Monday, March 28, 2011

Bacon Jam is Made of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

bacon jam jar

Consider me a convert to the Church of Bacon Jam. I had seen this floating around the blogosphere for a while, and I had my doubts. It was the onions that swayed me. In my opinion, only good things come from the long slow cooking of onions (see also : French Onion Soup, Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese). Also I had some leftover bacon from last week's pasta with bacon and tomato sauce. Since I had everything on hand, I decided to go for it.

i will eat you on a spoon

Bacon Jam from Minimally Invasive

1 1/2 lbs. bacon sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup very strong brewed black coffee
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon (or more, if you like) cayenne pepper

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (I did mine in two batches.) When bacon is browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of drippings from the pan.

Place Dutch oven back on the burner and adjust heat to medium. Stir in the onions and garlic and saute until onions are mostly translucent, about 10 minutes. Deglaze with bourbon. Stir in the bacon and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Turn heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is thick and syrupy, 30-40 minutes. If mixture starts to become dry, add up to 1/4 cup of water.

Transfer the bacon and onions to a food processor and pulse several times or until the bacon jam is a spreadable consistency. (I used the trusty immersion blender) Scrape into a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

I can't even tell you how amazing this stuff is. Words do not describe. Everything slow cooks and melts down into this beautiful syrupy, onion-y, bacon-y goodness. I was eating it out of the pot with a spoon. Then I divided it up into jars. Two quarter pint jam jars and one slightly larger jar. It's not processed like jam, so it will only keep in the refrigerator for a month or so. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'll have much of a problem eating it all. The first order of business last night was toasting some home made bread from last week and smearing a giant spoonful on top. Next up, more bread and possibly a home made grilled cheese with a little of this stuff thrown in.

bacon jam on toast

Friday, March 25, 2011

This Acurately Sums Up How I Feel

(from stealing hearts on flickr)

I've reached the 50 day marker until my trip to Thailand, and I feel like this is what I spend a lot of my time doing. Writing, thinking about planes and epic flights, planning and re-writing papers. There's a lot that needs to get done before I leave, and I feel like it both can't come soon enough, and I think I need more time.

Time, you fickle bastard.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trumpet Bells Ringing, Bass Drum is Swinging - As the Trombone Groans, and the Big Horn Moans

let the sunshine in

My friend Sarah is heading to New Orleans in a bit and she asked me to put together some recommendations for when she heads down there. I know some of these suggestions are terribly touristy and cliché, but let's face it - they are cliché for a reason, in that most of them are awesome.

John Boutte, Treme Song.

1. If you haven't seen the HBO series Treme, I would highly recommend watching it before you go. It's shot almost entirely on location in New Orleans, using a lot of local musicians (Kermit Ruffins for one) and places. In the first or second episode the Steve Zahn character directs some college kids out of the Quarter and to a brunch place that does exist and is amazing.

2. For some pre-trip / pre-flight reading, I can recommend Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans and The World That Made New Orleans : From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.

3. A po'boy. I had fried shrimp, I don't even like shrimp that much and it was amazing. I went to Parkway but it might be hard to get to without a car and if you're staying downtown.

4. Ride a streetcar (bonus points if it's the "Desire" one) and walk around the Garden District. Attempt to find the home you would pick if money was no problem.


5. A muffuletta at Central Grocery in the French Quarter. It comes with this olive spread on top of the meat, I hate green olives and it was amazing. (I know this is a reoccurring theme, but trust me).

6. Beignets and a Cafe au Lait at Cafe du Monde. When we walked by during the day it was super crowded. I went back around 1 am and it was the perfect drunk food. The moral of the story - they are open late if you're up late, if not it's worth waiting for them during the day or super early in the morning as you watch them clean the streets of the French Quarter.

7. Bread pudding from anywhere, bonus points if it has a whiskey or rum sauce on top.

8. If you're eating dinner anywhere that has alligator sausage on the menu, order it. As Roy Blount Junior says in Feet on the Street : "They say anything will grow here, and everything eats it."

plaza d armas (#77)

9. Walk around Jackson Square and look at the local art for sale.

10. Embrace the open container laws, walk around the French Quarter in the sun with a drink in hand.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Po'boys at Parkway Tavern

parkway's fried shrimp po-boy (#75)

"Po-boys aren't sandwiches, they're a way of life." - Treme, I'll Fly Away (1x10)

I got off the plane in New Orleans, found my friend Laura picked me up, we dropped off my stuff, gathered the rest of my friends and we headed for item one on my NOLA Consumption list : a po-boy.

Laura took us to Parkway Bakery and Tavern. I had a fried shrimp po-boy with a side of sweet potato fries and a bloody mary. I'm not a huge shrimp cocktail fan, so I was surprised to find out how much I liked the suckers fried. Maybe it was also the bread and sitting outside in the warm sun while eating it. I wanted to eat about three more.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Compost Cookies (For Nino)

morphology of compost cookies (#255)

I just got back from Spring Break (a trip to Florida with the family) and a trip to New Orleans with my good friends from college. The last time the BFC got together, it was for Ally's wedding, and I brought these compost cookies along, because they are possibly my favorite cookies in the world. Nino mentioned she attempted to duplicate them, so I promised to post the recipe for her.

Compost Cookies
Momofuku’s Christina Tosi, via “Live With Regis and Kelly”

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of your favorite baking (sweet) ingredients, such as chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, etc*
1 1/2 cups of your favorite crushed snack foods, such as potato chips, corn chips or pretzels**

The picture features all my mix-ins in my 4 cup measuring cup : my preferred combination is toffee bits, chocolate chips, potato chips and coffee grounds.


In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

(Note: the butter and sugar really need to be beaten for 10 minutes, at the least maybe longer with a hand mixer. You will see and taste the sugar almost completely dissolve, a stand mixer makes this easier, but just be prepared with a hand mixer)

On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 45-60 sec just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30-45 sec until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

Using a 6 oz ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.

Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 1 week.

DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

Heat the conventional oven to 400F. (350F in a convection oven)

When the oven reads 400F, arrange your chilled cookie dough balls on a parchment or silpat-lined sheetpan a minimum of 4″ apart in any direction.

Bake 9-11 min. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.

At 9 min the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don’t match up and your cookies stills seem pale and doughy on the surface.

Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, cookies will keep fresh 5 days. In the freezer, cookies will keep fresh 1 month.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Laissez Le Bon Temp Rouler

Laissez le Bon temp rouler (#67)

Maybe it's all the New Orleans reading I've been doing to get ready for my visit there, (T-3 days!) but when I realized my normal baking Tuesday also happened to be Mardi Gras - I decided I needed to do something to reflect the spirit. I decided to do a King Cake, this despite never actually having had King Cake myself. But when have I ever let that stop me? After combing through a bunch of recipes (there seem to be as many King Cake recipes as individual cakes), I finally settled on Emril's recipe with a Cream Cheese filling (pictured).

I went ahead and made this Sunday night (because my Monday's are a little busy with class) and then class got cancelled on Monday because of a lot of snow. So I decided to make another one. I decided to go with this recipe adapted from Southern Living with a cinnamon sugar filling. While the second cake certainly had more fans, I had more trouble with that dough. It didn't rise as much, and I accidentally over filled it a bit. Less photogenic, but still really tasty.

Also, I colored the sugar myself. So glad I didn't spend the extra money on colored sugar. Just put some granulated sugar in a ziploc bag, add a few drops of gel food coloring and mix. Perfectly colored sugar!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

fear of cooking with rice noodles...conquered!

fear of cooking with rice noodles...conquered! (#65)

I'm not going to lie, cooking with rice noodles always freaked me out for some reason. Then again I have long consider most Asian wok style cooking outside of my abilities as a Chef. Part of this was feeling uncomfortable with the flavor palette, and some of it was my resistance to prep everything before cooking. I tend to cook my preparing and chopping as I go, which doesn't fly with wok cooking. But looking through recipes this weekend and faced with a serious and near constant craving for Asian and Thai food (I'm going to blame weekend chats with Brian that always involve a long discussion on what he's going to eat) I decided the time had come to put up or shut up.

So this is an approximation of Pad Thai. I must have looked through half a dozen different recipes for this. In the end I went with this one from Use Real Butter / Chez Pim because it seemed the most authentic, was scaled for one serving, and provided the most instruction and explanation. (In case there was any doubt the pickled turnips were omitted). Because of the snow i didn't feel like venturing to the Asian market (the Wegman's international foods isle had everything but taramind paste) so I was lazy and used a Pad Thai sauce. Worked pretty well, although the sauce is on the sweet side and needs some kind of spice to it. Aside from that the texture was awesome. And rice noodles totally not scary. It is jumping around the kitchen, king of the lab good. I will be making this all week. Fear conquered.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting of Glory

swiss meringue buttercream frosting of glory (#60)

I've always been scared away from making a swiss meringue buttercream frosting because it sounded finicky and complicated. I finally decided to pony up and make one for Liz's birthday cake a few weeks back - and it was glorious. Yes, there was a long period of time (it felt like forever) where I just had butter/meringue soup and I thought the frosting wasn't going to come together. But I did as Deb said and I just kept whipping. I had a five layer cake with no back-up frosting plan. But backup plans are for the weak. Also I did this both time sans stand mixer, so it is possible using just a tiny hand mixer. Liz had requested a completely vanilla cake and I was dying to make the swiss meringue with a chocolate cake.

Both recipes for this come from Deb at Smitten Kitchen: Chocolate Butter Cake and Swiss Buttercream frosting.

nom nom nom

Nom nom.