New Project: Bacon
Still stinging from the failure of the cured sausage experiment (and with the wine fridge I used to cure it still staring at me from the corner of the kitchen), I decided to embark on a new project from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book that I couldn’t possibly fuck up: bacon.
I had an entire winter of successful pork belly experimentation, including the Momofuku pork belly buns I made on New Year’s Eve. I learned some things.
The belly is easy. The belly is forgiving. The belly is kind.
Ten days in the fridge curing in a solution made of brown sugar, maple syrup, and special pink salt rendered the once flabby belly firm and red.
A quick wash in the sink and a return to the fridge for a day to dry out on a baking sheet meant they were ready for the final step: 4 hours in the grill, impregnated with applewood smoke. That one day dry-out step is key, because during the time the meat dries out it also forms a tacky film which is critical for the smoke to stick to.
“Hot smoking” occurs around 200 degrees which, in a Weber Genesis, is an extremely difficult temperature to hold. It was here where I had the most problems: I needed to get the wood chips hot enough to smoke, while at the same time avoiding raising the temperature inside the grill high enough to actually cook the meat.
My strategy consisted of opening the lid and hitting the chips with a quick blast of all three burners on high to get them roasting, then turning two burners off completely and leaving the last one on the lowest temperature before closing the lid.
A few sessions of this (as well as a few Sessions of this) and what was once a light pink piece of meat was a deep mahogany color. 150* of internal temperature confirmed that it was “done”.
But even at this stage, the bacon isn’t cooked. With my sharpest knife I cut the meat into slices the thickness of seat belts, then it was into the pan while E made some buttermilk waffles.
I love the result; it’s sweet and smoky like the lit teacher you had a crush on in college. But here’s the thing: I like my bacon a little bolder and punchier, so next time I’m going to go with a more peppery mix of spice and smoke.
We’ll see what happens.
Here are two recent salads I made which are totally cliched and I know this thanks to these two diatribes on them which I think are alternately true and absurd. The articles are worth-reading and the salads are delicious regardless.
Michael Ruhlman’s The Shame of the Chicken Caesar Salad
Mark Bittman’s A Divorce for Beets and Goat Cheese
The beet salad was just an afterthought to get some veggies in on the meal but the Caesar was the ringleader. I love this Caesar dressing recipe my friend Laura turned me onto from Ina Garten. It’s super lemony which is why I love it. I sometimes sub in mayo for the egg and skip the anchovies but it’s still wonderful.
I also learned that much more tasty than grilled chicken is first pan searing the chicken and the baking it in the oven with some olive oil, lemon, and hot sauce. Also made my own croutons by tossing a small seeded roll with olive oil and rosemary and baking and broiling. Perfect!
Sunday Night Dinners: Braised. Short Ribs. Are Tasty.
Step-by-step photos of our Sunday night dinner - braised short ribs in a red wine sauce - recipe courtesy Michael Ruhlman (with only a few changes).
By tossing the short ribs in flour, a little salt and smoked paprika, before searing on all sides, you not only get that all-important crust on each piece of meat, but you also lock in a bit of extra flavor.
The addition of some chunky hunks of onion, carrot and celery add the depth of flavor during what will be about a 4-hour cookout.
After adding a bottle of any good, peppery red wine, a head worth of garlic cloves, some fresh ginger, tomato paste and even a couple spoonfuls of orange marmalade, this feast is ready to go into a 250 degree oven…
…and after 4 hours you’ve got a reduced, concentrated bowl of goodness. After removing the short ribs, straining out all of the old veggies, sauteing new veggies, adding back in the reduced sauce and bone-removed meat, and simmering for another 15-20 minutes (whew! Don’t worry, it sounds a lot harder than it is), you’ll end up with a thick stock perfect with some noodles.
Try topping the ribs with a mix of Italian parsley, minced garlic and lemon zest/juice. It really brightens up what is a rich, heavy dish.
It’s over 90 degrees, after 8 PM and my oven is on strike
My oven and I are on strike and the BBQ has become employee of the month. Mr. F and I came up with random errands that we could do last night to find refuge in locales with A/C. Yea, Target!
When the temperature gauge start to creep up, I get my baking obsession fix with food fiction or food books. This is also good for those who love food stuff but are baking challenged.
Here are a few of my favorites to add to your summer reading list that won’t make you break into a sweat. (I’ve linked to Amazon so you can see the descriptions but you can usually get these books almost anywhere).
- A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
- The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
- The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn
- Tender to the Bone by Ruth Reichl
- How Italian Food Conquered the World by John F. Mariani
On my bookshelf so I can’t vouch for these:
- Out of the Kitchen by Jeannette Ferrary
- Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury
Stay cool everyone! I’ll be posting a recipe for Mississippi Mud Pie with very little baking soon.