Archive for the ‘bacon’ Category

The Saturday before Labor Day is traditionally considered to be International Bacon Day. So that makes it today!

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 most amazing 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 I also make my 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 this is a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is it contains 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.

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 oz. pink salt
optional ingredients: granulated garlic, granulated onion

Mix the ingredients well. An important note: all salts do not all weigh the same, so go by the weight and not a cup measurement.

Once you rub the pork belly with the basic dry cure, place it in a large Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out of it, and seal it tightly. If it’s too big for the bag, you can either cut the belly into two pieces, or wrap it tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Place it in a container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, flipping it over every few days to let gravity do its work. 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. (The container will capture any liquid that might seep out.)

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has been cured, wash the brine off the meat, 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, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

 

Bellies in the smoker

Bellies in the smoker.

 

 

Smoked bacon

Smoked bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort. Just remember that you still need to slice the bacon and fry it. Don’t eat it straight out of the smoker. 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 it three or four? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!

Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

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December 30 is National Bacon Day!

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 when I thawed it and started cooking it, so I decided to continue the process with the pork belly instead. 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
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Mix the marinade ingredients. Set aside.
Cut the pork belly into pieces that are about 3 inches square. Place them in a large pot. Cover therm with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain.
Place the pork belly pieces on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Coat them with marinade. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the pork belly pieces on the sheet pan 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 to a simmer.
When the pork belly pieces have finished baking, add them to the sauce pot and simmer (covered) for at least 15 minutes or until meat is tender.
Turn heat on high, uncover pot and cook until the sauce is 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!
Let a piece of pork belly cool…then slice to desired thickness and fry like regular bacon. Makes an amazing omelet!
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Today is National Meatloaf Day. Few dishes scream out “comfort food” to me 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 moved into an assisted living facility where she can’t cook, 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 went 50-50 with the beef and pork instead. My Mom used Lipton onion soup mix in her meatloaf. I chose to stay away from packaged chemicals. And instead of layering slices of bacon on top as many people do, I used my own home-cured and smoked pre-cooked bacon that I chopped up and put inside the loaf.

To keep this dish gluten-free, I use GF breadcrumbs, and I also don’t use the Lipton onion soup mix, because it can contain non-GF ingredients.

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1 yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pork fat or olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use gluten-free)
1/4 cup ketchup
4 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
2 eggs

 

Sauté the onion in a little oil or pork fat until translucent. Let it cool, then mix in the salt, pepper and garlic. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the meat, breadcrumbs, 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.

 

 

 

 

REUBEN SEUP

Posted: October 12, 2016 in bacon, cheese, Food, Recipes, sauerkraut
Tags: , , , ,

As the weather gets cooler here in Southern New England, nothing sounds better than a hot bowla soup and a sandwich!

But 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

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

kraut

On top of that, place a nice helping of sauerkraut. I use sauerkraut that’s been rinsed and drained, then sauteed with some onions and bacon until lightly caramelized.

stock

Slice pastrami as thinly as possible, and simmer it in a pot of homemade chicken stock until tender. Season stock with salt and pepper, if needed. Pour the stock and pastrami over the sauerkraut.

swiss

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

melty

Eat!

eat

It satisfied my soup and sandwich craving!

 

Yesterday was National Cheeseburger Day!

My inside-out burger is 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?

Instead of dealing with a package of bacon and a package of cheese and a stack of burgers, I’ve got all the ingredients conveniently inside 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 cook these on the grill, but the cast-iron skillet method, described below, works really well,  too.

I make 2 lbs. of burgers at a time, using humanely-raised local grass-fed beef, from my friends at Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown, RI.  Support your local farmers when you can!

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2 lbs. ground grass-fed 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 or larger. 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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As if I needed more reasons to eat bacon, this Saturday, September 3rd, is International Bacon Day!

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 most amazing sandwiches on planet Earth.

Bacon comes from the pork belly. One of the places I buy pork bellies is from my friends at Fire Fly Farms in Stonington, CT (http://www.fireflyfarmsllc.com). I also get Berkshire pork bellies from Heritage Pork International (http://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 Kosher salt 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’d find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink—to let you know that this is special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason for that is because it has 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.

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 ounce (5 teaspoons) pink salt

Mix the ingredients well. An important note: all Kosher salts do not all weigh the same (Diamond Crystal weighs less than Morton), so go by the weight and not a cup measurement. You can use this rub on your pork belly, but I make a large amount of the dry rub and keep it stored in my pantry. When it’s time to make bacon, I take it out and add other ingredients…

 

 

Bellies in the smoker

Bellies in the smoker.

 

Alz Bacon Rub:

1/2 cup basic dry cure
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw brand)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Once you rub the pork belly thoroughly, place it in a Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out of it, and seal it tightly. another method is to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then seal it with tape. Place it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, flipping it over every few days to let gravity do its work. 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.

After a few weeks, once the pork belly has been cured, wash the brine off the meat, 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, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, but I always place the pork belly in a smoker, cooking it at 250 degrees for 1 hour, then add hickory chips and smoke it at 250 degrees for at least another hour.

Smoked bacon

Smoked bacon

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort. You still have to fry it at this point…you can’t just take a bite out of the slab! But 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 it three or four? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!

Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

I love avocado, but I never thought of cooking with it until I saw this recipe. It was a very simple burger that had only a handful of ingredients, and so I thought: “Oh, I don’t need to write this down!” After I made the burger patties and put them in the fridge to chill, I took a look at the recipe on line and realized I forgot one of the ingredients! The original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs mixed in. My burger tastes fantastic without it…plus now it’s low-carb and gluten-free (as long as you skip the bun!).

chicken2

1 lb. ground chicken
1 ripe avocado, sliced into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch granulated garlic

chicken1

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly but carefully so that you don’t squash the cubes of avocado. Form the meat into burger patties. It will be a bit sticky, but just make sure you get the avocado evenly distributed. Chill the patties in the freezer for about 10 minutes before cooking to firm them up.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little oil in an oven-proof pan, and place burgers in it when hot. Let the burgers sear on one side, then flip them. Place the pan in the oven to finish cooking.

Serve with a slice of bacon and 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.

 

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?

Instead of dealing with a package of bacon and a package of cheese and a stack of burgers, I’ve got all the ingredients conveniently inside 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 cook these on the grill, but the cast-iron skillet method, described below, works really well,  too.

I make 2 lbs. of burgers at a time, using humanely-raised local grass-fed beef, from my friends at Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown, RI.  Support your local farmers when you can!

image

2 lbs. ground grass-fed 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 or larger. 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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Although the name may not sound entirely appetizing, the beef flap or flap steak is a thin cut of meat that comes from the bottom sirloin butt cut, and it’s delicious when properly cooked. It’s not a skirt steak or a hanger steak, though they are similar.

I bought a beef flap from my friends at Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown, RI , and didn’t really know what I’d do with the cut until I started searching through my fridge for available ingredients. There were 2 beef flaps in the package I bought, one larger, one smaller, so I put the smaller one in a Ziploc bag with an olive oil/balsamic/garlic/onion/salt/pepper marinade, and left it to chill overnight in the fridge (what I did with it is in the next blog) while I worked on the larger, 2-lb. flap.

meat butterfly

Though long and flat, if you have a sharp knife and you work carefully, you can slice the beef lengthwise and, stopping just before you cut it into 2 separate pieces, create a nicely butterflied piece of meat. Smear some tasty ingredients on the meat, then roll it up tightly and cook it.

meat cheese

2-lb. beef flap (I like grass-fed)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped (I like Vidalias)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 strips bacon, finely chopped
4 oz. container of organic spinach and kale (or whatever greens you like)
salt and pepper
8 oz. halloum-style cheese, sliced thin (provolone works, too)

meat roll 2

Take a little of the bacon fat rendered when cooking the bacon strips, and heat it in a saute pan. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for a minute. Add the chopped bacon and stir. Add the spinach and kale, and let it wilt and cook down entirely until it’s soft. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.

Butterfly the beef flap, as described above. Take the cooled mixture from the pan and smear it all along there top of the beef evenly. Add the slices of cheese on top.

Tightly roll the beef into a log shape, carefully keeping the inside ingredients from squeezing out.

I pinned the log together with toothpicks my first time around, and it did okay. But I suggest tying the roll with butchers twine in several places so that the meat stays together and cooks more evenly.

meat roll

Place the log in the fridge, removing it about an hour before cooking to bring it back to room temperature.

Rub the outside of the log with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the log in a hot oven-proof pan and sear on all sides. Then place the pan in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and cook until the interior temperature of the meat is around 120, about 30 minutes.

cooked beef

 

A temperature of 140 is considered to be medium-rare for beef, but I like to cook it only to 120 and then let it rest, covered with a tent of foil. It will still rise in temperature for a few minutes before it starts to cool down.

Slice carefully with a sharp knife.

MANLY MEAT SAUCE

Posted: January 29, 2016 in bacon, beef, Food, Italian, pasta, Recipes
Tags: , , , , ,

Although my daughter goes crazy for my Ragu Bolognese (http://wp.me/p1c1Nl-Pc), 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.

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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

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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 simmer and cover the pot.

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

Serve over pasta, with some grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.

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