Camp Bacon?

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English: Zingerman's Roadhouse, Westgage Shopp...

Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Westgage Shopping Center, 2501 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes! Zingerman’s up in Ann Arbor, Michigan comes through again with four days of bacon, bacon and more bacon at their annual Camp Bacon! I wasn’t able to attend this year, but you never know about next time.

You just can’t go wrong with a bacon festival, can you?

Maybe I need to call Wendy at Smithfield?

Bacon at the Beach 2014?

Start frying.

Now!

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Bacon Jam – better than…

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Bacon is all the rage these days and why not? There isn’t a more versatile pork product, probably. (Stand down, you scrapple lovers. Bacon beats scrapple for versatility, any day of the week!) Anyhow, when my mother in law sent me a recipe for Bacon Jam, I just had to try it out. You should, too – this is the best thing in a Mason jar since moonshine!

Bacon Jam - just after being "canned."

The recipe took a long route to get here, but here’s the provenance:

Nigella Lawson – an internationally known, wonderful chef, had nothing to do with bacon jam, except…

Lorraine Elliott – a great food blogger from Sydney, who uses the the nom de plum “Not Quite Nigella” for her blog – did create the original recipe, which was read by…

Kate Lawson (no relation) – a food writer for the Detroit Free Press – who wrote an article on the wonderment of bacon jam, bringing Lorraine’s recipe to the greater Michigan area, which was read by…

My mother in law – who sent it to me!

Lorraine’s recipe is for a one cup serving. Check it out here if that is all you need. I went big and created the recipe below, which yields 4 half pint jars.

Bacon Jam – hold on to your spoons – here we go:

Ingredients:

3 pounds of smoked bacon, cut into 1-2 inch lengths

2 medium, brown skinned onions, peeled and chopped

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

9 Tablespoons light brown sugar

4 heavy dashes of Red Rooster sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

2 cups of coffee (I used Starbucks Christmas Blend, decaf, but it’s your choice)

1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

8 oz Maple syrup

How to make it:

Cook the bacon until almost (but not) crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain the grease.

In some of the bacon drippings, saute the chopped onion for about 5 minutes, until they start to become translucent.

In a large pot (I used a 5 qt stock pot), place the cooked bacon, the sauteed onions, and the remaining ingredients. Stir to mix them up.

Cover the pot and simmer the mixture over medium heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. This should reduce down quite a bit, but not all the way.

When there is just enough liquid left to keep the mix from sticking to the pot and burning, turn off the heat. Carefully – remember, this is hot! – spoon the mix into a blender or food processor.

Give the machine two or three short bursts. You don’t want to grind this stuff up into a paste, but then again, some people do. I’m not one of them.

Ta da! You are done. Transfer to a container suitable for storage in your refrigerator. Don’t worry about how long the bacon jam will keep – it won’t last long.

Try it on hamburgers or steaks just off the grill. Bacon jam is pure awesome-on-a-stick, without needing a stick!

Another option, if you are trying to suck up at work or school, is to “can” the jam, using half pint Mason jars. Just follow the general directions on your pressure cooker. I went for 20 minutes at 15 psi.

I should probably go ahead and measure for curtains in my new VP office…okay, maybe not, but the boss will certainly like the jar of Bacon Jam she received today.  Everyone that eats bacon does. And who doesn’t eat bacon?  (Shhh. I know, some of you don’t. But you get the point!)

Bacon Jam – better than (fill in the blank).

No matter what you put in the blank – Bacon Jam is better!  Except maybe for Chuck Norris. But that is a whole ‘nother story.

Enjoy!

Diet Food? Why, yes. Even with bacon!

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Chicken Breast stuffed with Spinach, Feta and Bacon!

I won’t bother you with my motivations for starting the New Adkins Diet (see disclaimer post, por favor) but it’s working well for me.  I like the fact that the program is all about real food. In fact, dinner didn’t take long to cook and it tasted awesome!

Tonight’s entree, served with a salad, was a stuffed chicken breast. Easy to make, bake it or grill it, you can’t miss with this one!

Stuffed Chicken Breast (for one)

Ingredients:

1  large chicken breast (fresh or thawed from frozen, boneless, skinless)

2  tablespoons Feta cheese (as much as you want, really)

4-5  leaves of fresh spinach

1  slice of cooked bacon

Putting it together:

Slice open the chicken breast, creating a pocket much like you would see with Pita bread.

Stuff that Feta cheese into the pocket.

Seal it in there with the spinach leaves. It doesn’t have to be neat.

Put the bacon slice on top of the spinach.

Now, go wash your hands.   Do it.    I’ll wait.

Cooking it:

Put it in an oven safe container and bake it at 350 degrees F.

or to get that nice browning on the chicken…

Throw some butter in a non-stick skillet and grill it. Be careful when you turn the breast – you don’t want the insides fallin’ out. I suppose you could use string or toothpicks to keep it all closed up, but I was careful and didn’t have a problem.

The important thing is that you cook the chicken all the way through. If in doubt, microwave it for an extra minute. Don’t take any chances, people. Internal temperature of 165 degrees F. – that’s the magic number you need to reach!

When done, serve with a nice salad of mixed greens, a few cherry tomatoes and some cucumber slices.

As Chef Rudolf would say – Happy Eating!

Bacon & Chocolate? Why not….

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If you ask my Facebook friends to name my favorite food, even those I have not seen in years will tell you – bacon! And I ask you, is that so bad??

My favorite Aunt (in law) Sue stopped by for a visit recently and bestowed upon me two chocolate candy bars from Vosges Haute-Chocolat. This first one was a Barcelona Bar, the second…wait for it….a Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar. Yes, indeed – bacon (real bits o’ bacon, not just the flavor) and dark chocolate…in a bar. This has awesome written all over it!

So I tried the Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar first. I mean, really, it’s bacon after all. Why wait? The quality of the dark chocolate was very nice; at 62% cacao, it was certainly not your 75 cent, geedunk machine variety. Sea salt had been added to gave it that savory ambiance. It reminded me of eating chocolate covered pretzels, without the pretzels.

The bacon was in there all right, just in really tiny little bits, enough to give it a slight hint of bacon flavor. Very tasty, indeed, but I would have given the bacon a more prominant role. Instead of bacon bits, think chunks! Maybe I’ll try this at my chocolate class in July – but I digress…

America being a democracy, I had to try the Barcelona Bar. This bar features hickory-smoked almonds, sea salt and milk chocolate (45% cacao.) I don’t know how the percentage of sea salt in the Barcelona Bar compares to the Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar, but it was the perfect amount. Not too much, not too little. The Barcelona Bar is awesomeness wrapped in a silver foil pack.

Katrina Markoff, the Cordon Bleu (Paris) trained chocolatier who founded Vosges, has a nice variety of chocolates available in finer stores and, of course, on the web. I think with better marketing, and a bit more bacon, she could have a tremendous impact on the gourmet chocolate world. Could you go wrong with more bacon? I don’t think so…put it on a billboard off of the beltway in Washington, D.C. and see what happens.

Should you try these chocolate bars yourself? Sure! But save your pennies – these babies cost about 8 clams a piece.

A nice treat to be sure – and a great gift from Aunt Sue. I will have to create my own version and send her some in return!

Now, before you go commenting on the pro’s and con’s of bacon and chocolate, or my shameless plug of a high priced chocolate bar (see http://www.vosgeschocolate.com) please remember to read my disclaimer page. Neither I nor Aunt Sue have any connection to Katrina Markoff or Vosges Haut-Chocolat, other than we both enjoy a good chocolate bar – and who doesn’t like that?

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Baconfest finale – healthy version! (picture coming)

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For my closing entry of Baconfest 2010, my culinary adventure involving cooking through many of the recipes of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, I have chosen Wittenberg Splits. In the interest of my arteries, I have made some key substitutions. Nevertheless, it tasted fabulous! In the words of the famous band conductor, Maruku Shuma-te, “Let’s get to it!”

Ingredients:

2 Hotdog buns
Butter, enough to spread on the buns
2 Hotdogs(I used turkey dogs)
4 Tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese (I used regular sharp. I suppose you could try low-fat)
2 Pickle slices (I used bread and butter, sliced thin for sandwiches)
2 slices Bacon (I used turkey bacon. See a trend, here?)

Directions:

Spread butter of the buns. Grill in a large frying pan, browning nicely.
Set aside on the serving plate.

Put the bacon slices and the hotdogs in the hot frying pan. Cook until the bacon is crispy. When done, take a knife and carefully slice the hotdogs open lengthwise and open them up. Add the cheese, evenly distributed between the two.

Once the cheese has melted, carefully place the hotdogs on the buns, top with a pickle slice and crown with a slice of bacon.

That’s it. Eat ’em up!

If you are morally opposed to turkey dogs, set aside your biases and try this recipe -it will open up a whole new world for you.

For a different twist, add some BBQ sauce on the dogs before you add the cheese.

Serve with a slice of cool key lime pie!

Happy Eating!

It sounded good on paper…

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Bacon-wrapped plantains. How could it go wrong?

Let me tell you…

First, the easy part – how to make it:

Take a tablespoon of dry mustard and mix with a teaspoon of water. It should look like a paste.

Take a plantain, ripe or green, and peel it. Now slather the mustard paste all over the naked plantain. Then wrap it in raw bacon, using water-soaked toothpicks to secure the bacon in place.

Put the modified plantain on a broiler pan and…well, broil.

Broil for 5 minutes, then turn the plantain over and broil the other side, again, 5 minutes.

Then, using the regular oven, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the bacon looks crispy.

Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks before you eat it.

Where did this go wrong for me? Beats me. Maybe it was the massive volume of smoke coming out of the oven seams as the broiler was cooking the bacon.

Then there was the taste. There wasn’t any. Where did it go? The same place your one sock goes after you had put two in the dryer…. This needed yellow mustard for dipping. If you don’t like mustard, I guess you are out of luck.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

Next week – the ultimate bacon recipe! I hope…

If at first you don’t succeed, eat it anyway!

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Kentucky Benedictine on Carr's Water Crackers - Mmmmm!

Baconfest 2010 continues with another recipe from Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon. Today I tried an appetizer made famous in Louisville. Kentucky. Not really known outside of that region, save for Zingerman’s Deli and those who have read the book, Kentucky Benedictine is quick and easy to make and has nothing to do with alcoholic spirits or monastic orders. Those are a different type of benedictine! On with the story…

Disclaimer – I did not follow the recipe exactly.

Hindsight – I should have! But it tasted good anyway, so I’ll give you both versions:

Kentucky Benedictine

Ingredients
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated
2 tablespoons sweet onion, grated
10 oz. cream cheese
dash or two of pepper
one dash of salt
one dash of dill (my addition)

2 – 3 pieces of cooked bacon, cut into 1 inch sections

Directions:
After peeling and seeding the cucumber (I used a spoon quite successfully,) grate the cucumber. Using a fine mesh sieve, drain the cucumber.

In a food processor, add the drained cucumber, the grated onion, the cream cheese and the other ingredients. Pulse one or two times, just until everything is mixed.

Done. See? That was easy!

Spoon some on top of a nice cracker and add a small piece of cooked bacon on top. Plan to serve three per person. Makes a bunch. This will easily make a tray’s worth. Good enough for the average cocktail party!

Where did I go wrong? I did not drain the grated cucumber so I ended up with a nice cucumber dressing. After a while in the cooler, it did set up enough for me to use effectively on the cracker. The tray-full of crackers were eaten quickly, so I still deem this a success, as well as a learning experience!

If a dad can do this, anyone can!

Enjoy!

Baconfest 2010 – Bacon Pimento Cheese Burgers (with a twist)

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The Bacon Pimento Cheese Burger

The snow has pretty much stopped falling, but the temperature has continued its downward slide, causing the streets to become slick with ice. My fellow drivers in Virginia Beach are skill-challenged enough in good weather – poor conditions just bring out the best of the worst. Time to light a fire in the fireplace and enjoy a hearty meal of traditional modern American fare: the cheeseburger.

Zingerman’s (remember, this is a baconfest based on the book, Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon,) has a recipe for homemade pimento cheese. Where’s the pig, you ask? On top of the pimento cheese burger, of course. I added a few things to spice the burger up a little, but the pimento cheese recipe is straight from the book. My esteemed photographer, Mr. Roostre, had one and he loved it, too! Try this recipe and you’ll never go back to golden arches again. And is that such a bad thing? Really. Have you seen the movie Super Size Me?

Pimento Cheese
8 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 cup mayonnaise (use real mayo, not “salad dressing””)
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, diced into small little squares
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of sea salt

Directions (you’ll love this…)
Mix well.
Eat. Make sure you save some for the burgers!

The Burger
8 oz. ground beef – use good quality beef, don’t go for anything too lean.
1 teaspoon minced garlic mixed into the beef – this is the twist!
Black pepper, put on both sides of the patty as it cooks
– cook the patty until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

2 slices bacon, cooked separately, until crispy

1 slice tomato
lettuce (optional)

Putting it all together – from the bottom to the top:
Lower bun
Lettuce
Tomato
Cooked beef patty
Pimento cheese – the heat from the burger will warm it up just enough!
Bacon
Top of bun

The cayenne comes through but is very unobtrusive. Just the right amount of zing.

Perfect for a snowy, Winter night. Pairs well with a glass of Cabernet Franc from the Chatham Winery on the Eastern Shore. I put a link to the winery over on the side – check it out!

Baconfest 2010 – American Fried Bread – Yum!

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So simple, yet so awesome!


This week’s tantalizing taste test involved traditional Tuscan bread, baked on a hot stone, then sliced and fried in bacon grease. If you are following along in the book. Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, go to page 162 and look at the top of the page. There it is, in big enough letters, one of the easiest recipes in the book. Easy yes, but don’t let that fool you. It’s one of the tastiest, too!!

I opted to pull a ringer into service. Collecting dust on top of the hosier in the kitchen was one of my all time favorites, The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Chapter five has a nice little recipe for low salt Tuscan bread. A classic bread, non pretentious, delicious all on its own, when fried in bacon grease it took on a new life in a parallel universe, the universe in the center of the Awesomeness Galaxy! Try it – you’ll like it!

Tuscan Bread

Starter:
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon of unbleached flour
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup water, room temperature

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients and stir until mixed. Chef Rudolf would insist on using a wooden spoon, so I shall, too! Go ahead, no one is watching.
Once the dough is sticky, cover the bowl with plastic film (you know, that cellophane stuff that never unrolls the way you want it to…)
Set aside in a semi dark, cool place for at least three hours, preferably 12 to 24 hours. I used our wine cellar, also known as the walk-in pantry.

Later, back at the ranch…

Once the starter has appropriately aged, it’s time to make the dough! You will be very popular once this step is completed. Get ready for i!

Dough
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
the starter (duh…gotta have it in there somewhere, you know)
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a mixer bowl, add the flour, yeast and starter. With the mixer on low, blend for about three minutes, adding the water in a little bit at a time. Once everything is combined and you have a basic dough blob, cover the bowl with plastic film and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Go watch American Idol or something.

After the dough has had its nap, uncover and sprinkle with the salt. Mix a bit more with a low setting; you are really just kneading at this point. Seven minutes is about all you need to knead (like that?) so now let it rise for about three hours. The dough should expand if everything worked right. Fingers are crossed for you if you try this. =8>)

Lightly dust the dough with a little bit of flour. Then carefully place on a baking sheet. I put a piece of parchment on the sheet first, but that’s your choice. With the oven pre-heated to 425 degrees, place the dough laden baking sheet directly onto the baking stone. Use a low rack if you don’t have a baking stone. On an upper rack, place an oven safe shallow pan with a few ice cubes added. This will help make for a nice, crispy crust, in my opinion at least.

20 to 25 minutes in the oven should be enough. If you thump it and it sounds hollow, you got a winner!

Let it cool for a while. Eat it plain…..or…

American Fried Bread

Take a few hearty slices of your Tuscan bread and fry them in some bacon grease. Man, what a great flavor!

If you do this outside on the grill, use a cast iron pan. Your neighbors will be soooo jealous!

Happy eating!

Baconfest 2010 – Bacon Cheese Waffles

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Okay, so if you read the book, Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, you would see that the next recipe up for testing would be “Grits and Bits Waffles.” Looked promising.

However, after the near mutiny in the household from the oysters last week, grits seemed just beyond comprehension. (And we are supposedly a southern family – it’s almost a law that we have to like grits.) So instead, I went with the intent of the recipe and used a regular waffle recipe from Betty Crocker’s cookbook.

With the whole herd to feed, I increased many of the ingredient quantities. The verdict follows the recipe. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients
For Waffle Batter:
4 eggs
4 cups flour
1 cup butter, melted
2 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Extras:
8 – 10 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs until frothy.
Mix in the rest of the waffle batter ingredients.
Continue mixing with hand mixer until batter is smooth.

Now carefully pour the batter onto your pre-heated waffle pan.
Top with cheese and bacon. Make sure you cover the entire waffle.
Close the waffle iron lid.
Wait.
This is the hard part, in my opinion…

When the light goes out, comes on, the buzzer buzzes, the dinger dings, how ever your waffle iron signals that you waffle is done…wait.

Give the waffles an extra 30 seconds or so to finish cooking. Of course, different waffle irons have different cooking times, so you may have to adjust. You’ll know.

Serve to the hungry masses as the waffles come off the iron. Goes well with pure maple syrup from Vermont or Canada.

Our verdict? Good. More cheese and more bacon would have made it even better so next time we are goin’ whole hog! Sorry about that, couldn’t resist!

Happy eating!