Posts Tagged ‘bacon’

We Can Rebuild It; We Have The Technology

Choco-Rosemary Bacon

That niggling chill in the air meant that yesterday morning I pulled the final mini slab of vanilla pink peppercorn bacon out of the freezer after I’d used the last thawed bits in a crockpot of fall-appropriate baked beans.

Thus, it seemed like as good a time as any to get started on my next batch of bacon.  Since bacon requires a 7 to 10 day lead time before you have finished product, it was imperative that I get it curing, lest I run out of delectable home-cured porkiness.

Magical Ingredients

While considering the next methods of flavouring, it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet gotten on Scott and Larbo’s choco-bacon train (though I’ve been meaning to).  Being a rabid consumer of my chocolate-covered guanciale toffee, I knew there was serious potential in the choco-bacon combo, but I wanted something more.  Leave it to me to prove that nothing exceeds like excess.  Recalling a dessert that I love at one of our favourite local haunts (Czehoski) formed the basis for this inspiration.  The chef there makes a rich and melty chocolate ganache flavoured with rosemary that is out of this world, so my mind immediately thought chocolate + bacon = good and chocolate + rosemary = also good, therefore chocolate + rosemary + bacon must = out of this world good.  And of course because I never do anything by half measures, it also occurred to me that a little pure Ontarian maple syrup might not be a bad idea either.

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Ne Plus Ultra

Sammie

Here, my friends, is one of the real reasons I go to the lengths that I do to take care of my unruly rooftop garden.

What would from the outside appear to be a rather pedestrian sandwich, is actually the pinnacle of summer indulgences for me; the toasted tomato sandwich.

Components

The bread?  Baked fresh Sunday morning.  The tomatoes?  A handful of sun-warmed San Marzanos from the roof.  And the bacon?  That would be a meaty plank sawed from the slab I cured and smoked recently.

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An Interesting Use For Bacon

Corn. Figs. Lamb.

Right now the Everyman and I are touring around Quebec City, but I leave you with this novel idea I had while preparing dinner the other night…

As I mentioned earlier this week, our house has been blessed with a glut of figs left over from my jam-making endeavours.  Most mornings I’ve just chopped a couple of them into quarters with a banana and some strawberries and called it breakfast, but even at that rate I didn’t think we’d get through them all before the delicate, honeyed orbs went bad.

I immediately recalled an appetizer we’d once been after at Czehoski that was right up the Everyman’s alley; satan on horseback.  Now, everyone knows devils on horseback, which are usually made with prunes or figs stuffed with blue cheese, chutney and bacon.  Then there are angels on horseback which replace fig with an oyster or scallop.  But satan on horseback was a piece of pork belly wrapped in bacon and served with chutney.  The Everyman had seen it on the menu, gotten himself all worked into a lather about it, and then found himself exponentially disappointed when we arrived and it was no longer being offered.  What they did have on the menu at the time was a variation of the aforementioned devils on horseback (which he also enjoyed), so I decided to grill a few figs in that style.  I split the figs in quarters, stuffed them with a tiny spoonful of ricotta and slid a few shards of my newly made bacon inside.  Secured with toothpicks and cushioned by foil, the packet was ready to pop on the grill.

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She’s Got Pig, And She Knows How To Use It

Sliced

This past weekend project bacon reached it’s inevitable conclusion with the smoking of the first 2.5 pound slab.

Dried Out

After sitting in a honey, vanilla and pink peppercorn-laced cure for a week, I was surprised at how little liquid was expelled.  I partially attribute that to my decision to run the sea salt through a spice grinder first, which yielded a finer powder than I was expecting.  The honey was also particularly viscous, and did not adhere well at first.  In the end though, the cure seems  to have penetrated the meat fairly well.  When I retrieved it from the cure for it’s day of pellicle formation, the bacon gave off a sweet, heady aroma that was vaguely floral, possibly owing to the honey.

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Bacon Is Easy; It’s Boys That Are Hard

The Secret Ingredients

For weeks now I’ve been plotting, planning, calculating, formulating my next meaty project.

From the get-go I knew it would have to be a bacon.

Slab

The hard part was determining what sort of bacon it would be. The belly from my pig was around 15 pounds, and once I divided it up, I figured I could get around 6 batches of bacon out of it if I didn’t resort to roasting any for dinner.

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Meat, Meat And More Meat

Precariously Balanced 'Nduja

I’ve been working on a lot of meat-based projects lately.

It’s beyond long overdue, but I finally got around to hanging my ‘nduja and csabai this past weekend.  They were both smoked a few weeks ago, but the lack of opportune curing space in our condo has had me stymied for some time.  Up until this point both were sitting in the fridge, contaminating my other foodstuffs with their pungent, smoky aromas.  If it weren’t for our household of kitties I would have had the perfect environment for curing in the basement, but unfortunately I’m almost certain that the ammonia smell from their litterboxes would eventually permeate (and ruin) perfectly good meat.  After all the work I’ve put into these projects that was not a risk I was willing to take.

In the end I decided to jerry rig a few suspension apparatuses around my kitchen that will (hopefully) be able to withstand the job.  So far they seem to be holding up just fine, and the way I figure it, it’s only going to get lighter anyway, as the meat begins to lose it’s moisture.

My apologies for the general crappiness of these pictures; I doubt you’ll be able to discern what it is I was doing.  It’s difficult to properly capture ‘nduja hanging suspended from a broomstick just outside the top of a kitchen windowsill.  It’s also just below the air conditioning register in the ceiling, which should keep it nicely cooled, I think.  Despite the rather bad lighting, I can assure you that after several days of smoking these salamis have taken on a burnished mahogany cast and slightly firmer (but squishier) texture.  I originally intended to hang them for about a year, but now that they’re out in the open in my kitchen I may have to rethink that strategy.  At the very least I’ll do 6 months, but in the end it’s going to be something I play by ear.

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I’m Picking Up My Meaty Assembly, Won’t That Butcher Be So Proud Of Me?

I’ve received word.

The stuff is finally in.

‘Nduja, csabai and smoked turkey, here I come!

Also came across this over at The Sausage Debauchery (love that name!) this morning.  The second bacon sounds so delicious I might have to try playing with some of it, too.  Here’s hoping the butcher’s got a nice slab of uncured belly meat with my name on it!

Until next time…

Guanciale – The Magical Mystery Meat

Shortly after the guanciale finished curing, it occurred that I had 5 lbs of cured meat sitting in my freezer (and I’m not even going to mention all the various sausages I have in there too).

Only a family of 2, (even with the meat maniac Everyman) I realized that it was going to take an awfully long time to burn through that much guanciale unless 1) I started giving chunks of it away (but really, do you know how strangely people look at you when you offer them homemade cured meats?) or 2) I started coming up with other ways to use it than just out of hand, on a burger or on antipasto platters.  Even though one of our cats loves to nom on prosciutto, I’d already ruled out the idea of sharing it with them after our vet told us that (the non-prosciutto-eater) our cat was obese.  Somehow feeding them snacks composed primarily of pork fat just didn’t strike me as a good idea…

If you travel around the foodie blogosphere, then you know that combining bacon with sweet things has become one of the haute new trends in food.  I have no doubt that this has been going on for some time (I mean, how long has Vosges been making that Mo’ Bacon bar?) but the trend has only recently started to gain traction in Toronto.  This article from Toronto Life’s website not only pointed me in the right direction for finding Vosges in Toronto, but also highlighted all the fun things retailers and chefs here are doing with bacon.

Now I’ll confess to owning a bacon-only cookbook (aptly titled Bacon) but it was purchased as a gift for the Everyman several years ago and (like most things I buy him) has never been used.  I too own Jennifer McLaren’s book Fat and I find the idea of Baconnaise revolting.  I already love the Mo’ Bacon bar, but bacon salt, while intriguing, just wasn’t turning my crank.  I may yet revisit that some other time, when I dust off the old box of flavoured salts I acquired.  I don’t need bacon bubble gum, and it’s too early still for bacon ice cream.  I’m undecided on bacon cupcakes and I don’t think I’d care for the candied variety.  That left some bacon toffee.  But instead of making it with bacon, I’d be making it with guanciale (the Roman bacon)!  I felt equal parts of promise and disgust, but I had nothing to lose except a chunk of guanciale so I dived right in.

It’d been a while since I made toffee, but the process is surprisingly easy, and easier still if you happen to have a candy thermometer lying around.  The main thing you need to remember is that no matter how ooey, gooey delicious that caramelized sugar might look, do not try to taste a bit of it with your tongue or on your finger.  Caramelized sugar is a few degrees away from molten, and if you get it on yourself, only bad things will happen.  Instead, just be patient and wait a few more minutes before sampling the finished product.

It turned out quite good, but (as I often do), I thought it would be greatly improved by the addition of chocolate.  I finally had an occasion to test out the mini chocolate dipper/melter that my mother in law bought me for Christmas a few years ago, though I’m sure the very idea of what I was making would repulse her to no end.  After chipping off a chunk of the 1 lb dark bar of Callebaut in the freezer (another Christmas gift from my m-i-l) I set to work melting and dipping guanciale toffee.  It was a messy (and delicious) job, but someone had to do it.  I kept half the batch of toffee unadulterated, and went whole hog with the other.  Please understand, this is not a treat for the faint of heart.  In a few more hours once the chocolate has set, I’m sure I’ll be a very happy foodie, though.
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Is There Anything Bacon Can’t Do?

A few weeks ago I happened across an interesting discussion of technique on Chowhound.

The poster was explaining how to imbue liquids with flavor by using a technique called fat washing.  In particular, he related his experience with adding a smoky, bacon flavor to Bourbon. Bourbon’s not my tipple of choice, but regardless, this post intrigued me.

If you’ve been paying attention all this time, you’ll recall exactly how much the Everyman loves all things porcine.  In fact, off the top of my head I can’t think of anything that the Everyman thinks wouldn’t be improved by the addition of bacon.  He’s one of those guys who can watch them making bacon ice cream on Iron Chef and almost have an a-ha moment.  Coincidentally, making bacon ice cream would probably also be considered a type of fat washing, because cream is a fat…

Anyhow, after reading about this, I couldn’t help but try it myself.  I chose vodka, because even though I don’t really like it all that much, it’s a clean, neutral base flavor, and it’d be much more likely to be used in cocktails at our house than the aforementioned Bourbon.  Of course, as soon as I mentioned my plan to the Everyman, he started getting that crazed look in his eye and mumbling about toasted tomato cocktails.  I find it amusing that his mind works that way because the original Chowhounder that posted about this mentioned the possibility of creating a BLT cocktail.

To create a fat wash, get a bottle of your spirit of choice and half a dozen pieces of bacon.  Fry the bacon until all of the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy.  At this point you have two options; you can discard the bacon from the recipe (and use it for something else that’s delicious) or you can use it in your preparation.  For ease of assembly I chose to omit the bacon solids.  Combine the bacon grease in a clean mason jar with your alcohol and seal.  Let steep at room temperature for several weeks.  Once you are comfortable with the flavor, place the jar in the fridge or freezer so that the fat can solidify.  Strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and voila!  Bacon flavored vodka!  Use in cocktails, or even that famous a la Vodka pasta sauce for a new twist on an old favorite.  Enjoy!

Until next time…

The Hoof Redux

In what was possibly the quickest turnaround we’ve ever made, the Everyman and I made another trip to The Black Hoof last night.

It all started out innocently enough; we were driving home from work and discussing what to have for dinner.  I mentioned some ideas I had for things I was going to cook, and the Everyman sounded mildly interested.  Then, all of a sudden he started smirking, and said, “I got paid today, so I know what we can do…“  Being tired and not fully catching his drift, it took me a while to figure out what he was alluding to.  Once he said it though, I couldn’t not go…

And so, with that, my good intentions to go home, hop on the elliptical and cook a sensible dinner went right out the window and down the street to The Black Hoof.

The place was packed, as it had been on our last visit, and we happened to score the last open 2 top, a fact that happened to make a gentleman waiting on a table for 3 a bit steamed.  As we sat down we both noticed that the menu was still the same, as one would expect when less than a week has passed since your last visit.  The problem we both have with this place is that all of the food is just so incredible and what you haven’t tried sounds so damned good that it’s hard to limit yourself to moderate portions.  All I needed to know was what the dessert of the day would be so I could decide whether I wanted 2 or 3 dishes.

It turned out the dessert was the same (lemon tart with lavender and white chocolate), so I opted (somewhat sadly) for 2 dishes instead.  I revisited the cabbage soup with marrow and toasts, and found it to be just as luxurious and satisfyingly salty as the last time.  I also confirmed that the version of this soup that I concocted at home last Sunday does taste remarkably similar to this soup too (recipe follows).  The Everyman opted to not venture outside of his comfort zone from the last time and instead chose to conduct what he calls the test for consistency.  He ordered the same dishes he’d had (just less of them) in order to see whether they were still being prepared as well as he remembered.  The lamb merguez with queso and tomatillo again stunned him, and he felt that the portion was larger this time.  I, on the other hand, felt that the bone marrow portion of my dish was smaller, and was even inconsistent when compared to other diners around me who had ordered it.  I did still manage to dole out a pile to the Everyman, and it was still delicious, but I just wished I’d had more.  And they really do need to find a more slender instrument to scoop the marrow out with, because that demitasse is just not cutting it and by the end of the endeavor my hands felt like I’d been trying to juice bacon.

Next, I opted to break away and try something new.  The marinated octopus with chorizo had sounded delectable, but I wanted to see it in action.  Unfortunately I was unable to get a glimpse of it before we ordered, so that would have to wait for another day.  The Everyman saw a table near him order one and reported back to me that it was served in a small preserving jar with a snap lid.  I still couldn’t see it, but the face of the woman eating it said enough to make me want to try it the next time.  I toyed with the idea of ordering the small charcuterie board as the rest of my meal, but the Everyman really is the one who loves the cured meats more than I do.  If I had ordered it, it would only have been in the hope that it had that luscious duck mousse on it again.  I lean more towards the cheese side of the board anyway, and since I knew their cheese came from the Cheese Boutique, I wasn’t going to order something I could easily go home and assemble myself.  Unlike the table of girls sitting next to us who were there longer than we were and ate nothing but a small cheese board between them with a bottle of wine.  I mean, really, why wouldn’t you just stay home at that point?  You’re not eating anything made by the actual restaurant (cheeses – Cheese Boutique, bread – Thuet, wine – who knows but obviously wasn’t made in house).  To the Everyman and I, that bordered on insulting the chef.

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