Tag Archives: Charcuterie

Discipline and Bacon Don’t Mix

One of my goals in establishing this blog was to share some of my favorite recipes. I never knew it would be so goddamn hard.

To be clear, the blogging itself isn’t so difficult. The tough part, I find, is capturing what I do in nice, neat stages. Case in point from a few months ago:

empty plate

I THINK this was kung pao chicken. Whatever it was, it was pretty darn good.

Case in point 2–my wife and I ended up in a AAA 5-diamond restaurant a few months ago. As I’ve said before, I’m not big on the “food porn” sub-genre of blogging, but thought since it’s rare for us to eat out in the first place, I may as well document it.

So this is how I started…

poached octopus

Foreground: EVOO-poached octopus.

… And after a couple of courses of nearly forgetting to take a picture, this ended up happening.

??

I… just don’t know.

In a nutshell that’s why I’m so bad at blogging my culinary adventures. I’m just too damn eager to eat them.

Luckily, I had a little more patience  with a grand foray over the last couple of weeks into dry aged, cold-smoked bacon.

Homemade bacon

The real deal

I started with two and a half pounds of local, pastured pork belly from Whole Foods and the basic pancetta recipe and method laid out in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie.

The cure consisted of about 1/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and half a teaspoon of pink salt. Add to that a teaspoon of nutmeg, tablespoon of crushed bay leaf, and 2 tablespoons coarsely-crushed black pepper. I rubbed the pork belly all over and put it in a gallon bag for shy of a week, turning occasionally. Afterwards, I rinsed it, patted it dry, wrapped it in cheese cloth, and hung it in a part-open cooler for about a week and a half. You know. So the cats don’t get to it.

I probably should have photographed this. Meh.

I’d never cold-smoked before, so this was something of an experiment. I have a Chargriller with an offset smoke box and dumped just a couple of barely-lit hardwood coals into the box. I added the bacon to the main compartment on top of a nice, clean wire rack. Nearby, I placed a tray of ice cubes to keep the heat in the chamber down. I added a handful of hickory chips to the barely-smoldering coals about every fifteen minutes, or until it had stopped smoking. The vents spent most of the smoking time closed or barely-cracked–I didn’t want it to get hot enough to cook. It was a relatively cool summer day and I managed to keep the smoking chamber at about 100 degrees F.

Smoker

Smoker

Here’s the result at about the half-way point.

Bacon

Smokin’

It could have smoked a little longer, but I wanted a delicate smoke flavor and decreed it done after about two and a half hours of moderate to heavy smoke. The end result: one of the best BLTs I’ve ever had.

BLT

Homemade bacon, Tartine Bread brioche, homemade aioli, and tomato from an acquaintance’s garden.

I consider that there’s a picture at all to be a sign of a modest improvement.

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Slow Food is Killing Me Softly

I need some help.

Here’s the thing. Between work (day job plus periodic mental health on-call crisis), time with family, reading, and writing, I don’t really have a heck of a lot of time to cook. Maybe a generous hour a day if I want us to eat at a comfortable time. As I’ve said before, even then, we do a lot more fast food than I would like. And yet, as long as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been fascinated with Slow Food, even before I knew there was a name for it and a movement behind it. I remember in college making pasta from scratch and homemade sun-dried tomato pesto without a blender or mortar and pestle–I just sort of chopped the hell out of it for, like, half an hour with a WalMart chef’s knife. I once made homemade tonkotsu ramen with from-scratch egg noodles and pig’s feet broth. The pig’s feet burned to the bottom of my pressure cooker because that much steam escaped without blowing the safety valve. If something can be bought, I like experimenting to see if I can make it from scratch.

Never, ever burn pig’s feet to the bottom of a pressure cooker if you can help it, by the way. That’s my advice for the day. Honestly, I need advice myself. Because every now and again, as a consequence of my fascination with preparing the mundane, I make something like this:

Yes, it really is green--made with a particularly dark extra virgin olive oil.

Yes, it really is green–made with a particularly dark extra virgin olive oil.

 

A whole 8-oz. cup of aioli. I used Brian Polcyn’s recipe from his book, Charcuterie. We’re not big sports fans at our house, so the Superbowl tends to be an excuse for me to cook something a little extra ambitious in the spirit of the game. In this case, I whipped up a whole batch of aioli so I could add a shmear or two to our cheeseburgers.

Only one problem–now we’ve got pretty much a whole cup left of aioli left and the clock’s ticking to use it all up before all that nice extra virgin olive oil goes to waste. Any suggestions?

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