Posts Tagged 'Bacon'

Homemade Smoked Bacon

Homemade Smoked Bacon
I don’t think I can compete with the superlatives bestowed upon bacon on the internet.  My love of bacon is not as great as that professed on some sites.  I don’t find the idea of chocolate covered bacon appetizing.  I don’t even like bacon a cheeseburger.  To be honest, I rarely eat bacon by itself.  Bacon has, however, become an integral part of my cooking as an ingredient.

One of the advantages of moving to Virginia is that there is a history of smoking in the state and, therefore, there are good local bacons available.  Those at the farmer’s market are even better. In California, I even made fresh (unsmoked) bacon. When I saw a pork belly at EcoFriendly Foods stand several weeks ago, I knew it was time to try smoked bacon again.

This isn’t my first try at smoked bacon.  My first attempt used a maple syrup based cure and the bacon was oddly sweet.  My next attempt was a more savory cure based on a pancetta recipe.  This bacon is a refinement of the second attempt.

While it may be self-aggrandizing, this is the best bacon I’ve tasted.  The cure ingredients only serve to enhance and complement the natural pork flavor as does the smoke.  It’s almost too flavorful to eat by itself.  Almost.  But that makes it even better when it’s used as an ingredient.

Smoked Bacon
Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

One 5 lbs. (2.25 kg) pork belly, skin on

Dry Cure:
4 garlic cloves, minced
12 g pink salt
50 g kosher salt
26 g light brown sugar
20 g coarsely ground black pepper
10 g crushed juniper berries
4 bay leaves, crumbled
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only
3 dried red chili peppers, crumbled

  1. Combine the cure ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Place the belly in a jumbo Ziploc bag or other large container.  Spread the cure mixture on all sides of the pork belly.
  2. Refrigerate the pork belly for 7 to 10 days, overhauling the pork belly by turning it over every other day, until it is firm at its thickest point.
  3. Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator, rinse the pork belly, dry it with paper towels, then allow it to dry in the refrigerator overnight on a rack.
  4. Hot smoke the pork belly over hickory until it reaches an internal temperature of 150ºF, 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Allow the pork belly to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator.
  6. Cut into thick slices.
  7. The bacon can be refrigerated for several weeks or frozen nearly indefinitely.

Yields approximately 4 lbs/1.75 kg bacon.

Le Gratin de Pommes de Terre Estival de Mireille (Mireille’s Summer Potato Gratin)

Summer Potato Gratin

I’m constantly looking for new ways to cook potatoes.  We eat a lot of potatoes (in reality, we just eat a lot of starch; we’re on an inverse Atkins diet).  My standbys are mashed potatoes or Gratin Dauphinois but I’m always on the look out for something to complement them.

Or, more simply, there are times when I don’t want something as heavy as either of those; where it’s too hot out for something that rich or just too heavy.

The only similarity this gratin shares with other gratins is that it’s cooked in a gratin dish.  It has no milk or cream.  It has no cheese.

Bacon, Onions, and Garlic Cooking for Summer Potato Gratin

It does have onions, garlic, and bacon which happen to be three of my favorite things (I won’t channel Julie Andrews for everyone’s sake).  To an extent, it vaguely reminds me of an Alsatian Tarte Flambée but with garlic and without cream.

While it’s not particular hot here in Southern California, my kitchen manages to get that way.  As does our whole apartment in the afternoon (I blame our west facing windows).  So heavy and creamy are out and light and garlicky are in.

We had this with Poulet Mistral Le Preiuré (Mistral’s Chicken with Garlic) which, ignoring the statement on that page, goes perfectly with this gratin. The garlic in both dishes compliments each other quite well.

Just make sure your date eats as much of it as you do.

Summer Potato Gratin Before Baking

Le Gratin de Pommes de Terre Estival de Mireille (Mireille’s Summer Potato Gratin)
Adapted from The Provence Cookbook

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz. of bacon, cut into lardons
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
salt
2 lbs. potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock reduced to a syrup
black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Combine the onions, olive oil, bacon, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Season to taste with salt.  Cook until the bacon and onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Layer the potatoes in a gratin dish, seasoning each layer with salt.  Top with the onion and bacon mixture.  Drizzle the reduced stock over the gratin.  Season with black pepper.
  4. Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 11/2 hours, or until the potatoes are cooked through.  Regulate the heat so the onions don’t burn.
  5. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon)

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At some level, I’m quite in touch with my German heritage. Cabbage, whether braised or pickled, frequently graced our table while I was growing up.

As winter approaches and the farmer’s market thins out, I become drawn to the vegetables that are still available. Even in southern California we have seasonality with our produce (despite the fact that tomatoes are still available).

Angela dislikes cabbage and so it takes several weeks before I’m willing to indulge myself. It’s hard to make just a little bit of cabbage and it takes time to properly cook it. I also need to prepare myself for it.

My particular preference is for the red varieties. To me, they have a deeper flavor. I specifically remember having some outstanding braised red cabbage in Germany (as well as excellent sauerkraut); I barely remember any sausage or pork roast that I ate. That may give you some idea of my appreciation of good cabbage.

I bought this copy of Saveur in the airport to read on our flight to Florida for Christmas (and then our unexpected “vacation” in Milwaukee). While looking through it, I happened upon this recipe for braised red cabbage. And, then and there, I knew I’d have to make it for myself.

So what that it serves 6 to 8? I apparently will have to eat leftover cabbage for the next week (I found out today that it works pretty well stuffed into a pita with leftover pork and reheated). Sometimes dealing with the leftovers is worth the initial splurge.

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Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon)
adapted from Saveur, December 2007

1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
1 tbsp sugar
1 yellow onion, diced
salt and pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly choped
1/3 cup port
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large head of red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup red currant jelly

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar and cook for 30 seconds, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the onions to the dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the apples, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the apples are soft, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add the port, vinegar, and cabbage to the dutch oven. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken and beef stock and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high to bring to a simmer. Cover, and decrease heat to medium-low. Simmer for 1 1/4 hours until the cabbage is tender.
  7. Uncover and stir in the red current jelly. Season with salt and pepper and cook for4 to 5 minutes more.
  8. Serve with roast pork.

Serves 6 to 8.

Homemade Fresh Bacon

I think I’ve made my love of bacon well known. And after making pancetta, what else could I do but make homemade bacon? I don’t need to bring home the bacon ’cause I made it myself. And, yes, my jokes are that corny in real life.

I actually bought the pork belly on a whim the last time we were at an Asian grocery store. I didn’t initially have any plans for it but Angela pushed for me to make bacon. How can you resist a woman who requests bacon? And, yes, that does make my wife the best ever.

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This bacon is a bit different than what you usually procure in a grocery store. The main difference being that it isn’t smoked. I would smoke the bacon but a second floor apartment doesn’t make that easy.

This is actually a lot easier to make than the pancetta. It doesn’t have the flavoring ingredients that the pancetta does. It also isn’t dried like the pancetta but is instead roasted.

The flavor of the bacon is quite good. The bacon and pork flavors are much more pronounced. It’s almost too much (but isn’t). You’d need to be careful using it in a dish where bacon is only one of many ingredients or the bacon may overwhelm all the others (but maybe that isn’t a bad thing).

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Homemade Fresh Bacon
Adapted from Charcuterie

3 to 5 lbs. pork belly, skin on
45 grams kosher salt
43 grams dextrose
7 grams pink salt

  1. Trim the pork belly to a rectangular shape. Mix the kosher salt, dextrose, and pink salt together on a wide low sided tray. Dredge the pork belly through the salt mixture until it is covered on all sides.
  2. Place the pork belly in a large zip top bag and place in the refrigerator. Let it refrigerate for 7 days, turning it over every other day.
  3. After 7 days, the pork belly should be firm. Remove the pork belly from the zip top bag and rinse it under running water. Dry it with paper towels.
  4. Cook the pork belly in a preheated 200ºF oven on rack over a backing tray until it’s internal temperature reaches 150ºF, about two hours.
  5. Remove the pork belly from the oven. Using a sharp knife, cut off the skin from the pork belly. Allow the pork belly to cool completely.
  6. Cut the pork belly into slices of bacon. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freezer for up to 3 months. To eat, cook like normal bacon (fry or bake).

Makes 2 to 4 lbs. of fresh bacon.

Bacon and Egg Fried Rice

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This dish is better than anything your making. No really, it is. For the simple reason that it has bacon in it. Is there a more perfect food than bacon? If the ancient Greeks had bacon, bacon would’ve been served instead of ambrosia on Mount Olympus; Plato would’ve contemplated the Form of Bacon instead of the Form of Beauty; statues of bacon would’ve been made instead of athletes. Is there something that bacon doesn’t make better?

Well, I’m pretty sure there is (I can’t imagine bacon works particularly well in sweet foods). So, enough bacon hyperbole. It’s not the solution to the world’s problems. But it is quite good.

We actually get a pretty good bacon from our local butcher shop (I appreciate buying bacon in small quantities because, while it’s good, I don’t use it all that often). I have no idea where they buy it from but otherwise the Niman Ranch bacon sold at Trader Joe’s quite good (and don’t get me started on their ham).

The first time I made this dish it instantly became comfort food for me. I don’t know how or why, but there it is. There’s some quality to it that brings me solace. I’m betting it’s the bacon.

This dish comes from Gourmet originally. Their version is available on Epicurious. The recipe is pretty quick (it takes slightly longer than it takes the rice to cook) and pretty easy. It also makes wonderful leftovers (I actually made this on Tuesday night and have been eating the rest of at lunch and telling my coworkers “My lunch is better than yours because it has bacon”). Sadly, we didn’t have any scallions so I had to leave them out (there’s a slight taste difference and, more noticeably, the colors different).

While I haven’t done it, this dish seems like it would be tailor made for some modifications. Replace the bacon with ham maybe. Or even sausage. But why would you want to do that? Maybe there’s a worldwide bacon shortage; I need to remember to buy pork belly futures then.

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Bacon and Egg Fried Rice
Adapted from Gourmet, May 2007

2 cups long-grained rice
2 1/2 cups of water
8 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2″ strips
6 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 tsp sesame oil

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pan over high heat. Add the rice, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  3. In a large (no, not that one, the bigger one; you’ll need it) non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Pour the bacon into a bowl through a strainer. Reserve both.
  4. Return 3 tbsp bacon fat to the skillet, turn heat to medium, and add the onions. Cook until softened about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and cook, stirring constantly, until just about set, about 1 minute.
  5. Make a well in the center, and add 2 tbsp bacon fat and the vegetable oil. Add the rice, remaining salt (1 tsp), and remaining pepper (1/4 tsp) and cook while stirring about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the bacon, scallions, and sesame oil, stir, and cook for 1 minute to heat thoroughly.

Serves 6.