Around noon yesterday, my husband and I met our friend Ryan at one of our favorite bars near our home, Krug Park. Sundays are the perfect day to sit down for a Bloody Mary, and Anne knows how to make a good one. We met there not just for the great drinks and good conversation…we met there to talk about goats. More specifically, Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
See, our friend Ryan is a lot like me in that he has a passion for food and cooking. Unlike me, he is a chef here in town. But he takes his love for food one step further and as a result, deserves the label of urban farmer. He and his wife raise chickens, ducks, and they have quite the green thumb when it comes to their garden. But that wasn’t enough for Ryan. He wanted to add some goats to the mix. I volunteered my goat-sitting services immediately.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress of our communal goat adventures. Right now, we’re just in the planning stages. I can’t even tell you how excited I am to experiment with the milk from our little goats. I’m thinking cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. At least to start with. Then, who knows what? All I know is I’m excited to be a part of Ryan’s endeavors.
Now, on to dinner.
“Now, just hold it right there,” you’re thinking. “Bacon jam? Jam, like the sweet spread one puts on their morning toast and eats for breakfast?”
Well, not exactly. But pretty darn close. This…condiment…as I’ll call it, is TOTALLY DELICIOUS. And totally worthy of being eaten with a crusty piece of bread, on pork chops or roast chicken, or hell…spooned right out of the jar and into your mouth. Get creative with its use. I could see a spoonful going into a pot of chili or tomato soup, in a batch of marinara, or maybe even whisked into a vinaigrette.
Now, I am aware that bacon, as an ingredient, may have run its course. What with bacon on doughnuts, in cakes, and infused in vodkas. But you know what, I’m okay with bacon. Bacon and I have a healthy relationship. We don’t see much of each other, but when we do, it’s quality. I bring out the best in bacon and in return, bacon will always have a place in my culinary repertoire.
Let me tell you that this jam is dead simple to make and you may, in fact, have many of the ingredients already on hand, just waiting to come together and make your house smell amazing. I chose to finish this jam off in the slow cooker, but if you don’t have one (really, why don’t you have one? they’re so great!) you can simply finish it off in a saucepan on the stove. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scorch.
Feel free, also, to play around with the flavors. Taste as you go along. Especially if spice isn’t your thing. I increased a few things, and toned down a few others, but overall, I think this batch of bacon jam is perfect and I can’t wait to make more. It yields about 2 1/2 cups of jam, so please, share with your bacon-loving friends and family. They’ll appreciate it.
Spicy Bacon Jam
Yields about 2 1/12 cups
** Remember, many of these ingredient amounts can be increased or decreased. Don’t stress if you don’t have the exact type or amount. Substitute if you have to. I’ll still love you for it.
1 1/2 pounds pepper bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 whole large onion (yellow or white), diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if not using pepper bacon, use 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, as well)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook, stirring occasionally and rendering all of the fat. You want the bacon to be slightly crispy, but not burned to a crisp. This will take a while due to the volume of bacon being cooked. Just be patient and enjoy the aroma filling your kitchen.
When the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon to to a paper towel-lined plate to drain more of the fat. Pour off the remaining bacon fat from the pan, reserving for later. Seriously, save it. It’s pure gold. Put it in an empty jam jar and put it in your fridge. Use it to fry potatoes or anything else you want to infuse with bacony goodness.
Return your skillet back to the heat and add the butter, onions, and garlic. Let them begin to sweat, stirring and cooking on medium heat until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Try not to bring too much color to them.
Add the salt and pepper (if using), along with the brown sugar. Stir well, and allow the sugar to melt into the onions. Resist the urge to stop there and just eat the caramelized onions. Mmmm. Remember you have a mission and forge on toward your goal!
After a few minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and let the mixture come to a boil. Toss in the reserved bacon and stir to combine.
Now is the time when you can put the mixture in a slow cooker, like I did. If you use a slow cooker, cook it on low heat for at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have a slow cooker, place mixture in saucepan and cook on low heat on your stove top. You may find that you’ll cook it for a shorter period of time on the stove top, but honestly, I don’t know. I love the convenience of a slow cooker. Just turn it on and walk away!
After 3 hours, use your immersion blender to blend the mixture to the desired consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender or food processor will work just as well. You’re going for a jam-like consistency, with visible bits of bacon running throughout. Don’t go too far or you’ll just have bacon paste, and that doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing, does it?
After blending, put mixture in a saucepan and cook on the stove over medium heat until most (if not all) of the liquid has evaporated. You want spreadable, gorgeous bacon jam here. Be sure to stir along the way and adjust the heat as necessary. You don’t want to scorch it after you’ve gone to all this work to produce something so lovely.
Place mixture in a sealed container (or share with your friends and family). This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Given that my last post was sans recipe, I thought it only fair to include a recent dish (and its recipe) in this post. As much as I would have liked, we didn’t just eat brioche for dinner the other night, we had actual food. And that food was one of the most delicious potato soups I’ve ever eaten. Normally I don’t gravitate to potato soups or chowders because the ones I’ve eaten in the past have been entirely too chunky for my taste. Not this one…this one spoke to me on a visceral level. This soup would end up as a purée, and it had bacon in it! How could I go wrong?
Not only did this recipe have some of my favorite flavor profiles, but it was also so simple to make. And I (miraculously) had all of the ingredients on hand! So, I began the task of prepping my mire poix and peeling my potatoes. Usually, Scott plays the role of sous chef in our kitchen, but he was busy in the garage building my soon-to-be-awesome custom prep table, so I let his absence slide this time. Besides, I knew it would please him to emerge from the garage and smell the lovely scent of garlic, rosemary, and onions sautéing away in butter.
The best part you ask? Well, in Scott’s opinion, it was the Bacon Vinaigrette. Clearly.
Potato Soup with Bacon Vinaigrette
adapted from Food52
For the Soup:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced,
1 large (or 2-3 medium) carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced,
1 sprig (1 tablespoon) fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3-5 medium Russet potatoes (weighing in at least 2 pounds), peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used my homemade)
1 cup lowfat sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
For the Vinaigrette:
3-4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
3 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar (you could also use white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch Kosher salt
pinch freshly cracked black pepper
Add butter to stock pot and melt over medium-high heat.
Add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Sauté veggies until onions are soft, roughly 8-10 minutes.
To that, add the potatoes and stock. Cook on medium-high until potatoes are very tender, roughly 20-25 minutes.
Turn off heat, add sour cream (or yogurt) and puree with immersion blender (or in a regular blender) until smooth.
Stir in champagne vinegar.
Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
To make vinaigrette:
Cook bacon until crispy and let drain on paper towel.
In a small bowl, combine bacon, scallions, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Add oil and stir to combine.
Top bowls of soup with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette.
On Saturday night, instead of going out to see and be seen, Scott and I chose to stay inside. Let’s face it, with the week we’ve had, it sounded like a dream to us. I had a lovely rib eye steak chilling in the refrigerator that was destined for dinner, but frankly, preparing and eating just a steak did not sound like fun to me. What then, should emerge from my kitchen to fill our bellies on a Saturday night? Well, stew, of course!
We’re finally hitting the chilly weather here in the Midwest. No longer the gorgeous and golden autumn, but not quite the brutal and gray winter. We’re somewhere, floating in the middle of “heavy jacket and scarf” weather. My solution for weather like this leans toward soups (you know that), so ribeye and root vegetable stew was an obvious choice. AND…my pantry was already stocked with the necessary ingredients! It was kismet.
I know, I know, a rib eye steak is not a cut usually associated with stew due to the price tag, but it’s all we had and I wanted to give it a shot. In a hot skillet, I seared it off for a few minutes on each side and then set it aside to rest. In the same pan, I added (you guessed it!) bacon and let that render down for a bit.
After the bacon was set aside (but not forgotten), I threw in a chopped onion and some minced garlic and let them sizzle in the rendered bacon fat for awhile, then added a little olive oil and a tablespoon or two of flour. After the mixture had turned a lovely golden brown, I poured in a good glug of red wine and scraped up all the lovely brown and flavorful bits.
Then, the best part happened: I was able to combine in a soup pot the onion/garlic roux, the root vegetables, stock, and the steak (which I had cut into pieces). I brought it to a boil, then reduced it to a simmer and, wait for it…walked away.
After about 40 minutes, I added a bit of my not-so-secret ingredient, aged balsamic vinegar. I let it simmer for a few more minutes, and the result? A gorgeous, flavorful, velvety rib eye stew. Perfect for a not quite winter night.
I’m a fan of soup. A big fan. Anything that requires slow simmering and very little attention on my part is a good thing. And when I think of Thanksgiving, I always think of butternut squash, so naturally, I thought I would throw together a butternut squash soup for our first course. Then I asked myself, “What could possibly make a luscious soup such as this even better?” My answer? Bacon and lobster, of course!
Although they are a pain to peel, the flavor of a butternut squash is well worth the effort. I chopped it up along with an onion and garlic and tossed them all together with olive oil and the rendered fat from the bacon. To that, I added minced sage, thyme, and a few whole bay leaves. After a sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper, I roasted them in a 450º oven for just under an hour, stirring them halfway through to ensure even roasting.
Despite the state of our house (we’re still living out of the basement due to floor refinishing) I was still thrilled to be cooking for our Thanksgiving. The roasted veggies smelled amazing and in the meantime, I prepped the lobster tails. It was quite simple, really. I just snipped up the sides of the lobster tail and snipped up the belly side of the shell, removing it and exposing the flesh. A little salt, pepper, and olive oil and voilà!
I wrapped the lobster tails in foil packets and after the butternut squash mixture was sufficiently roasted, I removed it, and into the oven they went! Before I knew it, the soup had been puréed, the lobster was done, and it was only 1:00pm!
The finished product with lobster pieces. Delicious!
As if one dessert wasn’t enough, I went ahead and put together a quick apple tart. I’ve made them before, but usually labored over the pastry…not this time! No way! Into the freezer I went and Eureka! I had a package of puff pastry! This apple tart is the simplest way to serve a fruit dessert and if you have the right ingredients: apples, puff pastry, butter, and sugar, you should be in business!
I tossed my peeled and cored apples with a few tablespoons of sugar and a few tablespoons of brandy, but the alcohol isn’t necessary. We all know I like hooch with my food, and I feel that brandy adds a nice element to an apple dessert. I then layered the apples on the puff pastry, sprinkled it with more sugar, and dotted the apples with cubed butter. After about an hour in the oven, it was golden brown and gorgeous!
All in all, I think this non-traditional Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. Pat prepared a standing rib roast with roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, and fingerling potatoes. And Holly prepared a lovely scalloped celery root dish with bacon. It was a nice change to spend the holiday with close friends and I hope we can all do it again soon.