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Posts Tagged ‘it’s BACON!’

I know I’ve been rather quiet here on BBB this year, for a multitude of reasons which I won’t bore you with all the details except for the major one:  the complete change of how my family eats, especially since the beginning of this year.   We’ve moved to eating in a primal/paleo fashion.  You may have heard of it–it’s gaining followers, and for good reason, I believe.  I’m not going to preach about it, but if you’re curious, you can learn more about it at the Whole9 Blog and Mark’s Daily Apple to just start out.  Essentially, we’ve cut things out of our diets such as grains, legumes and heavily processed foods; and began focusing our diets on meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats such as coconut oil and things like fruit, full-fat dairy and nuts in moderation.   Sure, we’re not perfect–we do go off the rails sometimes for holidays or when we’re traveling–but we figure we always do the best we can, and our bodies do like to remind us when we’ve cheated enough.

It’s really been an incredible change for us.  I’ve lost 80 pounds and have seen many of my health markers change for the better:  my A1C, cholesterol and liver function numbers went to normal within 6 months of starting the diet–I sleep better and I have the energy to get through my day (with exercise, even!).  Choo has been on this also, and he’s lost somewhere to the tune of 50 pounds.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about this change, because it will change the tone of BBB in the future.  I may experiment with the occasional baked good that’s been tweaked to fit our lifestyle (because sometimes CAKE is the only thing that matters), but from now on, I’ll be focusing on dishes that will fit into a primal/paleo lifestyle.  Like this one:

 

Oh sure, it’s BACON.  But, even with fat not being the enemy in a paleo diet, if you’re using cured bacon, it still needs to be treated like it’s candy:  sweet, delicious meat candy.  Still, these make a fantastic appetizer, especially right now while figs are at the height of their season.  These are super-easy but still impressive (don’t you love it when that happens?).

Bacon-Wrapped Figs 

Serves 6

  • 1 pound sliced bacon (about 12 slices)
  • 12 figs
  1. Heat your broiler on low and cover a sheet pan with foil.
  2. Slice figs in half lengthwise and cut bacon slices in half.
  3. Wrap bacon around figs, secure with toothpicks if needed (I didn’t need to, the bacon held in place)
  4. Place sheet pan in oven on the top rack setting, broiling figs about 7-9 minutes on each side, depending on how crisp you like your bacon.
  5. Fight the urge to immediately pop one in your mouth the minute they come out of the oven.

 

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“You have made bacon.  You are like unto God,” said my friend, Chris.

“Oh my God, this bacon is obscene,” said another.

I even received the offer of being my cabana boy in exchange for a hookup of cured pork belly.

I think Kelis got it wrong:  it ain’t milkshakes that bring the boys to the yard.

There’s something so primal about seeing those thick ribbons of fat and the lip-smacking expectation of smoky, savory meat.  There’s nothing quite like the flavor profile that bacon adds to a recipe, turning greens into a sturdy side dish, intensifying sweets with its saltiness, and making a Sunday brunch dish memorable.

It is no secret that I love bacon, and learning how to make my own is one of the greatest pieces of knowledge I now have in my repertoire.   To be fair, this is not the first time I’ve made bacon–when Michael Ruhlman posted his instructions on how to home-cure bacon, I absolutely had to do it.  How could I not?  Still, even though I may have had a head start on some other Charcutepaloozers, I found myself making some rookie mistakes.  The first batch I made, I forgot to rinse off the cure before putting it in the smoker leaving the bacon overseasoned.  It was still good, but I was ready to try it again.  With the maple bacon I have pictured, my timing was all wrong.  The day I had planned on smoking my bacon it rained–and foolishly, I didn’t take it out of the cure, but left it in there for a few days longer, until I was ready to fire up the smoker.  Another rookie mistake:  not letting the bacon dry out and form a pellicle (a tacky ‘skin’ that forms on the meat which helps provide a surface that will hold on to the smoke flavor and also helps seal the meat to keep it from drying out) before smoking.  The bacon is fine enough, but I think the third time will be a charm:  no overcuring, rinsing off the cure, and giving the bacon a day to form a pellicle–got it.

But, if we’re really going to talk about something awesome, let’s talk about the pancetta.  If I got anything right this time around, it was the pancetta.  I followed the instructions to the letter, poking the curing belly every other day, and laughing with Choo as we struggled to tie the roll properly.  I have been so thrilled with how it turned out that I’ve been sharing the goodness with everyone to the point where I now only have a few ounces left.  This past Saturday, I found myself cutting pieces out to all my dinner guests to take home–because cured pork belly is pretty darn close to love under this roof.   I have been using it in bits and pieces with my CSA greens–chard, collards and kale have all got the pancetta treatment, and Kiddo approves heartily.

I didn’t come up with a special recipe this time around, as I wanted to pull up some of my favorite bacon recipes I’ve posted before:

Chard Gratin with Bacon & Chevre

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

The Bacon, Cheddar & Cornmeal Waffle

Bacon Maple Shortbread

 

I’m pretty sure I’m never going to buy bacon again.

 

 

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Yes.  Oh, yes.

See, Thursday afternoons are when the CSA boxes show up, so Wednesday and Thursday are my biggest “what can I make to clear space?” days.  I still had my collard greens, getting a mite wilty, but still good, that needed to be cooked off.  I looked to the internet for inspiration, and I found it at The Kitchn.  Considering today was a holiday and I had Kiddo already stashed away with Grandma, I had the time to indulge in some seriously awesome breakfasting.

I used grits instead of polenta and tossed in a bit of chevre to, you know, make it only tastier. The collards got a bit of garlic, but there was plenty of bacon (of course).

I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I’m doing this for breakfast again this weekend–it’s just that good.  Head on over to The Kitchn for the recipe.  Trust me, you’ll become a believer in greens for breakfast.

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Needless to say, this CSA challenge is, well, challenging. I know I’m a good cook, but I do fall into ruts, especially on the weekdays when time is shorter, so vegetables tend to come in simple salads or sautés or stir-fries.  Getting vegetables that I wouldn’t normally buy in my day-to-day grocery purchases has been the nudge I really needed to try something new.  So, with a little inspiration, I have two dishes that used items from my CSA box.

First up, Beet & Apple Pureé, as inspired by The Silver Palate Cookbook (which I found an old copy in near-perfect condition at the used book store for $2).  I’ll admit it right now:  I’m not really a big fan of beets.  I don’t hate them, but I just don’t ever reach for them when I’m at the farmer’s market.  I received two Candy Striped Beets in my box and they cooked up to a really gorgeous sunset pink-orange which once blended with the apples, turned the puree a lovely golden-rosy color.  I think this is a great way to introduce beets to those who don’t really like beets–the apples and the caramelized onions sweeten and temper the earthiness of the beets.  As mentioned by The Silver Palate, this goes well served hot with pork, duck or goose, or cold with grilled sausages.

Beet & Apple Pureé adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Makes approximately 2 cups

  • 2 medium beets, washed and green tops removed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 medium Granny Smith or any other tart apple
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fruity and/or sweet vinegar, such as raspberry, balsamic, etc.
  • Salt to taste
  1. Put beets in saucepan, cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, turn heat down to medium, and simmer beets until tender, about 30-40 minutes.
  2. While beets are simmering, melt butter in large skillet on medium-low heat and add onions.  Gently cook onions until tender and beginning to caramelize, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add apples, sugar and vinegar and cook until apples are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. When beets are ready, cool until they can be handled and slip off skins, chop roughly and put into a food processor.  Add apple-onion mixture with a pinch of salt to food processor and pulse until smooth.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed;  serve warm or cold as desired.

 

Next up, is a Chard Gratin with bacon and chèvre (of course there’s bacon, I hear you say).  Now, I do like chard, but I usually do a simple braise in chicken stock and garlic or a basic sauté with olive oil and a little lemon juice.  This time, I was ready to branch out, and I found inspiration at Oui, Chef with his Rainbow Chard and Chévre Casserole and through my friend, Sonya, who told me about her way of making chard (bacon, goat cheese, and tons of slow cooked garlic and onions. YUM. Sometimes I crack an egg on it and call it breakfast).

I did have to tweak it since I was working with what I had, and what I didn’t have was chicken stock (I desperately need to make a batch soon), and what basil I have I’m holding on to for making tomato soup tomorrow.  What I did have was bacon, and bacon and greens are a match made in heaven.  You guys, this is ridiculously good and if you can’t stand the idea of chard, but like spinach, that would be a perfectly acceptable substitute.  I actually made a double batch of the sauce and saved half for my spinach later this week, because it’s just that good if you love chévre.

One problem with the changing seasons is that it’s now dark when we sit down for dinner–and my notoriously not-very-well-lit living room is making photography a challenge.  Even with playing around with GIMP, my pictures are looking like they’re straight out of a 60′s cookbook.

Chard Gratin with Bacon & Chévre

Serves 4

  • 1 pound Rainbow Chard
  • 4 ounces bacon, diced
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, diced fine (appx. 1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup half & half (more if needed to thin sauce)
  • 4 ounces chévre, crumbled
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Butter, as needed
  1. Wash and chop chard; remove stalks first and chop into 1/2″ pieces, then cut leaves into 1″ strips (or if you want to be fancy, you can say chiffonade).  In a saucepan, add 1 cup water with a hefty pinch of salt and bring to a hard simmer.  Add stalks and simmer uncovered for 4-5 minutes.  Add leaves, simmer for 2 more minutes, then cover saucepan and remove from heat; let steam for 6-8 minutes.  Drain chard in colander and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet on medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, then remove and drain on paper towels.  Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, turn heat to low, and add onion and garlic.  Cook until onion is glossy and translucent and lightly browned.
  3. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook roux for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add half & half, and whisk until smooth and thickened.  Add chévre and stir until melted.  Season as needed with salt and pepper.
  5. Butter a small casserole dish and spread chard in casserole.  Sprinkle with bacon then top with sauce.
  6. Place casserole under broiler on low setting and broil until sauce is browned and bubbling, about 6 to 8 minutes.

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Here in L.A., we’ve finally had some real, honest-to-god Fall weather hit the area, after last week’s crazy record-breaking heatwave.  Grey skies!  Drizzle!  Chilly nights!  I can’t tell you how much I love this kind of weather, and it really gets me to thinking about the perfect Autumn dishes.  Some of my favorite foods and flavors are synonymous with this time of year:  roasted turkey, sage, pumpkin, apples, cranberries… sounds a whole lot like Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

I’ve had a few acorn squash and a bag of wild rice hanging around for a while waiting for inspiration to hit, and today, while digging through my cupboards, I had the perfect combination of flavors to stuff into roasted squash.  A filling made with a little bacon, some chicken sausage, sweetened with dried figs and made earthy with sage and chopped hazelnuts, all tossed into cooked wild rice;  after the Kiddo and I had our fill, Choo finished it all, with no hope for leftovers.

Note:  The usual ratio for cooking wild rice is 4 cups liquid to 1 cup of rice, and when I simmered the rice for the recommended 45 minutes, the rice was perfectly cooked, but I ended up straining off about 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth.  If I had let it simmer much longer, the rice would have been mush–when you purchase your wild rice, follow the given directions on the package.  Also, if you’re not a big fan of wild rice, brown rice or quinoa would work nicely as a substitute.

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice, Sausage, Dried Fig and Hazelnut Stuffing

  • 2 large acorn squash
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups low-salt chicken broth (or less, if needed)
  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 ounces bacon, diced
  • 3 links chicken or turkey Italian sausage (sweet or hot, to your preference), appx. 10 ounces
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, rubbed
  • 9 dried Black Mission figs, appx 1/4 cup (cranberries would also be excellent if you don’t like figs)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add chicken broth, thyme, and bay leaf  and on medium-heat bring to a full boil.
  3. While waiting for the broth to boil, wash, halve squash lengthwise, and scoop out seeds.  Cover sheet pan with foil and grease with olive oil.  Rub olive oil on the insides of the squash and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place cut side down on sheet pan and roast in oven until fork tender, about 40-50 minutes.  About 30 minutes of roasting, turn squash cut side up to get some color on the inside.  Set aside when done.
  4. When broth comes to a boil, add wild rice and cover.  Simmer for about 45 minutes, until tender.
  5. In a large sauté pan, cook bacon on medium heat until well-browned.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Keep about 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the pan.
  6. Remove sausage from casing and cook thoroughly, and break into small crumbles.
  7. Add shallots, celery and sage; sweat until glossy and tender.
  8. When wild rice is done, combine with sausage mixture, figs, hazelnuts, bacon, and 1 tablespoon parsley.
  9. Scoop stuffing into squash halves, top with remaining parsley.

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I can’t believe it’s been a month since I’ve written a post–Kiddo started Kindergarten and we’re all still adjusting to the changes in our schedules.  It finally feels like things are falling into place, as it takes me about two weeks for my body to work out new sleep/waking times, and now that it seems like we have an idea of what we’re doing, I’m ready to get back to life–and to cooking and blogging!

To start things off this time, this article from the NY Times is, well, I’d say astounding, but it’s not, really.  Granted, I’m not perfect and there are days I don’t get those 9 servings of fruits and vegetables that’s now recommended  (that’s 4 1/2 cups, which is not as much as you’d expect), but I certainly try.  I get it’s a struggle sometimes–and there are days when sitting down to a burger and fries just sounds so much tastier than a plate of steamed broccoli and a side salad.  But, the attitude towards vegetables has to change, as they can be easier than you might think, and they can be darned tasty, too.

And, listen, if it takes pulling out the big guns to get you to eat your vegetables, I think you should do it.  I was ready to face an old enemy of my childhood:

Brussels sprouts.  Oh, I have sad, angry memories of these little guys, steamed to a greyish-green mush, with no butter or salt allowed (because it would have rendered them unhealthy, you see?).  I couldn’t look one in the eye for years. But, this morning at the farmer’s market, they caught Choo’s eye, and he challenged me to take brussels sprouts and make them into something good.

And you know what makes just about anything taste better?  Yeah, you guessed it:  BACON.

I found this bag of bacon pieces at Vallarta Market–3 pounds of bacon for $3.99–about what you’d pay for a pound of your regularly sliced bacon.  It’s absolutely perfect for when most of your bacon consumption happens not strip-by-strip, but when it’s chopped up and added to things.   And, there will be many things over the next few weeks that will be chock-full o’ bacon, you betcha.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Makes 6-8 side dish servings

  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium onion, cut to small dice
  • 1 3/4 pounds brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (halve the large sprouts)
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Over medium flame, heat a large skillet.  Add bacon, and cook until browned.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.
  2. Add onion to bacon drippings, and cook 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add brussels sprouts and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Pour in stock, cover pan, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until brussels sprouts are tender.
  4. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with reserved bacon.

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Scene:  My kitchen, Sunday, 8:12 AM.  Germany kicking the snot out of England plays in the background.

I’m rummaging through the fridge, noting we’re down on just about anything worth eating on a Sunday morning… a few pieces of bacon, only two eggs, no potatoes…

“Choo, I have an idea for breakfast.”

“Yes?”

“How about bacon waffles?”

Choo’s eyes light up like I just announced I discovered the secret to life itself as he nods, reverently.

Crispy bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, cornmeal, and just a bit of brown sugar to add a hint of sweetness:  this created one heck of a waffle.  You know how I know it was good?  Kiddo ate three of them.

A few notes:  I list melted butter as an ingredient, but, you know, if you wanted to use some of the bacon fat leftover from cooking, I promise I’m not going to say a word.  I’ll just say it was worth the substitution.  Also, if you’d prefer to use buttermilk rather than the yogurt/milk combination that I used (which only came about by my not having any buttermilk in the house and having yogurt that needed to be consumed), you would have my approval.  Not like you need it, but I’m sure you feel better by having it.

The Bacon, Cheddar & Cornmeal Waffle

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or bacon fat)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
  • 6 pieces cooked bacon, crispy and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, eggs, yogurt and milk; add to dry ingredients and stir until ingredients are blended, with no dry streaks.
  3. Fold in bacon and cheese, and let batter rest for 15 minutes before cooking.
  4. Cook in waffle iron as per manufacturer’s instructions.

This made 13 4 x 4 waffles, and the great thing is that waffles freeze well, so don’t fret about leftovers–make your Monday morning a little brighter by having some of these for breakfast!

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You know, I have a surfeit of bacon fat in my fridge–I keep it every time we make bacon for breakfast, and with the exception of using a spoonful now and again when I sauté vegetables, I don’t really use it.  I wanted an interesting way to get rid of it as Lent is on its way and since I’ll be going meatless for 40 days, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to have it hanging around until April. 

I don’t know exactly what led me to making shortbread, but I’m glad I did it.  My favorite recipe for shortbread happens to come from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery–I did a little tweak in that I replaced half of the butter with some of that bacon fat to add that smoky-savory flavoring to the cookies.  Bacon fat has a tendency to be softer than butter, so the dough was a bit soft to work with, but not so much that it wasn’t a real issue.  With a little glaze made of powdered sugar, maple syrup and a bit of milk, and a generous sprinkling of finely chopped candied bacon, I ended up with this:

I think the next time I do this cookie, I may add a bit of chopped cooked bacon to the dough and perhaps add a bit of maple extract to the glaze to punch up the maple flavor in the glaze–it’s just a thin bit of glaze so it’s really only a hint of maple here.   As for the candied bacon, I think I would bake them for another minute or two in the oven, as the bits are still a bit chewy, and I’d rather have the crunch–but they’re otherwise perfect taste-wise.  The texture is fantastic with the right amount of crumble like a good shortbread.  I used a 1″ round cutter for a wee little button of a cookie; the picture I had in my mind from the start was to have a little delicate bite-sized rounds, and I don’t think I could do them any other way.  But, I could see someone else going the thicker bar or wedge route–those, in my opinion, would definitely require the addition of chopped bacon in the dough. 

Bacon Maple Shortbread

Shortbread

1/2 cup cold bacon fat

1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. With an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat bacon fat, butter, and sugars together on medium for 3-4 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the flour in three batches, blending on low until flour is just combined with each batch, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  3. Turn out dough onto floured surface, press into a disc and wrap with plastic.  Chill until firm, for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine).
  4. Preheat oven to 350°
  5. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4″ thick.  Cut rounds with 1″ cookie cutter and place on parchment-lined sheet pans.  Pierce cookies with a fork (twice, parallel to each other–gives it a “button” look).
  6. Place sheet pans into refrigerator for about 20 minutes until dough is cold and firm.
  7. Place sheet pans into oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden. 
  8. Slide onto wire cooling rack and let cool completely before glazing.

Candied Bacon

6 slices bacon, cut into 1″ strips

1/4 cup brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 400° and line sheet pan with foil.
  2. Toss bacon pieces in brown sugar, coating both sides.  Place pieces on foil.
  3. Bake  12-15 minutes, turning over halfway through.
  4. When bacon is dark and glazed-looking, remove from sheet pan and drain on brown/butcher paper (it will stick to paper towels).
  5. When cool, chop finely and set aside. 

Maple Glaze

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons whole milk

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, syrup, and milk until smooth.
  2. Pour, spoon, or brush glaze onto cookies.
  3. While glaze is still wet, sprinkle finely chopped candied bacon on top, and let glaze set. 

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I thought I had everything.

You know what I mean–you have an idea of what you’re going to make, and while you’re at the store, you’re picking everything you need, with the thought in mind that you already have one of the key ingredients at home.  You get home, and find that the ingredient you were sure you had isn’t there.

With the cooler weather finally taking root here, my thoughts turned to a creamy corn chowder, flavored with red peppers and bacon, and loaded with big, meaty pieces of shrimp.  I get home from the market, with everything I thought I needed for the chowder in tow.  I get the bacon cooking in the pot while I start chopping vegetables, and I bend down to retrieve a few potatoes from their storage drawer, and to my surprise, they were all gone!  It seems that Choo has taken a liking to making baked potatoes for his lunch, and I was completely out.

Now, see, it’s not a tragedy, because it certainly was a fine soup, but I can’t call it chowder.  Why?  One of our lessons in school was on chowders, and for a soup to be a true chowder, it must contain three items:

  1. Salt pork.  Traditionally, it’s fatback, but bacon works just fine.
  2. Dairy, either in milk or cream, or a combination of the two.
  3. Potatoes.

Ah, you see?

But it’s still a really good soup.

By the way, this recipe makes a rather big pot of soup, but this was even better the next day for lunches, and it freezes nicely.

Creamy Corn, Shrimp & Bacon Soup

1/2 pound of bacon, chopped

1 pound raw shrimp (medium-sized, 31-40), peeled and deveined

1 medium onion, small dice

1 red bell pepper, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds corn kernels (frozen is just fine in this case)

4-5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2 1/2 cups chicken stock ( a little more if you like it a bit soupier)

1 cup half & half

Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, cook bacon until crispy over medium heat.  Remove bacon and set aside; drain all but 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat from pot.
  2. In the remaining bacon fat, sauté shrimp until pink and flesh is firm, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to pot, and sweat until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add corn, then add thyme, bay leaf, and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and add half & half.
  6. Before bringing soup back to a full simmer, either use an immersion blender and give the soup a few pulses, or take about 2 cups of the soup and puree in a blender, and return to pot.
  7. Bring soup to a full simmer, and add bacon and shrimp.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.

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After the soup and gougères, we still had several courses to go.

For our main course, I had heard a rumor of a Nigella Lawson recipe of a brandy and bacon chicken–a quick search online found the recipe, which, to be honest, had left me a little underwhelmed.  Still, it was a great inspiration, and used that as an idea to work into my own.  I started with a half-cup apple juice and a cinnamon stick in a skillet, and simmered that for a few minutes until the apple juice had reduced by half.  I poured in about a quarter cup of Calvados and set it aflame–one of the BEST parts of cooking!  Controlled fire!–and let it burn off all the alcohol.  One the flame was gone, I whisked in about 4 tablespoons worth of bacon fat, and I had something of a lovely, apple-ish, bacon-ish glaze for chicken.

bday2a

I stuffed the cavity of the chicken with an apple half, and a few sprigs each of fresh sage and thyme.  The skin was rubbed down with salt and pepper, and spooned the Calvados glaze all over the skin. The chicken was roasted at 400° for a little over an hour–I didn’t really time the chicken since I had a digital thermometer in the thigh to tell me when it hit 165°.  Because of the residual sugars from the juice, the chicken did need to be tented with foil to keep the skin from burning.

Now, this was where I was a bad, bad food blogger and forgot to take a picture of the chicken when it came out of the oven;  this makes me sad because it was an absolutely gorgeous mahogany color when it was finished.  I did, however, take a picture of a main course plate:

bday2b

We served that chicken with Cauliflower Gratin and Haricot Verts sauteéd in bacon and shallots.

I have to admit, I need to work on the recipe for the gratin (else I’d share it with you);  it came out kind of wet–it was still remarkably tasty, but the recipe needs some tweaking.

Haricot Verts with Shallots and Bacon

serves 4 as a side dish

3/4 pound fresh haricot vert (French green beans; regular green beans can be used), washed and stem ends trimmed

4 strips bacon

1 medium shallot, finely diced

  1. Steam or blanch beans to partially cook and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon strips until crispy and remove from pan to drain.  Leave bacon drippings in pan.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and add shallots.  Cook until glossy; toss in beans and cook until fork-tender, about 3-5 minutes.

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