Last year I served up some some blue bacon crystal meth rock candy dubbed Bacon Bad and won a year’s worth of bacon from Hormel. That was FIFTY-TWO POUNDS YO! Fifty-two pounds that I ate in one sitting shared with family and friends!
I have no idea what I’m doing yet, but I do know one thing:
I would be thrilled to feed smoky, fatty, crispy, pork belly to you all again!
Now the deets:
When will you guys be serving up your insane bacon creations? October 19th from 2pm-4pm
Even though your zodiac animal’s years are special ones, they can also leave you more vulnerable to bad luck and impending doom if you are not careful. To compensate for all the bad luck that you will likely experience this year, the universe promises — as a reward for your suffering — that next year will be amazing!
(On a side note, only the Chinese would think to remind you not to eat your zodiac animal during your zodiac animal year.)
I remember the last Year of the Horse as being one of the worst years of graduate school that I had ever had. It was so bad that I moved to France (unbeknownst to me at the time, apparently traveling mitigates your bad luck since you will be physically removed from any potentially disastrous situations at home and can inflict your misfortune on a bunch of strangers instead). Furthermore, my grandmother died while I was away.
“Horseshit,” my cousin reiterated. “And I might remind you that your grandmother didn’t die. Our grandmother died.”
Touché, dear Cousin, but as I watched our family bicker around the table at New Year’s Dinner, I couldn’t help but think it was an omen, a portent of things to come. It didn’t help that every conversation that I had in the two weeks following Chinese New Year’s Day was awkward and stilted. Those interactions were so uncomfortable that I was beginning to think that 2014 would be better off spent in a menstrual hut somewhere in the New Mexican desert.
During that time I thought, “Oh no. It’s starting. Pretty soon, dormant volcanos will erupt and rising sea levels will cover and erase Indonesia.”
I was so in the dumps that an Indian colleague, deciding that enough was enough, pulled me aside one day. “Daisy!” she said while looking me straight in the eye, “In my country everyone is superstitious! I used to be so superstitious! Until I finally told myself that this was ridiculous and I am the only one who controls my destiny!”
Although it sounded like a load motivational speaker clichés, I was oddly swayed by S. Maybe it was the conviction with which she told me to (wo)man up and stop whining. Maybe it was the fact that I was already tired of being anxious about 11 more months of social ineptitude and imminent disaster. In any case, I was finally able to pull myself out of my funk and look forward to what 2014 might bring.
One of the resolutions that I have made this year besides learning to rock a funky, colorful sock (a much more challenging endeavor for me than you would think), is to wrap up loose ends from last year instead of just avoiding them until they are no longer relevant. At the very top of that list is this blog post which has been sitting in my drafts folder for an absurdly long time.
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange the bacon in a single layer on a half-sheet pan. Roast the bacon until it is really crispy and most of the fat is rendered, about 20 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let dry/drain until it is cool enough to handle. Either crumble or cut the bacon into bacon bits.
2. Combine the sugar, the corn syrup, and the water in a 4-quart saucepan. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and it just begins to boil. Stop stirring and insert the candy thermometer. Let the mixture bubble and boil until the syrup reaches the 300°.
3. While the sugar syrup is boiling, wash and throughly dry the sheet pan that you used to roast the bacon. Line both half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
4. When the sugar syrup has reached 300°, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the burner. Use a popsicle stick to quickly stir in a very small drop of food coloring (a little goes a very long way). Once the color is even distributed, divide the syrup between the two lined sheet pans. Tip the pans very carefully to make sure that the syrup spreads out and evenly covers the entire bottom of the pans. Divide the bacon bits into two equal portions and sprinkle each evenly on top of each tray of candy. Let the candy cool completely.
4. Once the candy has completely cooled, take a mallet, a hammer, or a meat tenderizer and crack the candy into very small pieces/crystals. Transfer the candy to airtight zipper-lock bags.
There is a special kind of shame that comes when you tell someone that you have a food blog and the last time you posted anything was almost a month ago. This has not been by choice, but rather necessity. As many of my friends know, my teaching load this semester has been a particularly brutal one. Not so much in terms of how my students are (they are truly lovely this semester), but in terms of how many of them there are (about 100). With class planning, grading, emails, and other assorted administrative tasks, I have hardly had any time for my friends. Let’s be honest: I have barely had time to feed myself properly. Currently, my fridge has only two things in it: booze and soy sauce. Sadly, the soy sauce has been untouched for so long that it probably has become booze — a stomach-churning yet strangely intriguing thought…
I had big dreams for the Takedown. Starting last year, I had this marvelous idea of doing mini bacon éclairs stuffed with Velveeta crème. Disgusting you say? Well, I didn’t try to make them so I don’t know, but I suspect that they would have been AMAZING! I was so obsessed with the thought that I even did some bicoastal brainstorming with Paul over at That Other Cooking Blog who suggested that maybe hand-piping 250 mini-éclairs wouldn’t be such a chore if I froze the choux pastry ahead of time.
Well, that idea evaporated when time got away from me. I thus turned to thinking about things that wouldn’t need any cooking at all — like bacon “Napoléons” created entirely out of smashed Twinkies, potato chips, and bacon bits.
Earlier in the summer, I had the privilege to see the artist Émilie Baltz talk about food at a Creative Mornings event. That morning, she spoke about her book Junk Foodie, a tome dedicated to reproducing classic French dishes using only American junk food. She described in loving detail how she recreated a Napoléon using Twinkies and crushed potato chips (she scooped out the filling, reserved it, rolled out the cake, cut it into rectangles, and reassembled the whole thing with layers of crushed chips and smears of the reserved cream).
Equally disgusting you say? She claimed it tasted just like a real Napoléon and I believe her. Unfortunately, there was no way that I could ensure that the chips would stay crispy layered under all that moist Twinkie cake and cream for the duration of the event. Sadly, that idea got scrapped as well.
Finally, while texting back and forth with another Paul about Breaking Bad, he threw out the name “Bacon Bad,” and I found the name so irresistible that I had to use it.
With my teaching schedule, I knew that cooking something elaborate was going to be out of the question. But cooking several pounds of blue bacon rock candy was absolutely doable, especially with the help of my professional candy-making neighbor downstairs.
Did I win?
To my utter shock and surprise, I won Honorable Mention from the judges which netted me a T-Shirt, a Microplane grater, and a wallet printed with bacon strips.
That’s not all: I also won Best Booth which means that my table decorations scored me A YEAR’S WORTH OF BACON!
That’s 52 pounds of bacon, yo!
None of this would have been possible without the help of my friends. Thank you all for coming out and supporting me! And many thanks to everyone who voted!
To Kalay, many thanks and hugs for coming over early, feeding me, helping me get everything to Brooklyn, helping me throughout the event, and keeping me sane! I could not have pulled it off without you. Thank you for your friendship and support!
Another heartfelt thanks goes out to Kelly O. for lending me the “lab equipment.” It pays to have scientists as friends 🙂 And I think you can continue to use those flasks for cocktails and for other off-label uses without fear 🙂
A big thank you to Paul, without whom I would probably have been serving reconstituted Twinkie mush. Thank you for the name, the fantastic idea, and the inspiration. You’re brilliant! And thank you for helping me get everything home!
A final thank you to Matt Timms for being such an amazing organizer, host, and friend. It is always a pleasure to be a part of your events and always an even bigger pleasure to share a beer afterwards. Here’s to next time!
For another write-up about the event, I direct you to Brooklyn Exposed’s photo gallery here.
Never fear, dear Readers! Like the Dandy, I am still here 🙂
However, I did have to put some things on the back burner for a bit. You see, after sweatily fretting that I would have no employment this fall, I seem to have found myself in a situation where I have more teaching than I can shake a stick it. And I can shake a stick at a lot of teaching 🙂
I have classes scheduled every night of the week, except for Monday. Instead of being on one campus, I am divided between two this semester. This means that after teaching one class, I have to run and hop on the train to get to my other one at the other school. Most of my classes finish after 8pm and two finish at 10pm. One of those 10pm classes is on a Friday night 😦
Best of all? I can order everything online to be delivered ASAP to Ms. Spoiled-New-Yorker on the fourth floor 😉
But how about the weekend, Daisy? You must have time to cook on the weekend!
In theory, yes. In practice? Well, let’s be honest. On the weekends, most of my meals have been liquidalcoholic insubstantial, augmented by the latest nibble at the next it-restaurant.
All of this might sound exciting, but it gets old really fast. After a few weeks, it’s probably the least satisfying way that I can imagine eating. When things get busy, it’s not that I don’t cook at all. It’s rather that my meals become simpler and generally not anything interesting enough to blog about.
This is where the classic BLT comes in. When I get busy, I look for meals that I can put together quickly with stuff that is already in the fridge. In this case, beautiful bacon from my CSA that I cooked ahead of time, a loaf of bread, some nice lettuce, a good tomato (take advantage of them while you still can), and some mayonnaise. If the bacon and tomato are good, the lettuce is crisp, the bread nicely toasted, and the mayo (it must be Hellman’s) is slathered thickly, you really can’t go wrong.
The BLT is such a standby that sometimes I forget about it in my repertoire of meals. When I went up to visit my CSA farm back in July, I was reminded how good they are. I won’t even tell you how many of these I have had since then because a lady never reveals how much bacon she actually eats. I will say that it beats ordering in any day 🙂
I love pasta e fagioli, affectionately known on these close-to-Jersey shores as pasta fazool. Translated simply as pasta and beans, the name of this humble Italian dish belies its power to soothe and satisfy. Pure alchemy occurs when the nuttiness of the beans Vulcan mind-melds with the pasta in rich rosemary and bay-scented broth. It is warm, wonderful comfort in a bowl and in these waning days of winter, it is the perfect dish.
The subject of our mutual alarm was from British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson — not Italian at all. Although I like her writing, her recipes leave me cold . . . and extremely skeptical. Like this one for pasta e fagioli in which she asks you to use a “popsock” — also known as a knee-high nylon stocking — as a herb sachet instead of good, old-fashioned, food-safe, heat-resistant, and dependable cheesecloth.
Now I see the utility of bundling the aromatics used to perfume pasta e fagioli in a sachet; it makes it much easier to remove the spent herbs from the soup if you have them together. It saves you from the futilely fishing around for the gray and bitter spindles of rosemary leaves. However, I draw the line at rooting around in my sock drawer for kitchen essentials. Furthermore, Nigella includes the following sentence in her recipe: “Chuck out the corpsed popsock and its contents [after the beans are tender].”
Not yummy-sounding at all.
I am always on the lookout for a new variation on pasta e fagioli. Recently, New York Magazine published one from Jonathan Benno in which he solves the fresh-herb-removal problem by infusing the stock with Parmesan rinds and aromatics and then straining them all out before use.
Benno recommends soaking the dried beans for two daysin the refrigerator instead of just one day on the countertop. I’m not sure if the additional day of soaking affects the taste, but I did notice that the beans cooked faster and more evenly. The beans were also creamier.
1 1/2 cups of dried ditalini or another kind of small tubular pasta like macaroni
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan
How to prepare:
This soup is not difficult to prepare. However, it does require some advanced planning. Be sure to read the recipe closely before beginning.
1. In a bowl large enough to fit the beans comfortably, cover them with about two inches of cold water. Soak the beans in the refrigerator for two days.
2. When the beans are done soaking, drain them.
3. Combine the chicken stock, the Parmesan rinds, the fresh herbs, and the bay leaves in a large pot. Simmer everything together for about an hour. Do not the let stock boil. Strain the stock and discard the Parmesan rinds and herbs.
4a. If using, brown the chopped bacon ends in a large skillet until most of the fat has rendered. Drain the bacon bits on paper towels.
4b. Add the soaked and drained beans, the bacon if desired, the dried oregano, and the crushed red pepper flakes to the strained stock. Gently simmer the beans for between 1-2 hours. When the beans are done, they will be creamy in the center. Do not let the liquid come to a boil or the skins can burst. Skim the surface of the soup if and when necessary. Adjust the seasoning.
5. When the beans are tender, add the dried pasta to them. You may need to add more stock or water if the level of the liquid in the pot is too low. When the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat.
To serve, heap a generous spoonful of freshly grated Parmesan on top and finish the soup with a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil.
To those unfamiliar with it, the Yule Log Show was a program traditionally aired on American network television on Christmas Day from about 9am to 2pm. It was perfectly timed to coincide with sitting around the tree and opening presents. The entire show consisted of a Yule log burning in a fireplace. No dialogue. Just Christmas music and the pleasant crackle and pop of a toasty fire in someone else’s fireplace
So imagine how delighted I was to see the folks at Applegate Farms improve on the original 🙂
Dear Friends, it doesn’t matter if you are bereft of a fireplace this year or if you have one. I invite you all to set your computer or laptop somewhere everyone can see it and open your presents while bacon sizzles the the background.
The video is a glorious 31-minutes long and can be set on repeat.
This addictive combination of maple sugar-candied bacon, Ancho chili and cayenne pepper-spiced pecans, and Bourbon nougat was created for the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown with the help of my downstairs neighbor, a professional candy maker.
I posted the labor-intensive recipe here, but who has the time to candy, sit, stir, and wrap for hours?
Let us do it for you! We’ll candy that bacon into submission and pack it up pretty so the only work you have to do is eat it 🙂
This season, give the gift that everyone loves. Give bacon!
Today is another day of post-Sandy displacement. I have spent the morning plodding around my friend’s apartment in a trench coat because I didn’t bring a bathrobe with me and the mercury is dropping.
“I know you have something underneath,” she said, “But it still kind of freaks me out!”
Thankfully, this retro-pervert look won’t last much longer since my laundry is almost done drying downstairs 🙂
Instead of repeatedly checking the New York Times Liveblog for power, cellular service, and transportation updates, I have decided to put my mandatory stay-cation to good use: I will wrap up some blog posts that have been sitting in draft limbo! This one was slated to go up right after the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown, but sadly got postponed following a visit from my mother and an anticipated visit from my father.
Prior to settling on this recipe, I bopped around a bunch of ideas for the Takedown. I thought about making bacon-crusted, bacon-fat fried chicken, but decided that fried food was kind of risky for a multi-hour event. Then I had this idea to make mini bacon-Velveeta éclairs. However, the idea of hand-piping about 300 little choux pastries felt too ambitious. Then I considered making bacon-pecan sticky buns in a giant tray, but worried about even baking. In the end, I went with individually wrapped nougats, reasoning that having everything done ahead of time would ultimately be less stressful the day if the event.
Even though I didn’t win, I was very happy with the candies — which I thought were amazing. The spiced nuts and the candied bacon were a delectable combination, and the nougat was divinely fluffy.
The results were so good that a re-worked, more Bourbon-y version will probably appear on my friend’s website to be sold. Another batch will need to be made and photographed for the site first, which means that a larger circle of friends — including dear ones in Europe — can expect a little present in the mail probably before Thanksgiving. I would have sent along some of the remaining candies from the first, but it took me a while to get organized after the event. I worried that they wouldn’t survive the long trans-Atlantic shipping, and the speed of domestic mail won out!
Again, many congratulations to Adrian Ashby for winning People’s Choice with his Sex-In-Your-Mouth Bacon-Nutella Brownies. Although I can be wickedly competitive, the sight of a man crying out of happiness at the sight of a giant check for a year’s worth of bacon cannot help but melt my heart!
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange the bacon in a single layer on a half-sheet pan. Roast the bacon for about 20 minutes to render the fat. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and remove the bacon from the oven. Pour off the liquid fat. Brush the bacon on both sides with 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of maple sugar onto the bacon. Return the bacon to the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Flip the bacon and sprinkle the other side with the remaining tablespoon of maple sugar. Continue roasting the bacon until the sugars have caramelized and the bacon is crispy, about 15-20 minutes more. Let the bacon drain on a wire rack until it is cool enough to handle. Using scissors, cut the bacon into small pieces.
2. Drop the oven temperature to 300°. In a small baking dish, very lightly drizzle the pecan pieces with maple syrup. Add the cayenne pepper, salt, and Ancho chili powder. Toss everything together until the nuts are evenly coated with the maple-spice mixture. Roast the nuts carefully, stirring them every 5 minutes or so until they have a candy coating. Remove from the oven and spread the nuts out on a large piece of parchment paper to cool.
3. Take the eggs out and set them on the counter. Line a pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up and over the sides. Lightly coat the paper with non-stick spray and a light dusting of cornstarch.
4. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, the maple syrup, the corn syrup, the water, the Bourbon, and the corn starch over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture becomes smooth. Insert a candy thermometer. Do not stir anymore.
5. When the temperature reaches 240°, separate the egg whites into the bowl of a large standing mixer. Begin to slowly whip the whites. Try to time it so that the egg whites make soft peaks at the same time that the syrup reaches 285°.
6. When the syrup reaches 285°, remove it the stove. With the mixer now on high speed, slowly add the syrup to the whites in a steady steam. Continue mixing the nougat until it is shiny and glossy.
7. When the nougat is the right consistency, fold in the bacon and the nuts as quickly as possible. Turn the nougat out into the parchment paper-lined pan. Using oiled hands, evenly press it out. Let it cool completely, about 2-3 hours.
8. When the nougat is cool, cut it into 1-inch pieces.