Friday, July 27, 2012

Pig Candy!

I know that all the snotty hipster-foodies (I might be one, so I think it's ok to say that..) will snub their noses at a "bacon" recipe, chiding that bacon is "so 2010."

It's true, Bacon is to 2010 what black truffles were to 2007 or avocados were in 1999 (sun-dried tomato of 1996?? Pesto anyone?? I digress).  Food has trends like anything else I suppose, but unlike neons, baby-doll dresses or corduroy jumpers I feel like a delicious thing is a delicious thing, and it's less likely to be "dated" in it's deliciousness just because all the cool chefs have moved onto smoked sturgeon roe as the ingredient du jour.

Anywhoo, I've seen variations on candied bacon, so after a brief moment of research googling. I combined a few suggestions and set out for my own candied deliciousness as a bit of a bar snack.

Pig Candy:

Bacon (thick, delicious bacon)
Brown sugar (still soft)
Cayenne Pepper (caliente!)
Deep cookie dish
Cooling Rack

First off, I covered my deep cookie dish in foil, since I planned on baking the bacon and hate cleaning up grease splatters.  It's not Green, but it's easy.

Preheat the oven to 370 and get your pig ready to be candied.

I mixed about 1 cup brown sugar with an 1/8th of a teaspoon of the Cayenne so that it was a spicy-sweet.  (the pepper will bloom and get hotter as it cooks... so start milder than you want to end with).

Then, place the cooling rack in the cookie sheet and lay your bacon slabs out on it in a manner that will minimize them slipping through the bars as it cooks.  Finally, using a spoon, or your fingers, or a small spatula (my favorite) pile on the sugar/pepper mix and compressed it down on each piece of bacon.  you want the bacon totally covered with a solid crust of sugar.  (yummo)

Slip the whole shebang in the oven for about 10 min, or until the bacon is clearly cooking "well."  I left it in there until the edges started to curl and all of the sugar melted into a nice liquid.  If you still see granulated sugar... leave it in.

After those first 10(ish) minutes, pull the tray out and let the bacon cool enough that the sugar hardened into a crust before carefully flipping your bacon over.  pile more sugar/pepper on the back side (same thickness as the first round) before returning it all to the over for another 10ish minutes.  The bacon can burn (so can the sugar), but I prefer my bacon to be closer to crispy than fatty and chewy - so I just watched it like a hawk until I thought everything was nicely cooked through.

flipping and covering (again) with sugar
When you remove the bacon from the oven be patient and let it cool for a while.  The more the sugar can firm up and harden, then better.  Finally, serve the deliciousness however you want - but my preferred method is snipped up into little bite sized pieces so that you can serve them as life-changingly delicious bar snacks. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Spaghetti in Suburbia

Pasta is a mainstay in our house.  The Boy loves it (any of it) and it's one thing that I find I have a hard time ruining while I cook. 

Also, if it doesn't taste good - I can always add more wine, garlic and salt (in that order).


However my instinct with pasta is to just keep adding things (wine, garlic, salt) until I end up with a rich, heavy, delicious wintery dish.  It takes a bit more self control (and a bit less wine-garlic-salt) for me to plate up something that is seasonally appropriate for summer weather.

With The Boy away with friends for the weekend in LA, I was left to my own devices for far too long and decided to welcome him home in truly suburban fashion - namely a home cooked pasta meal complete with a wife in a pink summer dress. 

Welcome home dear.
At first I felt slightly absurd for not just microwaving a hot-pocket in my sweats, but as it turns out it was really fun to cook up something delicious and actually take the time to put a stitch of makeup on before The Boy's return.... Not that this will be happening on a daily basis anytime soon.

But onto the important issue - PASTA.

I usually only cook pasta when my fridge is running low of inventory and the pantry is getting bare.  consequently, the "recipe" is based off of whatever produce hasn't rotted and whatever basics I still have.

For this instance we started with 20 oz of lean ground turkey (always stashed in the freezer!) browned with 1/2 an onion (all that I had left) and some red pepper flakes.

Then we added a jar of Prego (mmmm, cheating), two shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a healthy pour of a lighter red wine and turned the whole thing to simmer. 

Then, sensing my immediate desire to douse the whole thing  in some heavy cream and to swap the dress our for sweats and a Grey's Anatomy marathon... I dove into the remnants of my produce drawer and emerged with Carrots (lots) and a big red pepper (only squishy on one small spot).  Everything was rough chopped and tossed in.  The heat was turned up and I splashed a bit more wine in as I topped off my own glass (one for me... one for sauce..).

Adding a fresh pepper really brightens up a marinara sauce and gives it that "veggie" flavor that I usually manage to snuff out in garlic and cream.  I successfully resisted the urge to add cream, but I did sprinkle in a heavy dose of William Sonoma's "toasted onion powder" that gave the whole thing a bit of a fresh-cookout-flavor.  Some fresh Thyme and Basil was chopped and tossed in, then the whole pot was covered and set to simmer while I dashed off to the airport to get The Boy.

Upon our return I did one more round of red wine (some for me, some for the sauce), before boiling up some fettuccine and spooning the chunky, glumpy sauce over the top.  Simple, easy, and surprisingly appropriate for a summer evening out of the deck. 
Plenty 'o veggies
Plus I got credit for a fully home cooked meal when really I just kept tossing things in the pot with my Prego.