Archive for the ‘bacon’ Category

Recently, I received 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. And it can be gamey tasting, so I wanted to mix it with a few other ingredients. 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.

 

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, or just don’t want to use it, 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!

 

 

Not a very complex idea. I just put the stuff that’s usually on the outside, on the inside of my burgers. Why? Why not?

If I’m making bacon cheeseburgers to bring to a barbecue, even if it’s on my back deck, instead of bringing a package of bacon and a package of cheese and a stack of burgers, I’ve got all the ingredients conveniently in the patties. And as the burgers cook, the fat from the bacon and the gooey cheese melt and combine with the burger meat to make a really tasty and moist burger.

I make 2 lbs. of burgers at a time, using grass-fed beef.

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2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, cooled and crumbled
garlic salt
avocado oil or pork fat

 

In a bowl, combine the beef, the cheese and the bacon, mixing well so that all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Form the beef into 1/4 lb. patties. Refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook to firm them up.

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a drop of oil or pork fat. Place the burgers in the hot skillet to sear and sprinkle with the garlic salt. When browned, flip the burgers and place the skillet in a 350-degree oven to finish cooking.

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These days, there’s a day for everything, but who knew that May 10th is National Shrimp Day?

Any excuse to make shrimp scampi is a good one, as far as I’m concerned!

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!

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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 them 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.

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

Sometimes the happiest of cooking accidents happen with bacon. My original plan was to make Chinese-style honey ribs for dinner. But instead of pulling a nice rack of ribs out of the freezer, I accidentally took out a slab of pork belly. I only realized my mistake after I thawed it, so I decided to use it! The results were pretty damn tasty.

Maple syrup is a great substitute for the honey.

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Marinade:
¾ cup light soy sauce
6 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
5 lbs. pork belly
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks (3”)
1/2 cup honey
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
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Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the marinade ingredients. Set them aside.
Cut the pork belly into pieces that are about 2 inches square. Place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring the pot to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain the water.
Place the pork belly pieces on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Coat them with the marinade. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Bake the pork belly pieces on the sheet pan in the oven for 30 minutes.
While the pork belly is baking, start the sauce in a large non-stick pan or pot: combine the lemon zest and juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, honey and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
When the pork belly pieces have finished baking, add them to the sauce pot and simmer (covered) for about 15 minutes or until meat is tender.
Turn the heat on high, uncover the pot and cook until the sauce has reduced to a glaze that coats the meat. Reduce the heat as the sauce thickens to avoid the sugars in the honey from burning. When the pieces are sticky and gooey, they are ready!
Devour them just like that, or…
Let a piece of pork belly cool, then slice it to your desired thickness and fry it like regular bacon. It’s great with an omelet!
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My Mom’s birthday was a couple of days ago, and even though she’s not with us anymore, I think a lot about the family favorites she used to 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.

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2 full 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 water come to a boil. Core the cabbage, leaving the leaves whole, and carefully immerse the head of cabbage into the hot water. (I use two sets of tongs to handle the cabbage.)

Little by little, the outermost leaves of the cabbage will come off the head, and you can remove them, setting them aside to cool. 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. If you need more to line the pan, use the smaller or torn pieces of cabbage.

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 (about 1/4 cup, depending on the size of the cabbage leaf) 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.

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

Sometimes the happiest of cooking accidents happen with bacon. My original plan was to make Chinese-style honey ribs for dinner. But instead of pulling a nice rack of ribs out of the freezer, I accidentally took out a slab of pork belly. I only realized my mistake after I thawed it, so I decided to use it! The results were pretty damn tasty.

 

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Marinade:
¾ cup light soy sauce
6 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
5 lbs. pork belly
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks (3”)
1/2 cup honey
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
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Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the marinade ingredients. Set them aside.
Cut the pork belly into pieces that are about 2 inches square. Place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring the pot to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain the water.
Place the pork belly pieces on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Coat them with the marinade. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Bake the pork belly pieces on the sheet pan in the oven for 30 minutes.
While the pork belly is baking, start the sauce in a large non-stick pan or pot: combine the lemon zest and juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, honey and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
When the pork belly pieces have finished baking, add them to the sauce pot and simmer (covered) for about 15 minutes or until meat is tender.
Turn the heat on high, uncover the pot and cook until the sauce has reduced to a glaze that coats the ribs. Reduce the heat as the sauce thickens to avoid the sugars in the honey from burning. When the pieces are sticky and gooey, they are ready!
Devour them just like that, or…
Let a piece of pork belly cool, then slice it to your desired thickness and fry it like regular bacon. It’s great with an omelet!
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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 (I use Diamond Crystal)
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

 

Rib perfection!

September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day!

Instead of the usual beef, here’s a great recipe using ground chicken. I rarely use ground turkey, because I think it’s nasty and flavorless. But ground chicken has a better flavor, and doesn’t seem to dry out as quickly. Adding avocado to the mix gives each bite of this burger a creamy, fatty richness the ground chicken needs.  Chicken and ABC (Avocado, Bacon and Cheese) is a winning combination. My Awesomesauce puts it over the top.

I cut the avocado in small cubes. I don’t make guacamole out of it. When the burger cooks, it melts into the meat, giving it that luscious fattiness I’m looking for. The egg and the breadcrumbs bind it all together.

 

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1 lb. ground chicken
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 ripe avocado, sliced into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch granulated garlic
1 raw egg
slices of bacon, cooked
Awesomesauce (recipe below)

 

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Combine the chicken, breadcrumbs, chopped avocado, salt and pepper, garlic and egg in a bowl and mix them thoroughly but carefully so that you don’t squash the cubes of avocado.

Get a sheet pan covered in non-stick foil. Rub a little vegetable oil on the foil before measuring out the patties. Using a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, spoon out the burger meat onto the sheet pan, then gently press down on it with your hand to form patties. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for the burgers to firm up a bit.

 

Firming up the burgers in the freezer. The little meatball in the middle is a leftover…and a nice extra bite for the chef to enjoy!

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I used to cook the burgers in a pan first, but I’ve found that placing the sheet pan right in the oven works just as well. Let the burgers sear on one side, then flip them. (Make sure they sear well and get a nice crust on them, or they’ll fall apart when you try to flip them.) Get a nice sear on the other side, then add cheese to the burgers, and cook until it has melted and the burgers have cooked all they way through.

Remember: it’s chicken…you don’t want to undercook your burgers!

When they’re ready to serve, place the patties on a toasted bun, add a couple of slices of bacon and slather with my Awesomesauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Refrigerate covered for a few hours to blend the flavors.

If you don’t want to make the Awesomesauce, Thousand Island dressing is a good substitute.

 

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!

 

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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.

 

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

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 has passed away, I’ve taken 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.

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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!