Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home-Cured Bacon

Curing bacon at home is easy, don't tell anyone
2 lb pork belly
1/8 cup kosher salt
1 tsp pink curing salt
2 Tbsp black pepper
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp juniper berries (optional)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
1/4 tsp red chile flakes (optional)

Put everything but the belly and the sweetener in a 2 gallon zip top bag and mush it around.

Add the sweetener you’ve chosen and mush again.

Add the belly and rub it all up, making sure it has good contact with the goodies in the bag. Push all the air out by folding/rolling the bag over the belly, zip the top and put it in the fridge. After a few hours, check it and give it another good mushing, it will be easier this time because the cure will be liquified & the belly will have released some moisture.

I turn the belly once a day when I go into the fridge, but at a minimum, turn it after day 3, but just let it hang out in the fridge for a total of 7 days. 

After 7 days, you’ll notice the belly will be stiffer, it’s cured!

Take it out of the bag and rinse it off. Put it in a 200 degree oven for an hour and a half. 

Congratulations! It’s a BACON!

To cook a lot of slices at once, preheat oven to 400 and lay strips of bacon on a sheet pan. Cook for 8 minutes, then rotate pan and cook 8 to 10 minutes more until crispy and brown and bacony. Transfer to a pile of paper towels to drain.

  • Pink salt is POISONOUS. For realz, don’t accidentally eat this stuff.
  • Pink curing salt is not the same as the pink colored Himalayan salt you find at fancy markets. Pink curing salt is sodium nitrite
  • If you have a smoker, swap out the 200 degree oven portion for an hour and a half in there with whatever wood you like (Maple syrup cured works well with maple wood; I like applewood with honey cured bacon; I like pecan wood with brown sugar cured bacon.)
  • Google “lardons” and prepare to weep with at beauty that is the lardon.
  • Bacon grease is fantastic to cook stuff in, don’t waste it.
  • Carve off slices as needed, rather than slicing it all up at once (unless you’re going to freeze it). Remember: less surface area = slower spoilage rate.

Roasted Potato Leek Hash

Leeks are soft, so potatoes, garlic & sweets just added
Don’t relegate this recipe to breakfast only, it’s delicious as a side dish for lunch or dinner too.

1 leek, sliced thinly
1 sweet potato
1 russet potato
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper

Grate the Russet and wrap grated potato tightly in paper towels to get rid of excess moisture. Grate the sweet potato.

Heat oil over medium high, add leeks and saute for a couple minutes. Add grated sweet potato, garlic, and Russet. Saute for 15 minutes, tossing ingredients around very occasionally.

Browning occurs when ingredients sit in contact with a hot pan, so move stuff around in your pan infrequently for maximum tasty brownage.

French Toast Bread Pudding

Don't take them out before they're brown or they'll collapse too much, like souffles

This can be made as one big pudding, but the individual ones are very versatile and look more special.

(per 2 big muffin tins/4 regular size muffin tins)
1 burger bun, torn into 1” chunks
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon
pinch orange zest
2 Tbsp. raisins (golden is nice)
2 Tbsp. chopped pecans
Warm maple syrup 

Preheat the oven to 350.

Butter 2 of the muffin tin spots if you’re using giant muffin tins, or 4 if you’re using regular size.

Put down a layer of bread chunks, then some raisins, then some more bread and top with more raisins.

Whisk the eggs, spices, vanilla, and sugars together in a medium bowl. Add milk and cream and whisk some more. Pour this custard mixture over the bread chunks.

Make sure bread gets moistened completely, cover and weight down the bread a little. Allow to soak for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle pecans on top, and bake for 30 minutes, until brown and puffed.

Allow to cool a little before serving with warm maple syrup.

  • Be careful when you press down on the bread to moisten that you don’t overflow your muffin tin.
  • Make sure these are good and browned when you pull them out. If you pull them out when they’re too underdone, they’ll collapse a lot as they cool.
  • Maple syrup is not maple flavored syrup or pancake syrup (basically flavored corn syrups). It comes from a sugar maple tree and has one ingredient: Maple Syrup. Grade B is more flavorful and darker than Grade A- kind of counter intuitive, but I prefer the Grade B syrup.
  • To turn this into a dessert, serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or creme anglaise. Melted vanilla ice cream is essentially creme anglaise, that fancy whitish custardy sauce many plated desserts are served with. The microwave and some good vanilla ice cream make a really quick creme anglaise, which is awesome on this bread pudding.
  • Variations besides raisin & pecan: dark chocolate chunks and orange marmalade, white chocolate chunks and dried cranberries, cream cheese chunks and fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries)

Savory Baked Egg in Tomato

With a Tangeringe Mimosa, Roasted Leek Hash,
House-cured Bacon,
and French Toast Bread Pudding
This recipe scales really really well, so if you’ve got family coming for breakfast and brunch, this is a great choice. On the other end of the spectrum, this is an easy, mostly hands off, thing to make for one (or two; hubba hubba!) in the morning.

1 tomato with a fat bottom
1 egg
1 tsp grated Parmesan
pinch salt
pinch pepper
herbs for garnish

Preheat oven to 425.

Slice the top off the tomato, and carefully scrape out the pulp, but don’t dig too deep at the bottom.

Sprinkle the insides with salt, pepper, and cheese, turning and shaking, so the cheese gets on the sides too.

Spray a baking sheet with olive oil/Pam and set the tomato on the baking sheet. Crack an egg into the cavity.

Bake for 20 minutes for soft but thick yoks, adjust by 5 mins in either direction depending on how done you like your eggs.

Sprinkle with desired herbs and serve.

  • Serve these on a bed of hash to soak up eggy tomato goodness.
  • If you’re doing a big batch of these, they may take more time. Just check for doneness by jiggling the pan a little.
  • Depending on your mood or what you’re serving these with, you can vary these with the herbs you choose to add at the end. Oregano and basil are lovely for an Italian tomato egg; Mexican oregano, cilantro, and chili powder are great for a Mexi egg; thyme and marjoram make a good French egg. Fresh herbs are better, but dry are just fine for this (except cilantro- for the love of all that is holy, never buy dried cilantro. WTF is wrong with you!?)

Tangerine Mimosa

Brunchy goodness

If you like mimosas, shake it up a bit by using tangerine juice instead of the usual orange juice. You can juice your own, or buy a little container of tangerine juice in the produce section of your grocery store. If it’s too tart, add more Chambord.

3 oz. Champagne
1 oz. tangerine juice
splash of Chambord
raspberry for garnish

Add to a champagne glass in this order: Champagne, juice, chambord. Garnish with raspberry and drink that sucka!

  • Use Asti Spumanti (an Italian sparkling wine) for when people think they don’t like Champagne, it’s sweeter.
  • Only sparkling white wine from Champagne, France is actually “Champagne.” Everything else is sparkling wine.
  • Cava is sparkling wine from Spain and is a good value usually.
  • “Brut” means dry, and is pronounced “broot.” The opposite of that is “Sec,” or sweet. “Demi” means “a little.” So “demi sec” on a sparkling
  • wine label means it’s a little sweeter than brut. And “Extra Brut” means it’s a pretty tart/dry sparkling wine, with minimal sweetness.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Margarita Perfecto

These are not for the faint of heart, it turns out
Margarita Mix is gross, and that's not how we do.


4 parts Awesomest Tequila you can get
4 parts Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice (from about 4 limes save the corpses)
4 parts Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice (from 1 orange)
2 parts Cointreau
1 part Grand Marnier
ice cubes
kosher salt
Lime wedges to garnish

Squeeze/wipe lime corpse around glass rims and press into kosher salt. 
Fill salt rimmed glasses with ice.
Combine juices, Cointreau, and Tequila in a cocktail shaker and shake until the ice sounds different. 
Strain over ice into the salted glasses, float Grand Marnier, on the top, and garnish with a lime slice.

  • Buy bags of limes and store in the freezer. To defrost, zap for 30 seconds in the microwave (maybe twice). Beware, your limes will now be very juicy because the ice crystals ruptured all the membranes holding the juice. Awesome!
  • You’ll notice this recipe has very few actual ingredients, which means it’s REALLY important they’re all the best you can get. You’re saving a bundle drinking at home already, so buy yourself some nice tequila, k?
  • If you need to make a pitcher of these, look in the produce section for fresh squeezed orange juice (to spot the real deal, it will look separated, with water on top and pulp at the bottom probably) and consider using limeade if you can find it (less added sweetener, the better), don’t use those weird plastic limes though.

Obligatory Satan/Seitan Pun Here

What are those, pork chops? No! They're vegan mock meat cutlets called Seitan, and they're very tasty.

I really like seitan but the pre-packaged stuff is pricey for something that I heard was easy to make. And so I set about making some, and found that it was super easy indeed. And delicious too. I don't think I'll ever buy it again, in fact.


  • 6 cups vegetable broth (I make mine from scratch or using this vegetable soup base from Penzey's)
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (or squish in press)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
Bring 6 cups of vegetable broth to a simmer and add onion.

Mix gluten, ginger and minced garlic thoroughly- you'll have trouble mixing them in once the liquid gets added. Add 3/4 c. vegetable broth and soy sauce and mix to combine. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer for this, but anything less probably will struggle/burn out, so if you don't have one, use a strong spoon until it comes together enough that you can turn it out and knead it. Knead for a minute at a time, by hand, or 30 seconds at a time in the mixer, and rest for 2 minutes between and knead again. It will wind up looking and feeling like chewed lumpy bubble gum.

Portion the dough into 6 pieces and roll out into cutlets about half an inch thick with a rolling pin. Focus on thinning the center of the cutlets a little more than the edges because they'll puff and swell with cooking, and don't worry that there's tears or holes in the dough.
Simmering in broth

Add the cutlets to the simmering broth, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. I used a pressure cooker and cooked them for 45 minutes.

Once they're done, you can use them like you would use a piece of meat. They're fully cooked, but if you want to do additional things to them, that's fine too. Once mine were done simmering, I chopped up a cutlet into cubes, sauteed them with a bit of oil in a pan to get some nice brown and crispy bits, tossed it with hot sauce and made myself some DELICIOUS little tacos.
Spicy Seitan Street Tacos with Salsa de Arbol and fresh homemade tortillas 

The cutlets also freeze very well, so just let them cool and slip into ziploc bags to freeze. Then you can pull them out and bread and fry them like chicken fried steaks, make seitan parmesan, use them as a patty on a sandwich, cube them up to make something like a curried chicken salad...whatever your heart desires.