Tag Archives: bacon

The Barnyard Burger @ The Wolf & Hound

Once upon a time, Patty O’Lamb went out upon an Irish green and landed upon its buns. And so barely blushed inside, under a blanket of crisp wavy bacon and creamy cheese of yon goat, was drizzled with BBQ sauce. Verily, it was delicious. And so was my Manhattan. Did I mention there was live music and hockey on big TV’s?

The Wolf & Hound

3617 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

We are all Julia’s Children.

A while back, I had the pleasure of seeing Julie & Julia on the big screen. I don’t typically shell out movie theater dollars to watch a pseudo-documentary (Big Screen money is for Star Wars, the Terminator movies, and Beowulf 3-D), but this was special. I grew up with Julia Child.

Every Saturday on PBS, I’d sit with Mommie Dearest and my sisters while the menfolk were off somewhere getting dirty, and we’d learn how to roast a goose, bake a gateaux, and flip an omelette. By the time I came along, Julia was in color, but reruns of the black and white show were frequent.

It didn’t matter whether we ever tried her recipes or not. We loved her. She made cooking significant and entertaining. And because of Julia, we began to explore more sophisticated flavours and techniques. My brothers can make roadkill stew. My sisters and I can make burgundy beef. It pays to watch Public Television. Between Julia Child and Betty Crocker, there were a lot of good eats at our house.

It’s my birthday week, and I’m glad to be here to share something I learned from la plus belle chef du monde: a simple recipe for Potato Leek Soup. I had a plan to attempt Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon for the first time, but the recipe is involved and I wanted something to sate our hunger until the big dish was ready. Soup was just the ticket. Both recipes came from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, a small book compared to her others, but chock full of basic master recipes and excellent tips for everything from preparation to garnish. It’s an essential reference on my kitchen bookshelf. The Boeuf Bourguignon was also a great success, but that post is for another day. I’m still enjoying the leftovers.

Potato Leek Soup

This is the very first recipe in Kitchen Wisdom, and with good reason. It’s in a section called “Primal Soups” which Julia calls “the least complicated and often the most loved.”  Its versatility is extraordinary, served hot or cold, you can leave it chunky and brothy or puree it smooth and add something creamy. To boost the flavour, I chose to use both chicken stock and water, and I sauteed the leeks briefly in a teaspoon of rendered bacon fat. Don’t panic, it’s one itty bitty teaspoon in a whole 2 quarts of soup (that’s at least 6 servings, more if you stretch the leftovers a bit with some extra milk or cream).

Preparing Leeks:

  • One big leek plus one small leek yeilded about three cups sliced. You’ll use most of the white part and some of the green part.
  • Cut off the root and a few inches off the top leaves.
  • Split the leeks in half lengthwise and spread them apart under cold running water to remove any dirt between the layers.
  • Slice the leeks crosswise into thin strips.

In a saucepan over medium heat, briefly saute 3 cups sliced leeks in 1 tsp bacon fat (or olive oil or butter). Add 3 cups of chicken stock, 3 cups of water, 1 1/2 tsp salt, fresh ground black pepper, and 4 baking potatoes (peeled and diced).

Bring the pot to a boil and simmer about 20-30 minutes until potato chunks are tender. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sour cream. Taste and add more S&P if needed.

NEXT DAY: “Baked Potato” Leek Soup

Heat leftovers and garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, some chopped green onion, and bits of crisp-cooked bacon.

Clever Comfort: Stand Up Mac & Cheese

rigatonicakeThis dinner was inspired by Martha Stewart and the need to use stuff up (namely, half a brick of cheddar cheese). A while back, I discovered the rigatoni “cake” at Martha Stewart dot com. The idea was too clever not to try, so I used my own red sauce recipe and followed the assembly instructions successfully. The end result: a delightful looking cake of tall pasta tubes with cheesy topping. Sliced in giant wedges, it just begged for candles and a round of Buon Compleanno. It’s the kind of recipe that delivers . . . provided you are patient and attentive to details.

Tonight, I decided to try a cheesy version. I made two individual portions in a pair of mini-springform pans for dinner and prepared the rest in a smaller baking dish to freeze for later. With a little garnish of bacon and tomato salad on the side, this comforting meal is sure to satisfy. We had some tilapia and white wine to go with. Next time, I think I’ll skip the fish and make a bigger salad.

standupdinner

Standup Mini Mac & Cheese with potato crusted tilapia and salad.

The process might seem complicated, but it’s really easy and fun to do. Kids could definitely help with the recipe, and the results are really special.  Dinner was awesome, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Tips For Success:

  • Rigatoni: Don’t overcook the pasta. To make sure the tubes don’t collapse, boil them approximately 8 minutes so they are slightly underdone. Tossing the noodles with oil and parmesan helps the pasta stick together and stand up in the baking dish. Pack them in the dish gently so the tubes don’t close. Can’t fit all the tubes? Use the leftovers to make tomorrow’s lunch or a midnight snack.
  • Cheese Sauce: The sauce must be thick enough to cling, but thin enough to pour. Inexpensive cheddar, American cheese, or Velveeta will make the creamiest sauce, but many combinations of cheese will work nicely, so there’s a little room to experiment according to your taste.
  • Crust: Fancy Mac & Cheese deserves a delicious crust. Seasoned bread crumbs, cheese, potato chips, cornflakes . . . however you like it. A tasty crust helps protect the pasta ends from hardening during baking. To prevent cheese sauce leaks: sprinkle a little crust mixture on the bottom of the pan before you assemble the pasta.
  • Baking: A springform pan makes the perfect shape and best “cake” presentation, but I’ve also used a rectangular glass baking dish (cut squares for serving).  Put the baking dish on a cookie sheet to prevent spills in the oven. Be sure to let the baked pasta cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Stand Up Mac & Cheese

Mini Mac

Mini Mac

It’s all about the technique . . . and that yummy cheese sauce! I managed to make the sauce in the time it took to boil water and cook the rigatoni. If you aren’t confident about juggling two tasks at once, make the pasta first and assemble it in the baking pans, then focus on the sauce. Use a springform pan for the prettiest results and easy slicing. A regular baking dish with high sides will do, though.

Cook the Pasta

  • Cook 16oz rigatoni (~450g) in boiling salted water about 8 minutes (a little underdone).
  • Drain pasta, rinse briefly in cold water (to stop cooking), and drain well.

Assemble the Pasta:

  • Toss cooled pasta with 1 Tbs olive oil, S&P, and 1/4 cup grated parmesan.
  • Grease a 9″ springform cake pan (or whatever pan you’re using)
  • Arrange the pasta tubes (standing on end) in the baking pan. Tilt the pan slightly as you build the rows of tubes, so they don’t fall over. Pack tightly but gently, so tubes stay open to hold the sauce.

Add The Cheese:

  • Make the Cheesy Bechamel Sauce (recipe below).
  • Spoon the cheese sauce over the pasta, allowing it to run between and into tubes. Don’t worry about completely filling the tubes.

Make The Crust:

  • Combine about 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs with 1 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp paprika, and S&P. Toss with 2 Tbs olive oil and 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese.
  • Sprinkle topping over rigatoni, pressing into place.
  • Cover the pan with foil (a little olive oil on the foil helps keep it from sticking).
  • NOTE: You can stop at this point and refrigerate or freeze to bake later.

Ready, Set, Bake!

  • Preheat oven to 400°
  • Bake 15 minutes, then remove foil.
  • Bake another 10-15 minutes until crust is lightly browned.
  • Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Run a knife along the side to loosen pasta, then remove the outer ring of the springform pan and cut in slices.
  • Garnish with real bacon bits and fresh tomato slices.
  • NOTE: If baking from fridge/freezer, use 350° oven and bake ~ 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake (or broil if pasta is well heated) until topping is lightly browned.

Cheesy Bechamel Sauce

Fat plus flour equals a roux, the beginning of any good gravy or thick sauce. Cook and stir, cook and stir. Watch over your sauce as it cooks, and stir constantly.

  • In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 Tbs butter with 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add 2 Tbs flour and stir a minute or two, then add 2 cups cold milk, stirring briskly to combine.
  • Season with S&P, 1 tsp mustard, a dash of granulated garlic, a little fresh grated nutmeg, and a dash of worchestershire sauce.
  • Stir frequently as the mixture returns to a boil, then lower the heat a bit and cook until it begins to thicken (stir constantly).
  • Cook a few minutes more until it reaches a saucy consistency, then turn off the heat and stir in 2 cups grated cheddar and 1/4 cup grated parmesan until sauce is smooth.

Garlicky Gammon BLT with Havarti Cheese

The BLT on toast with mayo is a classic sandwich, infinately tweakable. This version takes advantage of fresh summer veggies, and the toast and bacon get an upgrade. Creamy Jalapeño Havarti brings everything together with a little kick of spice. There’s mild garlic flavor in the buns, which get a good shmear of garlic butter before being toasted crisp and golden, and a final drizzle of yummy dill and garlic flavoured yogurt dressing instead of mayo. The dressing also makes a nice dip for carrot sticks or chips.

How to Cook Gammon Bacon:

Gammon bacon is not like ordinary bacon. One slice contains two portions: a round piece from the loin (back bacon) attached to a streaky piece from the side, effectively providing two distinct meat experiences.

gammon bacon I separate the loin from the streaky part and pan fry the pieces over medium low heat. The loin piece is quite lean and should be cooked through but remain tender (a minute or two each side, depending on thickness). Cook the streaky parts a bit longer over low heat so the fat renders off and the pieces become crispy. Drain them on paper toweling.

Garlicky Gammon BLT

This recipe makes two sandwiches. One slice of gammon bacon per sandwich is plenty, but for a more generous serving of meat allow two slices per person. I know, you can’t see the bacon in the picture. Really, the bacon is in there; I swear! Fellow Foodie Fotographers: if you have any advice for sandwich posing, I’d love to hear it.

gammon BLT

2 Nature’s Blend Olive Oil & Garlic Buns
Garlic Butter
Handful of baby field greens
Havarti Cheese with Jalapeños
Two slices Gammon bacon, cooked
One heirloom tomato, sliced
Garlicky Dill Dressing

  1. Make Garlic Butter:
    Mix 2T softened butter, 1 garlic clove minced, dash of paprika, S&P.
  2. Make Garlicky Dill Dressing:
    Combine 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/8 tsp granulated garlic, 1/2 tsp dried dill, S&P.
  3. Spread buns with garlic butter. Toast under broiler until golden. Let them cool.
  4. Place sliced Jalapenño Havarti Cheese on the bottom bun, then top with cooked Gammon bacon, baby greens, and tomato slices.
  5. Drizzle with Garlicky Dill Dressing and add the top bun.
  6. Enjoy thoroughly.

Pimento Cheese Burgers with Bacon Studded Slaw

Pimento BurgerGingerman recently expanded our cable services, for which I am truly thankful because now I get the Food Network. The last time I had it was during the second season of The Next Food Network Star when the bold and brash Guy Fieri beat sugar baker Reggie Southerland in the finals. I like both of them, but Guy was totally made for American TV. He now hosts several shows on Food Network including:

I watched an episode of Ultimate Recipe Showdown featuring burgers, and the cooks were really creative. There was a turkey burger, a vietnamese burger, and a unique artery-clogging Croque Monsieur burger, but the winning patty was 74-year-old Harold Cohen’s Southern Pimento Cheese Burger which looked incredibly nummy. Harold made his own slaw and pimento cheese, right there on stage, so I followed his lead and started from scratch.

Osage pimentos Pimentos are the little red bits stuffed in a martini olive. They are slices of sweet, succulent, heart-shaped Cherry Peppers, a type of red bell pepper (Capsicum annuum). The taste is distinctive, and pimento cheese is popular in the Southern US. Homemade pimento cheese is definitely better than that thick orange goo in a jar we used to eat in white bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Like the slaw, pimento cheese spread gets better if it rests a while, so I made it ahead of time. It comes down to three simple things: cheese, creaminess, and spice. For authentic taste, be sure to use real pimentos, quality cheddar cheese, and don’t forget the pickle juice! I’m a big fan of sharp old cheddar, but you can use a blend of cheeses if you want (some recipes use Monterey Jack, Colby, or American cheese). There are oodles of recipes out there for Pimento Cheese Spread, so really it’s one of those things you can make to suit yourself.  The peppers and cheese must be the star of the show, but there’s room to experiment. After the mixture sits in the fridge, the flavours get a chance to know each other better. Delicious!

I used a mini-processor to blend everything together coarsely. Add a little extra liquid (milk or water) or a bit more cream cheese make an even smoother puree. Melting the cheese first is another way to create a more homogenized spread, but I like having cheesy bits that can melt on a burger (or under a broiler on toast).

Slaw isn’t something I usually make, but I do like eating it. I wanted mine to be crunchy, tangy, and creamy, with a hint of sweetness. I compared a few recipes and started by sautéing a little bit of minced onion, then mixed that into some honey and apple cider vinegar, a shake of celery seed, mustard, and some mayo. It came together fine and tasted pretty good, but something was missing. I think it needed some lemon to wake up the flavours, plus I discovered I don’t really like celery seed much.

Harold jacked up the meaty flavour in his burger by adding chopped ham to the ground meat and topping it off with bacon. I  just wanted to have a good burger with a whole lotta that cheese spread on it. I figured bacon bits would be awesome in the slaw, though. That turned out to be a good idea, and it kinda made up for the presence of celery seed.

For the burger patties, I mixed up some ground sirloin with a few spices (nothing fancy) and cooked them in a skillet while a couple of buns went under the broiler to toast. When they’re ready, they get a good shmear of homemade pimento cheese spread. Top off the burger with a fair bit of delicious bacon studded coleslaw, add a side of cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkling of Terra Stix for crunch. Yum. Yum yum yum. It was a sloppy delicious mess, and I’d definitely make them again.

Curious Pimento Cheese Spread

  • Pimento Cheese SpreadSmall jar of pimentos with juice
  • 2 TBS minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • Dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce
  • Splash of worchestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs pickle juice (yes, juice from the pickle jar)
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • Canadian cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups grated)

Mix together everything except the cheddar, then fold in the grated cheddar, cover, and let sit in fridge until ready to use. Slather it on burgers, spread it on toast, or dollop some on an omelette.

*Note: The fresh version is really nice on hot foods or as a grilled cheese, but sometimes I make this using powdered onion and garlic instead (1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp garlic powder).

Bacon Studded Slaw

Make the Bacon Bits:

Chop 6-8 slices of thick bacon into small pieces. Cook over medium heat until browned and crispy. Drain bits on paper towel.

Mix the dressing:

  • 2 Tbs minced onion, cooked briefly
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 2 Tbs mayo
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • Dash of celery seed (optional)
  • S & P

Toss dressing with:

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • Homemade Bacon Bits

Candy is dandy, but crickets are bugs.

Today, I did a brave and stupid thing. I stopped in our friendly neighbourhood candy store (which was sadly all out of TimTams) and decided to have a bit of a spree for the sake of a good blog. This place carries all kinds of interesting sweets from over the border and across the pond, and their selection varies slightly from time to time. You never know what you’ll come across.

I made a beeline for the American imports right away and picked up the following:

  • assortedcandyPopeye “Tasty Candy Sticks
  • Jelly Belly Sours
  • Hoffman’s CupoGold
  • London Mint chocolates
  • Zero Bars (Dark and Milk)
  • Pop Rocks Wild Berry
  • Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate 70%
  • Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg
  • Walkers Crispy Duck & Hoisin crisps
  • Scorpion Sucker Banana Flavor
  • Crick-ettes Bacon & Cheese

Crick-ettesWhen I decided to purchase the box of Crick-ettes, it was all I could do to hold them in my hand. At one point I forgot what I was carrying, and when I looked down and saw their dead buggy faces staring back at me from behind the cellophane, I nearly threw them down and ran screaming out the door. But, I didn’t want to make a scene in the candy shop, so I composed myself. “Stay strong . . . they’re just for pictures. You don’t have to eat them.” Or so I told myself at the moment.

cricketsReally, what kind of foodie would I be if I didn’t at least have a wee nibble? Just to educate my taste buds . . . clearly I had  lost my mind. Ginger Man pretty much agreed, but I got him to try a hind leg with me. Perhaps if I had just popped one in whole and crunched it up like a brave girl, the experience might have been more informative, but no, it wasn’t worth it to me. I had a cricket in my hand and a steak in my freezer; the choice was clear. Still, a taste test was in order.

There was sufficient fake bacony cheese dust to impart a flavour of some kind, but the texture completely turned me off. It was like I had just bitten into food and my tongue found an inedible particle, a thing that didn’t belong, and was trying in vain to evict it from my palate. Ptooey sums it up best. I must say, however, the crows were very pleased with the Crick-ettes.

scorpsuckaI was quite happy to move on to the badass banana scorpion sucker. There was a whole lotta sugar between me and that critter, so I was game for a lick or two. Examining the little scorpion, delicately preserved in the center of a golden confectionary window made me feel like a paleontologist. At the same time, whatever morbid human curiosity the goodie satisfied, I couldn’t help thinking how many of those little animals had gotten their stingers ripped off and died in a suffocating yellow goo so that geeks like me could throw down some money for a laugh. Curiosity satisfied, that’s the last one I’ll ever buy.

chipsThe duck and hoisin chips weren’t half bad. The taste reminded me of brown gravy. The Walkers Crisps company in the UK recently held a contest with 6 new flavours including Crispy Duck & Hoisin, Fish & Chips, Chili & Chocolate, Onion Bhaji, Builder’s Breakfast, and the one I really wish I could have tried: Cajun Squirrel. I don’t usually like weird flavours on chips, but Canadian dill pickle flavoured chips are rather addictive. Salty, vinegary, herby. Ketchup chips aren’t as interesting, but they are kinda tasty. What I really miss are authentic Moore’s Cheesies, which are no longer produced. There is no substitute. I’ve searched everywhere and have yet to find any cheesy poof that comes close. I’m sure they were made out of crap and plastic, but darnit they were yummy! I occasionally miss those phantom childhood tastes. Those things that I haven’t had in forever and I remember them being incredibly delicious beyond imagination, like HoHos and Moon Pies and those six packs of sugary doughunts and YooHoo! Then when I actually get one, it’s inevitably disappointing.  Sometimes the nostalgia factor is enough to make it alright, even if it’s stale and plasticky tasting and nothing like what I remember.

kinder apeI handed over all the jelly belly sours—Ginger Man’s reward for trying the cricket, and because I love him. He wants me to eat the orange ones, but I like the red ones, and I’m cute, so I get my way. He got the pop rocks, but we split the Kinder egg (he gets the chocolatey outside; I get the toy inside). This time it was a real cutie: a fuzzy green ape! So much better than a dumb robot with weird chicken arms.

popeyecigsThe dreamy London Mints are for after dinner for the next couple days, and the “candy sticks” are for whenever I feel like putting my feet up and having a fake smoke, cuz we all know those are candy cigarettes. In order not to start smoking rebelliously the last time I was home for a visit, me and my sisters stopped at every convenience store in the county looking for candy cigs. I went through about a pack of Round Ups a day.

The CupOGold, that’s for a special afternoon with a big ol’ cuppa coffee. Marshmallow and chocolate. Save the best for last.

Country Style Potato Cakes

My Sissy is an excellent cook. She can work magic in the kitchen with nothing but a prayer in the pantry, and her country cookin’ is da bomb. A couple of days ago, I made a heap of garlic mashed potatoes, and I wanted to do something other than just reheat the leftovers, so I called up my Sissy for a little culinary inspiration. She helped me whip up a batch of potato cakes over the phone. I have many fond memories of these crispy little potato patties, creamy on the inside, served hot out of the pan with a drizzle of ketchup on top.

Fresh out of the pan.

Fresh out of the pan.

It’s one of those things every good country cook can make, but it’s nearly impossible to find a recipe for them. Some books call them “potato pancakes” which is a little misleading, because they aren’t anything like a pancake or crepe. They’re a little more like a latke, except latkes use grated raw potato like hash browns (related to but not the same as home fries, which use sliced or diced potatoes). Good potato cakes start out with good mashed potatoes that have been in the fridge overnight. My garlic mashed potatoes recipe is at the bottom of this post.

They were as good as I remember . . . better, in fact. The “loaded” version is also extremely tasty and would make a delicious companion for a nice juicy rib eye steak.

Country Style Potato Cakes

2 C cold mashed potatoes
1/2 small onion, minced and sauteed (optional)
1/3 – 1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 tsp mustard
olive oil + butter for pan frying

Mix together potatoes, egg, mustard, and cooked onion. Add enough flour (up to 1/2 cup) to hold potato mixture together. The mixture should not be too stiff, but if your leftover potatoes are very moist, you may need to add extra flour.

Melt 1 Tbs butter with 1 Tbs olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Drop a heaping spoonful of potato mix in the pan. Spread it gently to form a small patty about 1/2 inch thick. Make several cakes, but don’t crowd the pan.

Fry until crisp and golden on both sides (turning once). Add more butter/olive oil between batches.

Transfer to wire rack to cool slightly. Serve hot with ketchup on the side.

Cheesily delicious.

Cheesily delicious.

Loaded Potato Cakes

Add 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese to the potato mixture.

Top with sour cream, bacon crumbles, and green onion.

A Few Notes:

  • Putting the cakes on a rack for just a couple of minutes after frying keeps the outside crispy. They’ll hold their heat long enough to finish the batch.
  • Some folks make a stiffer potato mix (using more flour), then shape the patties and dredge them in flour before frying. I think this makes the potato cakes tough and can affect the taste, plus it’s not really necessary.
  • Potato cakes are a blank canvas. They accept many variations in flavour, and can be altered or garnished to suit personal tastes. Ginger Man likes his with spicy mayo (mayo mixed with Frank’s hot sauce). I think topping them with a poached egg and some hollandaise sauce would make a nice change for brunch.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes (diced and boiled until tender)
1 Tbs garlic minced (about three cloves)
2 Tbs butter
1/3 Cup sour cream
1/4 Cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic briefly in butter (1 or 2 minutes). Drain the cooked potatoes, then mash them up with the garlic butter and remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy. Reserve about 2 cups of mashed potato for potato cakes. Store covered in refrigerator.