Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

CHIVE BLOSSOMS

Posted: May 22, 2019 in Food, garden, pizza, Uncategorized
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This is the time of year when the chives in my herb garden are busting out with blossoms. Before they pop, I head out every few days and snip the larger ones off the chive plants with about 3 inches of the green stem, wrap them in freezer bags and freeze them.

 

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I use those blossoms over the course of the year on a variety of dishes, but they really shine on my signature marinated beef and chive blossom pizza. I just take a packet of chive blossoms out of the freezer, and sauté them lightly in olive oil and salt and pepper, then sprinkle them on the pizza before baking.

 

My signature marinated beef tenderloin and chive blossom pizza.

My signature marinated beef tenderloin and chive blossom pizza.

 

Pick 'em and freeze 'em in May!

Pick ’em and freeze ’em in May!

Chive blossoms not only add great flavor, but they look cool on the plate, too.  I’ll add them as a side to almost any meat dish, or chop them after sautéing and sprinkle them in rice or quinoa. Great for stir-frying.

 

Instead of opening a nasty can of Manwich or other similar product, the classic Sloppy Joe sandwich is easy enough to make from scratch.

My version takes on a Mexican twist (hence the name Sloppy José), using seasoned taco meat and a great barbecue sauce. Putting them together with a sprinkling of Mexican cheese on a bun with lettuce and tomato makes for one sloppy but delicious sandwich!

sloppy jose

 

For the barbecue sauce…

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

 

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for a few months.

 

For the seasoned taco meat…

1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
olive oil
2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef

 

Combine all the spice ingredients in a bowl.

Sauté the onions in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add the beef and sauté until cooked, mixing in the spice mixture a little at a time until you’ve used it all.

 

For the sandwich…

Take some of the taco meat and place it in a small non-stick pan and heat on medium. Squirt in as much of the barbecue sauce as you like, mixing thoroughly. Sprinkle some grated Mexican cheese on top. (I like Cotija, which is like a Mexican feta, but a bag of mixed cheeses works great, too.) Mix thoroughly, letting it all melt together into one warm, gooey mess. Throw it on a bun. Add lettuce, tomato, avocado slices, whatever you like!

 

Here in Rhode Island, we have access to amazing seafood year-round. My friend Gary, is a lobster man. My neighbor farms oysters. And for anything else, I go to my friends’ farms: Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown, RI and Wishing Stone Organic Farm and Sweet & Salty Farm, both in Little Compton, RI…great places for veggies, bakery goods, pastured meats, yogurt, cheese, and more.
I was on a mission to find fresh mussels the other day, and in the process, stumbled upon fresh bay scallops, piled high on ice at a local farmers’ market. Unlike like the larger sea scallops or bomster scallops, bay scallops are small and sweet, about the size of a mini-marshmallow…hard to find and my absolute favorites.
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As far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to eat a fresh scallop than right out of the shell with just a little marinade on top, popping these beauties into my mouth literally as they’re still pulsing on the shell.
Scallops are a bit trickier to open and clean than clams or oysters (at least for me) but all it took was a little practice while sipping a Stoli Elit martini and I got the hang of it in no time.
There are two marinades that I use when serving up raw scallops. The acidity in these marinades will cook the scallop a little, like in ceviche, though eating them raw is perfectly fine if they’re super-fresh.
“MILLS TAVERN” MARINADE
The first place my wife and I ever had a raw scallop was at Mills Tavern, a highly rated restaurant in Providence, RI. Freshly shucked scallops (in large flat shells) were served on ice with a tangy red marinade. We never got the recipe from the restaurant, but this is our version of that marinade.
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Grenadine
1/2 teaspoon fresh finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped scallions
 Combine all the ingredients and chill before using.
A trick I learned from the folks at Wishing Stone Farm, where they grow their own ginger roots: keep the ginger stored in the freezer. Most of us don’t use ginger all that much, but we want fresh ginger when the recipe calls for it. By wrapping it tightly in plastic and storing it in the freezer, it’s ready to use any time. Simply take the ginger root out, and grate it finely–no need to peel the skin–while it’s still frozen. It will be almost powder like, and it will blend beautifully into any recipe you’re using.
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ALZ CEVICHE MARINADE
My marinade is closer to a basic ceviche, using 3 kinds of citrus and some Asian flavors.
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
2 small dried chili peppers, finely chopped
 Combine all the ingredients and chill before using.

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Here’s an old recipe that I brought back, since comfort food is the name of the game here in New England, where we’re getting nothing but cool temperatures and way too much rain. I think we’re going to miss spring entirely this year and go right into summer…

I like to think that I was the force behind my daughter’s sudden interest in cooking, but the fact is, it was probably the Food Network. Shows like “Chopped Junior” and “Kids Baking Championship” are her favorites, and I have to admit, watching a 9-year-old displaying knife skills better than mine does have me feeling somewhat inferior at times.

A gift of a kids’ cookbook from our friend, Stacey, was what finally got my daughter to ask if we could cook together. She chose the Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I never really analyzed my own cooking style until my daughter started reading the recipe step-by-step and I heard myself saying: “Oh, we can skip that…Oh, we don’t need to do that…Oh, let’s use another ingredient.” She’d look up at me and say: “But, Dad, the book says you have to do this.” Lesson one, kid: improvise to make the recipe your own.

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

The original recipe called for lamb. We used beef. The original recipe had a huge proportion of potatoes to meat. We doubled the meat and veggies.

Mastering knife skills.

Mastering knife skills.

3 lbs. potatoes (I like organic gold potatoes)
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free flour)
1 cup beef broth
olive oil

 

Peel the potatoes just to remove any blemishes. (I like my mashed potatoes with the skin included.) Cut into smaller pieces and place in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the pot. Add the milk and butter, add salt and pepper, and mash until smooth. Set aside.

Chop the onions and dice the carrots. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil, then add the onion and carrot. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the beef, and cook until it’s browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add the tomato paste and flour, and mix thoroughly. Add the beef broth and mix again. Cover the skillet with a lid, reduce the heat, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce in the pan thickens.

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Find an ovenproof pie pan or lasagna pan. Pour the beef and carrot mixture into the bottom of the pan and smooth it out. Add the mashed potatoes on top. Place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes if the potatoes are warm–a little longer if they’ve cooled down–until the potatoes start to turn a golden brown.

Proud chef.

Proud chef.

Let the pan rest for a few minutes, then serve.

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I’ve always been fascinated by Korean barbecue. Every time I see it on TV or catch a recipe on an e-mail blast, my mouth waters and I say to myself that I’ve got to experience it some day. But the painful reality is: Korean barbecue can be really spicy…and I’m a total wuss.

Korean barbecue 101: Gogigui means “meat roast” in Korean, and it refers to the method of roasting beef, pork, chicken, and other meats. Meats can be marinated or not. Bulgogi is the name of the most common Korean barbecue. Meat is marinated with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and pepper, and then grilled. Galbi uses beef short ribs, and adds onions to the marinade. And the hot stuff is daeji bulgogi, because the marinade isn’t soy sauce-based, but based on the hot-n-spicy Korean chili paste known as gochujang.

All of the marinades looked delicious, but the hot one with gochujang would be my biggest challenge, so I decided to start there. I found a great recipe, and quickly realized that I would have to turn the heat way down if I was actually going to try to eat it! For example, the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of white pepper. I totally left it out. And it called for a full cup of gochujang. Not only did I cut that part in half, I doubled many of the other non-spicy ingredients.

So is it authentic Korean barbecue? Probably not. But it’s my version of it. It’s got lots a flavor and still carries a bit of heat.

For gluten-free diets: finding GF hoisin and soy sauce is easy. Look for the La Choy brand. But I haven’t been able to find gochujang that has a GF label.

 

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3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (I use gluten-free hoisin)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated garlic (I use a garlic press)
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
4 lbs. chicken pieces

 

Pre-heat the oven to 500 or its top temperature.

In a bowl, mix everything but the chicken pieces. Brush the sauce onto the chicken pieces, then wrap them in aluminum foil. (I like to tear a long piece of aluminum foil and lay it on top of a sheet pan. I place the chicken pieces on the foil, brush them with sauce on all sides, then fold the foil over the chicken, making one large pouch that holds all the meat.) Leave the pouch on the sheet pan and place it in the oven. Lower the oven temp to 350.

Cook the chicken for about an hour, making sure it’s almost completely cooked. Juices should run clear, not bloody, when you poke it with a fork.

Start a hardwood fire on your grill. Push the coals to one side of the grill so you have a hot side and a cooler side with no coals underneath it. Place the chicken pieces on the cool side of the grill (if you put it on the hot side, it will stick and burn), brush with more sauce, and put the lid on the grill, making sure you have the vents open for air circulation.

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See those 2 black bits in the foreground? That’s where the chicken stuck to the grill because I placed them over the hot coals. Don’t do that.

After a few minutes, lift the lid, flip the chicken pieces over, brush them with sauce again, and close the lid. Keep doing this until the chicken is nice and caramelized, with tasty grill marks.

If you want to serve some of the sauce on the side, it’s important to pour some of the sauce off and set it aside in the very beginning, so you’re not using the same sauce that the basting brush touched the raw chicken with.

 

 

 

 

I love fried chicken. And despite what most people think, fried food is really not that bad for you if you fry it properly. I use clean avocado oil every time, sometimes adding bacon fat or pork fat if I have it. And I get the oil to the right temperature: two key factors that will result in crispy chicken that isn’t bogged down with grease. What makes this recipe great is that I get all the benefits of crispy fried chicken without all the grease and without standing watch over it the whole time.

You can use any chicken parts for this recipe. Fry the chicken until it just turns golden brown and then finish it in the oven.

I use gluten-free flour (Cup4Cup is my favorite) for this recipe, and it works perfectly. If you’ve got someone you love who hasn’t had real fried chicken because they’re on a gluten-free diet, they will love this. If you’re not on a GF diet, feel free to use regular all-purpose flour.

 

10 lbs. large chicken wings or chicken pieces
Avocado oil, for frying

For soaking:

1 quart buttermilk
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)

For the seasoned flour:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano

Open the bottle or carton of buttermilk and add 2 teaspoons of hot sauce. Close the container and shake to combine. Place the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag, cover with the buttermilk, and seal the bag, letting the chicken soak in it for at least several hours. Overnight is best.

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Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder, basil and oregano. Mix well.

After the chicken has soaked in the buttermilk, remove the pieces one at a time, leaving the buttermilk on them as you toss the pieces into the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess flour, and then set the pieces aside on a metal baking rack placed on a sheet pan.

If you’ve got the time, and want to make the chicken extra crispy, let the chicken pieces sit for an hour, then re-flour them before frying. If not, go right to the next step.

Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stock pot to a depth of 1-inch. Heat the oil to 360 degrees on a thermometer.

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Working in batches, place the chicken pieces in the oil, being careful not to overcrowd them. Fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides, then place each piece back on the metal baking rack set on the sheet pan.

Once all the chicken has been fried, place the sheet pan in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until it’s fully cooked and crispy.

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Feast!

This Saturday is the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby! It’s also the 2nd annual Boyz Weekend at our summer rental home, Saule. (www.sauleri.com) We’ll be mixing juleps and watching the race, just like last year.

The Mint Julep is such a perfect, classic and historic bourbon drink, it seems silly to wait until Derby day to have one. Of course, as any aficionado of spirits will tell you, there are as many right ways as wrong ways of making one.

The first step in my Mint Julep is making the simple syrup. Learning from one of my old radio buddies, my pal Rick O’B, I infuse mint into my simple syrup to take my cocktail to the next level. I use the standard ratio of 1 cup of clean, filtered water to 1 cup of sugar, using an organic product like Woodstock Farms Organic Pure Cane Sugar. I place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until just boiling. I’ve found that it needs to reach this stage for the sugar to really dissolve. As soon as it starts to boil, I remove the saucepan from the heat, and throw in a handful of freshly picked mint leaves, stirring to make sure the mint gets in there, and then I leave the saucepan to cool to room temperature. Once it’s at room temp, I strain the simple syrup into a bottle with a tight sealing lid, and place it in the refrigerator to cool. It will keep for about a week.

An equally important ingredient for a perfect Mint Julep is the ice, specifically crushed ice from clean, filtered water. Don’t even think of using tap water for any cocktail much less this one. Why ruin an expensive bottle of bourbon by going cheap on the ice? I make my own ice cubes, then put them in an untreated canvas ice bag and bash them with a mallet to the perfect crushed size. Untreated canvas bags for crushing ice can be purchased online from bar supply companies for about $30. I got an untreated canvas tool bag (the exact same shape and size) at Home Depot for 3 bucks.

Da bag.

The next step is a little tougher: which bourbon to choose. The explosion of choices on the bourbon market has made it all but impossible for the average imbiber to know which bourbon is best for their tastes. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you go to a trusted bartender and explain that you’re new to the bourbon world, and could you have the tiniest of tastes and sniffs of what he’s got at his bar. Chances are, you’ll get a sampling of some of the better known brands: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, perhaps Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, and the standard Jim Beam. This is a very good start. If you have deeper pockets, go to the manager of a trusted higher-end liquor store and explain that you’ve had all the rest, now what does he think is the best? (Also, hinting to wife and friends that “I’m trying new bourbons” around your birthday or Father’s Day inevitably gets you a few bottles as well!)

My go-to bourbon for Mint Juleps is the very affordable Eagle Rare 10-year-old at $32.99 a bottle…and you can never go wrong with the classic Maker’s Mark. It’s always on sale around Derby Day.

Finally, a Mint Julep needs a metal–not glass– Julep cup. Made of pewter or aluminum, it frosts on the outside as you stir your drink, keeping your beverage ice-cold on even the hottest of days.

 

3 oz. bourbon
1 oz. mint-infused simple syrup
crushed ice
Julep cup
Fresh mint for garnish

Crush the ice and pack it into the Julep cup, even letting it dome slightly over the top. Don’t worry…the alcohol will melt it.

I like to add 1.5 ounces of bourbon, then the ounce of simple syrup, then another 1.5 ounces of bourbon on top. Break off a few mint leaves from the stem and push into the ice. Using a long spoon, stir the drink well. A beautiful layer of frost will form on the outside of the cup. Add more ice, if necessary, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

A nice selection of bourbons. This is an old photo: that Pappy Van Winkle is long gone…but I saved the bottle!

 

Easter Sunday nightmare at the airport: my wife is stuck in Florida, and it looks like she won’t be home until after midnight. So, our Sunday brunch as a family will have to wait until another time.

My daughter just got back from a little vacation of her own yesterday, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to cook whatever she wanted. (I already knew it was going to be this dish!)

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Fettuccine Alfredo are my daughter’s two favorite pasta dishes. When she couldn’t decide which one she wanted for dinner one night, I decided that she’d get both! (Yes, I spoil her rotten!)

The addition of chicken and peas made for a more balanced plate. This is now one of my go-to dishes when guests arrive, since many parts can be prepared ahead of time. And the gluten-free version tastes as good the original!

 

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Start with the chicken…

The breading for the chicken uses gluten-free bread that I’ve toasted, crumbled and put into a food processor to make breadcrumbs. (I use Udi’s frozen GF bread, found in any supermarket.) I get a lot more flavor this way than using store-bought breadcrumbs from a can. I add gluten-free flour to it to lighten it up. Cup4Cup is by far the best GF flour I’ve tried.

If you’re not on a gluten-free diet, simply use regular breadcrumbs and all-purpose flour in the same proportions.

1/2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg, scrambled
1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup)
3 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil, for frying

Scramble the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces, and add them to the egg, making sure they get evenly coated. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs, flour, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a pan with about an inch of olive oil. Heat to medium-high, for frying.

In batches not to overcrowd the pan, take the chicken pieces out of the egg and toss them in the bread crumb mixture, shaking off the excess. Place them carefully in the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden. Since they’re small pieces, they should cook all the way through easily. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Do this with all the chicken and set it aside. Try not to eat it all before you make the rest of the dish! (This chicken can also be eaten as is–these are my daughter’s favorite nuggets–or used with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to make a delicious chicken parmigiana.)

 

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The carbonara factor…

Many recipes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara use pancetta or bacon. But the original recipe calls for guanciale: cured (but not smoked) pig jowls, or cheeks. It’s easy enough to find in a good Italian food store, but I cure my own. I buy raw heritage Berkshire pork jowls from a farm that raises the pigs humanely, and cure the jowls for about 3 weeks in a combination of salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Then I rinse them, pat them dry, and cut them into portion-sized pieces, wrapping them individually and freezing until I need them. It’s a lot of work, but to me, totally worth it.

3 oz. guanciale

If the guanciale is frozen, let it thaw just a little, then cut it into the smallest cubes you can manage. Place it in a pan and cook them until they’ve browned and crisped beautifully. Keep an eye on the pan, as guanciale can burn easily. Use the fried meat bits for this recipe and save the fat for flavoring a future dish! Set aside.

 

The Alfredo sauce…

Despite what you get in crappy restaurants like Olive Garden, Alfredo sauce should not be runny or soupy. It should cling to the pasta and be rich in flavor. When making this dish gluten-free, I use Garofalo gluten-free pasta exclusively, because it tastes just like real pasta. (Believe me, I’ve tried every GF pasta out there.) I buy mass quantities at Amazon.

If you’re not on a GF diet, simply use your favorite regular pasta.

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Fleur de Sel or sea salt
1 lb. pasta, fresh or dried
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper

 

Put 2/3 of the cream and all the butter in a large saucepan that will later accommodate all the pasta. Simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened a bit. Turn off the heat.

Drop the pasta in a bowl of boiling salted water. If the pasta is fresh, it will take just seconds. If it’s dry, it will take a few minutes. (Gluten-free pasta takes a little longer.) Either way, you want to cook the pasta even firmer than al dente, because it will finish cooking in the pan with the butter and cream. Drain the pasta immediately when it reaches that firm stage, and transfer it to the pan with the butter and cream, tossing the pasta gently for a few seconds to coat.

Turn the heat under the saucepan with the pasta on low, and add the rest of the cream, all the Parmigiano Reggiano, and a bit of pepper (no salt because there’s plenty in the guanciale and cheese.) Toss briefly until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is well-coated.

 

At this point, you don’t want the pasta to get to dry, so you add…

1 cup of frozen peas

…tossing gently to warm them through. Also add the cooked guanciale at this time.

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Plate the pasta in a bowl or dish and serve the chicken alongside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!)

 

 

Well, it’s good to be back home after a nice getaway in St. Lucia. Please check out my previous blogs for my day-to-day adventures. I’ll have more to say in a future blog.

One of the first things I needed to do when I got home was to have a look at food items I needed to re-stock…and bacon was high on the list!

Fortunately, I started curing a beautiful slab of Berkshire pork belly a couple of weeks ago, and it was ready for the smoker today. With the doors open here at home, I can smell the hickory wood wafting through the yard. Hope I’m making the neighbors jealous!

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.)

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 salts do not all weigh the same, so go by the weight and not a cup measurement. I keep this basic dry cure stored in my pantry, ready to use when I need it.

When it’s time to be making’ the bacon, I combine the above rub with other ingredients to make my bacon rub.

 

My bacon rub:

1/2 cup basic dry rub

1/2 cup brown sugar or turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

 

Mix these ingredients well (yes, there’s quite a bit of sugar there, but I like my bacon a little sweet!) Rub it generously all over the pork belly.

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, put the lid back on the container, and back in the fridge.

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!