It’s International Bacon Day!

 

bacon and brown sugarBorn from a blog written by graduate students in Massachusetts, International Bacon Day is  the Friday before Labor Day, every year.   We can’t turn up any information on who these students are, if they ever had a university affiliation or even if they graduated (and if so from what TO what), but we like their holiday and so, we celebrate. Some say bacon doesn’t have to be cured. Some say bacon is not animal-specific.  I say just because it’s from a duck or a turkey, doesn’t mean it’s bacon.    I also say, if it tastes good, eat it.

This is my blog, so I celebrate only pork bacon, bacon cut from the belly.  (Guanciale is another pork bacon, cut from the jowl or cheek.  On International Guanciale Day, I will speak of it and tell a really funny story about it …)

Today, though, belly bacon is the main attraction.  Forget microwaving and pan-frying, I think the best way to make bacon, is in the oven.

American bacon is from  the pig's belly.

American bacon is from the pig’s belly.

 

What you need:  Bacon, pan, something for lining the pan (foil, parchment).  If you want flat bacon, you need a weight big enough to cover the bacon.  This can be another baking sheet, a baking stone, or a heavy oven-safe dish.

You also need an oven.  Preheat it to 450.   Line the pan with parchment/pan liner (best), or aluminum foil (pretty good).

Place the bacon strips nice and flat in the pan, making sure none are overlapping.  If you are using a weight, be sure it’s evenly distributed.

And then, bake it until it’s the crispness you want.  This can take 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, the pans, etc.

Flat bacon is better for glazing with maple syrup or brown sugar and cinnamon, or brushing with melted chocolate.  Also, it looks prettier on sandwiches and you can do more things with it.

Homer Simpson:   I’ll have the smiley face breakfast special. Could you add a bacon nose? Plus bacon hair, bacon mustache, five o’clock shadow made of bacon bits and a bacon body.

 Waitress:  How about I just shove a pig down your throat?”

Burger King's Bacon Sundae

Burger King’s Bacon Sundae

 

 

Move over, eggs. Bacon just got a new best friend – fudge.

-Homer J. Simpson

 

 

Bacon is fat and salty, which makes it a perfect complement to sweet and spicy.  Blot off the extra fat, and make sure your bacon is at room temperature.  Then,

-melt some chocolate and brush it on top of the bacon, freeze, and you’ve got a nice garnish for Dulce de Leche ice cream, yogurt, or banana cream pie.

-Top with brown sugar or maple syrup, run it back into the oven or under the broiler for a few minutes, let it cool to crispy, and crumble it on top of waffles or pancakes.

-Experiment with spices: cinnamon, star anise, come to mind.  Mix those in with the brown sugar before you top the bacon.

Keep your friends close, and your bacon closer.

My birthday is coming up.  Uncommongoods.com

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Point, Little Cayman

Great diving, great food, great fun.  My computer is sluggish and I’m grappling with posting in a timely manner, and being on the beach, on the boat, on the bike.   I’ll try to be better and not bombard when I come home.

An example of why this is one of the best places anywhere, is how we are greeted by the staff, by the other guests.  Over a wonderful breakfast of quiche, strudel, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, this sign welcomed us.  ”We” are the pop tarts.  Sometimes we are Honeybears or World Travelers; we are wished a blessed day, a gifted day.  Diane is the breakfast chef, she sings as she cooks for us, and she loves us SO much (and we, her).

DSCN0152

 

 

the Un-Potato Chip

Since I got back from Little Cayman – the ending of a terrific holiday season – I went on this no-white-carb, hardly any other carb, eating plan.  It’s been surprisingly  drama free, which is why I did not expect the weekend’s  potato chip fit.  It came out of nowhere and surprised me with its intensity.  I had to have them.  I started to get into the car, to drive to the gas station and buy just a small bag, maybe two small bags, because if I ate one and it didn’ satisfy me, I’d eat another because I’d not had any chips for so long and obviously my body was telling me to get them.  I justified it every way I could think of and then I stopped.

What I did instead was make kale chips.   They satisfied my urge for oily, salty, crispness.  I have no idea if they’re good, they keep me from eating potato chips. I will not assign any holy status to kale and its healthfulness; I make these purely to stay the hell away from potato chips.

I will never make them with parmesan, cinnamon, ancho chile powder, barbecue rub, cocoa, Essence of Emeril, Old Bay, or garlic salt.  I will never make anyone eat them nor will I say that I eat them for any other reason than this:  they keep me the HELL away from potato chips.  For now.

Kale Chips the way I do ‘em.

  • One bunch of kale*
  • Some olive oil – maybe 2 tablespoons.
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 250.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

By knife or with your hands, remove the tough stems from the kale and put them in the compost.  Wash and dry the Kale leaves.  Dry them completely, a salad spinner helps but nothing works like using cloth or paper towels to blot out all the moisture.  They need to be dry, as in dry, not dry-ish.

In a large bowl, drizzle the kale with the olive oil and then with clean hands, rub the oil on the leaves.   None of this drizzle’n’toss stuff.  We’re not making a salad, we’re making chips.  The leaves should not be drenched, but there should be no oil-free spots.

Spread the oiled kale in a single layer on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and put into the oven for, oh, 30 minutes.  The kale will go from bright to dark green. If you test one of the leaves, it will be very crisp while still holding its curly-kale’ness.  Store at room temperature.

(*My son the organic farmer brought me organic dinosaur kale today, and the pesticide lecture was free of charge.  I prefer the curly stuff, pictured here.)

 

C’est Cheesy!

Ah, NYT.  We are amazed that this is news, but glad that you didn’t get gross about it.  It used to be we only got flowery, rather purple prose for wine. Now,  cheese?  For god’s sake, put this in perspective.  Of course, I’ve been to numerous wine tastings that made me want to cry with boredom, and laugh at the one-upmanship, so I think a cheese tasting is in order.  However, if we were charged with describing our favorite fromages, it would go something like this …

GorgonzolaGorgonzola … our favorite of the Bleu (rhymes with bleah).  It is strong and veiny, like the one that nearly got away, who comes back 25 years later and says he’s never stopped loving you, and hopes you feel the same, and all you remember about him is that he had more hair stuff in his bathroom than you.

gruyereGruyere …  Baby Swiss. What is not to love about this tender little morsel?  It’s mellow, a little bit nutty, genial, tranquil, amiable, balmy, calm, tender, forgiving, benign, mild, civil, vague, faint, bland, feeble, weak, wimpy, wussy. Come to think of it, it’s the pushover of cheeses.  Never mind.

GoatGoat cheese … from the most sarcastic farm animal, a cheese that is SO happy to have you eat it, really.  By a person of your discerning tastes, it’s such an honor to be chosen. And that bit of bread you wish to smear this upon?  As glutinous and, well, bready, as it is appropriate.  Last, may I say that is one NICE shirt you’re wearing, very flattering.  Really.  Most people of your girth can’t wear that particular pattern without looking like a Viking.  If you like this cheese,  DO twitter about it.  Tout America is waiting to hear.  Ta.

 

 

Danger in the Kitchen

More cutting-edge reporting from the New York Times. (snick)

You stick your finger into an immersion blender, you get cut.  Who knew!  Still, I get it.  Back when I was a kid, our Moms warned us against removing toast from the toaster with a fork, which were known conductors of electrical current.

Now, there are so many new gadgets and geegaws to help cooks with their creations, and so much more to worry about.  A few:

-Vector-Nitro-Butane-TorchButane torches: You are brulee’ing your crème and the flame sputters and dies. Confused, you peer into the place where the flame is supposed to come out, and then press the little trigger thingie repeatedly so you can see if it reignites, and it does … you burn your face.  Danger!

-Pagrill-and-panini-pressnini Presses:  Not sure if the plates on your press will deliver the requisite grill marks to your artisanal bread and and hand-roasted pepper sandwich?  Spritz a little water on the plates and if the drops dance, it’s ready.  Do NOT stick your hand in and close the lid.  Yowza!

ronco injector-Ronco Favor Injector:  To be sure your Thai beef marinade is Thai enough, taste it, fool, don’t inject it into your vein with this hypodermic helper.   Think of the first responders; they have to not be laughing hysterically in order to save your life.  They will talk about it amongst themselves and they will LTAO.

-Commercial-Breville-JuicerJuicers: Electric or manual, press a button or turn a crank, a juicer is de rigeur for the modern cook.  If you find that all your fibrous material has been rendered juice-free and it’s creating a clog, turn the thing off BEFORE you stick your finger into the moving mechanism.  Unless, of course, you are fine with a little more protein in your shake.  LOL!

Any other Kitchen Dangers, post ‘em here.  No fair adding “my partner,” or “vegans.”

 

Happy Newish Year!

Getting back to reality after a great holiday season and wonderful vacation is always, well, productive in a way that doesn’t seem productive at first.  Cleaning my inbox has taken  90 minutes and 90% of it was spam.  I hope I didn’t toss anyone’s email by accident - if you titled your message FAT LOSS FOR THE NEW YEAR or NO WRINKLES IN 2013, resend, please?

This year I’m all about the food, the eating, and to that I’ve added not-looking-like-a-beach-ball and not going broke in the process.  Cooking classes in January-February-March will focus on good meals that don’t break the bank.  Meals that eliminate or greatly reduce white, refined carbs and sugars (flour, rices, corn, potatoes) are now being tested and should be ready to teach in a few weeks.

Check the calendar for special classes for Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, and early Spring.   Dryer air means it’s Macaron season, too.  As for the Super Bowl, well, since it’s Manning-free this year (sob), who cares.  Okay, me.  We’ll squeeze in a class for an app party for that, complete with shopping list.

 

 

 

 

Double Nickels, baby!

I’m 55 now.  It looks old in print, but it feels about the same as 54.  Heck, it feels the same as 30, and I’m sure that after another wild week of socializing, I’ll feel 95.  But for now, it’s all good. The family is healthy and moving forward.  Here’s what I learned this year:

-While I do have another challenge in me, others may beg to differ.  So I’ll do my own challenges and be happy with that.

-I should keep this type of musing for New Year’s.

-Lifting “light weights for many reps” is for wussies.   I look and feel stronger after 3 months of Chalene Extreme, than after a year of personal training.

-The day wearing pink, walking, and eating packaged yogurt is proven to cure something, I’ll do it.  Until then, fuhgedit

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Haul at the Pleasantville Farmers Market

My husband may beg to differ.  He comes from the generation that knows brussels sprouts ashose blocks of frozen goodness*, thawed, heated, and covered in Velveeta.  Not at all like what I found at the Market today — fresh,

tender, firm, and ready to be sauteed with pears and brown butter, or with pancetta and garlic and balsamic.

(* I couldn’t find a single picture of the brussels sprouts of our youth, on Google OR Bing!  Thank goodness for that.)

 

 

 

I snagged more Rainbeau Ridge Goat Cheese for my winter stash, and hit the BuddhaPesto stand — great texture, color, flavor, and I love the name.

 

 

 

Some days I think I have the best life — got to be a judge at the annual Apple Pie contest at the above-named market.  The pies were beautiful:  shiny sugar crusts, short crusts, double-crusts, crumb topped, latticed.  The apples were sweet, tart, firm, spiced, spiked, paired with raisins and nuts; sliced thin and chunked.   There was even a tarte tatin.    Great efforts — sure wish everyone could have won.

The Stats:  Number of pies tasted:  18.   How many I could have fit in my big-a**ed purse:  3.  Number of fellow native Midwesterners I met at the vegetable stand:  1.    What my husband said when he saw the Brussels Sprouts:  gah.

 

 

 

 

Good for her, sad for us!

There are changes in store for Rainbeau Ridge — wonderful Lisa is leaving for Beijing, and operations and programs there will be curtailed or suspended.  While I loved the cooking classes I took in her cozy kitchen, and my kid loved the goats he tended as a volunteer, we are trying hard not to panic about goat cheese production being halted after this season! I started stockpiling first at n  Mt. Kisco Seafood, and will grab some more at the Pleasantville Farmers Market this weekend.  

Learning Curves

I’ve always believed that there are a few things in the world that one can spend a lot of time on and never be quite satisifed with the outcome, no matter how great it is:  Food.  Golf.  Writing.  And to that I add, websites.   I’m getting there … but even if the site is not quite where I want it, I am ready to start teaching again. Check out the class calendar, and let me know what you’d like to see offered if you don’t see it already.

Check out today’s New York Times:  Jose Andres shows us the method for the perfect fried egg.   It looks a lot like the method we used in food styling class, to make a perfect egg-while-it’s-frying, with the whole bathing-in-oil thing.  Somehow, I can’t see the legendary Egg Men in Las Vegas hunched over a single egg in a pan like this, but no doubt they could if they wanted.