few ingredients that you won’t find elsewhere. That’s OK. Yours should, too.

1 lb. ground beef (I use grass-fed beef, no leaner than 80/20)
2 strips bacon, finely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
chopped Vidalia onion (optional)
celery salt (optional)

I like to put the dog under the broiler to melt the cheese before I use the other toppings.

 

Leave the bacon grease left over from frying the bacon in the pan. Turn up the heat, add the ground beef and cook it all the way through, crumbling it up as much as you can. Add the chopped bacon to the pan and mix well.

In a large saucepan, pour in the can of tomatoes and chop them up with a spatula. Add the Worcestershire, onion flakes, garlic, mustard, black pepper, and chile powder. Mix well. Let it come to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the cooked beef and bacon to the sauce. Keep chopping and breaking down the tomatoes every time you stir the sauce. (A potato masher works well for this, too.)

Cover the pot and let it simmer for at least an hour, stirring often.

What kind of hot dogs you should use for this is a matter of personal preference. The folks at Olneyville use their own special brand of all-beef dog. I love the pork hot dogs I get when I go home to Long Island and stop by the Forest Pork Store in Huntington, NY. It’s yet another amazing food store where my Mom would always go to buy cold cuts, especially liverwurst, and their delicious hot dogs and cocktail franks. They’ve been in that location for a long time, and it’s a must-stop when I go home to visit my Mom.

Ultimately, you should pick the hot dog you like! Being a native New Yorker, if I don’t have any of the Forest Pork Store dogs in my freezer, I go to the supermarket and buy the foot-long dogs from Nathan’s. Classic!

Boil or steam the dogs, place them on the buns (On your arm or not is up to you! Don’t blame me for any third-degree burns!) And pour some of the chile sauce on top. Sprinkle some of the cheddar cheese on top, and put the sandwich under the broiler to melt the cheese.

Then add the chopped Vidalias, and celery salt (optional, but I use ’em both!)