Tag Archives: bacon

BLT Salad with Avocado and Grilled Croutons

BLT salad view

Bacon-ends: contemplate that. I spied a bag of bacon ends at the farmers market and had to examine. The bag was hefty, lumpy, and thick with triangular hunks of bacon mounded in vacuum packed togetherness. Bacon indeed, but not the typical neatly fanned skinny slices. You see, when those tidy OCD sliced packages are created, all irregular knobs and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket packaged perfection. I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers, evoking food craving delirium. Of course I bought them.

BLT saladBLT Salad with Bacon Ends, Avocado and Croutons
Serves 4 as a main course salad

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of levain or ciabbata bread
Salt

Dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 large head red leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large hass avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400°F for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1-inch chunks and arrange  on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
2. Toss the bread in the rendered fat and lightly season with salt. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed. Set aside.
3. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Scatter the bacon and croutons over the salad and drizzle with additional dressing to taste. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Carbonara

Asparagus Carbonara TasteFood

Just grill it – in a skillet. My favorite cooking vessel is my cast iron skillet. Not only is it versatile in the kitchen, it’s handy on the grill. When it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen, I move outdoors and use my grill as an oven and a stovetop, and my cast iron skillet becomes a grill pan. Last night I made a simple carbonara pasta dish on the grill. Carbonara is the Italian version of chicken soup – a supremely comforting meal for all ages – consisting of pasta and bacon whisked with a slick sauce of eggs and cheese. It’s a family favorite year round, which I like to lighten up with seasonal vegetables.

If you use a gas grill, prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. The pasta may be boiled on the grill in a grill-proof pot (most are), and the bacon and asparagus may be prepared in a cast iron skillet. Alternatively, use your stove!

Asparagus Carbonara
Serves 4

The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs when mixing. Be sure to do this away from the direct heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound orecchiette

3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon in batches in a large skillet (or on a griddle) over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, break into small pieces. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet.
2. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente; drain.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the asparagus, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute over medium heat until the asparagus are bright and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orecchiette and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add the bacon to the skillet and stir once more.
5. Serve immediately garnished with black pepper and grated cheese.

What’s for dinner: Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Sweet Peas

carbonara tastefood

There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of pasta carbonara, the Roman answer to comfort food, with an egg-rich creamy cheesy sauce studded with crispy bacon and, in this recipe, sweet peas. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Simple Suppers: Pasta with Bacon and Arugula

bacon arugula pasta tastefood

Friday Night Pasta – Spaghetti, Bacon, Arugula, Cheese

The busier I get, the more I crave simplicity. And the busier I get, the more elusive simplicity becomes. It’s time to take charge. While I might not be able to simplify my calendar or clear my work load with the snap of my fingers, and how I  wish I could simplify my clothes closet and garage storage with a Bewitching wiggle of my nose  – I can at least simplify my dinner. In fact, simple dinners are often the best. Minimal, fresh and light, composed in less than 30 minutes, these dinners do not skimp on flavor, and offer require double portions, because they taste so good. Many Italian recipes fall into this category. This recipe takes inspiration from Cacio e Pepe, the humble Roman dish consisting of pasta, olive oil, cheese and cracked pepper, glistening with reserved pasta water. Of course, since I can at best call myself a sometimes-simplifier, I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more ingredients for good measure. No one will argue with bacon, is my bet.

Spaghetti with Bacon and Arugula

I used spaghetti, because that’s what I had on hand. Bucatini or gemelli would work well, too. Serves 4.

8 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 to 3 cups fresh arugula

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp and golden. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from the skillet. Add the breadcrumbs, salt and black pepper. Toast over medium heat until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then add 1/4 cup Parmigiano and stir to blend.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than package instructions for al dente. Scoop out and reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain the pasta.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup reserved water, the pasta, 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Pecorino to the pan, stirring and tossing constantly to melt the cheese and evenly coat the pasta. (If too thick, add additional water a little at a time to reach desired consistency). Remove from heat. Add the bacon, half of the breadcrumbs, and the arugula; toss to warm through. Serve immediately with remaining breadcrumbs sprinkled over the pasta.

Carbonara

carbonara tastefood

~ Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas ~

If there is an Italian equivalent to the classic Jewish chicken soup, then I think it would be Pasta Carbonara. You can’t get more comforting than a deep bowl of noodles slicked with an egg-rich cheesy sauce redolent of bacon. The optional addition of sweet peas to carbonara is essential in my opinion. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic and red pepper flakes  and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Pasta with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pasta tf

Are you looking for ways to get your family to eat brussels sprouts? This recipe may do the trick – with a little help from bacon. Fresh yet hearty, full of healthy crucifers and dotted with crispy bacon, this simple dinner is perfect for an autumn weeknight.

Pasta with Bacon and Brussel Sprouts

Cauliflower or broccoli may be substituted for the brussels sprouts.

Serves 4.

1 pound orrechiette or conchiglie pasta

1/2 pound bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound brussels sprouts, halved (quartered if large)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from skillet. Add the brussels sprouts and saute until they are crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the chicken stock. Continue to cook until the brussels sprouts are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until thickened to a sauce consistency, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper and check for seasoning.
Add the brussels sprouts, bacon and cheese to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve with extra cheese on the side.

Adult Spaghettio’s: Anelletti with Bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

~ Anelletti, Bacon, Sweet Potato, Peas, Sage, Parmigiano ~

This recipe is a celebration of bacon. Not just any bacon, but a wedge of my own home-cured bacon: a wicked habit I developed after a year of making my own charcuterie courtesy of Charcutepalooza. Since then, I always have a stash of bacon on hand, portioned from a hefty slab I cure every few months.

Once again I found myself this week at the dinner hour when I hadn’t shopped and the refrigerator was bare. (How does this happen when I cook and write about food?)  In this situation, an easy improvised pasta dinner is on the menu. Naturally, I reached for a hunk of bacon, cubed and fried it, rendering a slick of fat. Normally I would discard the fat and proceed from there, but since it was my own bacon, I wasn’t ready to part with it, preferring to celebrate it somehow, so I dumped a chopped sweet potato unearthed from the vegetable bin into the pan, frying the potato until glistening and tender. Not quite finished, I gave a few semi-wilted sage leaves a reprieve (I said my refrigerator was empty) and fried them until crisp. Now I was ready to discard the bacon fat, all but a tablespoon, which I used to sauté a little garlic and and a handful of peas just long enough to release the garlic’s aroma and brighten the peas.  Then all of the ingredients, redolent with bacon, converged in a bowl with a wonderful pasta I discovered in my pantry, smuggled home from a long-ago trip to Italy. I call them adult spaghettio’s.  Continue Reading Anelletti with bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

Home-cured Bacon and a review of Alexian Pate

~ Brined Pork Belly ~

It’s been over a year since I started to post homemade charcuterie on TasteFood. One of my favorite recipes – and easiest – is the home-cured pork belly, aka bacon, which I continue to do on a regular basis. I am here to say, that you – any of you – can do this too, and that once you try it, there will be no going back. Not only are the results positively swoon-worthy, the process is ridiculously simple. You only need to plan ahead.

Home-Cured Pork Belly

Five pounds sounds like a lot of meat, but the bacon is easy to freeze and a welcome gift for your bacon-loving friends. Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine.

5 pounds pork belly with skin
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Rinse the pork and dry. Lay on a large sheet of parchment paper. Combine salt, sugar, peppercorns and bay leaves in a mortar or spice grinder. Coarsely pound or grind. Mix in the garlic. Smear the spices all over the pork. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag, turning to distribute the spices. Place on a rimmed baking tray and refrigerate for 7 days, flipping the bag every second day.
After 7 days the pork should feel firm to the touch. (If not, refrigerate an additional day and check again). Remove the bacon from the bag and thoroughly rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Heat oven to 200 F. Place bacon in a rectangular baking pan and roast until the meat is brown and an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 150 F., about 3 hours.
Transfer the bacon to a cutting board. Slice off the skin with a long, thin knife. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to refrigerator. Cut in portions and wrap in plastic. Bacon will keep in refrigerator for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

See? Easy to make. All that you need is time to plan ahead for a week of letting the meat brine in the refrigerator. Admittedly, we don’t always have time for such a project, and when a go-to specialty product comes across my radar for easy use, I am interested. So it felt a bit like Christmas when I recently received a box from Alexian Pate and Specialty Meats filled with an assortment of pates, rillette and terrines.  On the heels of a year of Charcutepalooza posts on TasteFood, it must have been evident that I love charcuterie. When Alexian reached out to me and asked if I would like to try a sample selection of their all-natural delicacies, it was hard for me to resist.

As most of you know, I rarely do product reviews. It’s not so much out of principle, but more that I rarely come across products which genuinely excite me. Call me picky, I prefer my products authentic and my ingredients to be fresh and natural – especially when it comes to meat. So, Alexian caught my attention. Their charcuterie are all-natural, with no chemical preservatives, fillers, additives and colors, and their meats are free of antibiotics and growth stimulants. They are a family run business, and “A Certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise” to boot, with their traditions dating back to Germany’s 17th century. With that resume, I was quite impressed and eager to taste a sampling of their specialties.

When the box arrived, it indeed felt like Christmas.  We have happily indulged in Duck Liver Mousse with Cognac, a rustic and hearty Pheasant Rosemary Pate, unctuous award winning Duck Rillettes, and a silky Truffled Mousse flecked with mushrooms and laced with sherry.

The flavors of the products reflected the company philosophy. They were fresh with a clean taste of meat and no lingering gaminess. The Truffled Mousse was the family favorite, smooth, creamy and delicately perfumed with truffle. Each package came with a shelf life of at least 56 days, enabling us to savor and enjoy each item over several weeks, pulling them out for an easy rustic dinner of cheese and pate or as an appetizer while entertaining. I will continue to make my own charcuterie when I want a project. When I want a go-to specialty meat product I won’t hesitate to buy Alexian.

If you are looking for other charcuterie projects, you might enjoy these recicpes from TasteFood:
Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a Recipe for Apple Prune Chutney
Homemade Bratwurst and a Recipe for Beer Mustard
Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta
Homemade Merguez

Full disclosure: I received the Alexian products free of charge. The opinions I have written are entirely my own.

Home-Cured Pork Belly and a Recipe for Caramelized Bacon Chips

I was tempted to call this post The Girl and the Pig, because, you see, I am hooked on bacon. More specifically, I am hooked on my own home-cured bacon. Prompted by the latest Charcutepalooza challenge, I cured 6 pounds of pork belly with a savory rub of salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic. Sounds like a simple blend, yet when left to marinate and cure over a week, this basic recipe yielded swoon-worthy results.  For my first attempt, I pointedly avoided using lots of sugar or smoking the bacon. I wanted a savory result undistracted by excessive sweetness or the aroma of smoke: I wanted to taste the real deal, and it was worth it.

What to do with 6 pounds of home-cured bacon? (Oh, to be so lucky to have that problem.)  So far, I’ve eaten quite a bit, frozen half and given some away. Normally, I use bacon as an ingredient in salads, stews and pasta dishes, but this bacon is so good, I only want to eat it straight up, fried in a skillet or baked in the oven. So, in the spirit of simplicity, I decided to caramelize bacon chips, roasting them in the oven with spices and the previously forsaken sugar.  Sweet, salty, crispy and spicy – the results were utterly decadent. Now the question begs:  Is this a dessert, snack, condiment or food group? I say all of the above.

Caramelized Bacon Chips

If you can stand it, let the bacon chips thoroughly cool once removed from the oven. They will continue to crispen as they cool.

1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
12 ounces thinly sliced bacon, cut in 2 inch strips

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)  Pour sugar onto a small plate. Dredge bacon in sugar, making sure that a good amount sticks. Lay bacon in a single layer on a grill pan. Sprinkle with cayenne and cinnamon.  Bake in oven until deep golden brown, without burning, turning once with a spatula, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer bacon to a plate lined with parchment paper. Cool completely.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and now partnering with Food52. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie. 

 

Spaghetti with Bacon, Breadcrumbs and Arugula


Spaghetti with Bacon, Breadcrumbs and Arugula

There are many ways to face the winter doldrums. You know, that time when there is a lull in season and activities. The bang of New Year has passed, and winter lays ahead, blustery, chilly and gray. Call it the post-holiday blues. Or, more optimistically, call it a clean slate. It’s all good. A little down time is healthy for us, offering a window to focus inward and reflect. It’s a priceless moment of stillness before the year accelerates in its usual fashion. Enjoy that moment and its simple pleasures. Listen to the silence of the snowfall, brew a pot of tea, walk the dog. And when you’re cooking, be sure to include bacon. Bacon always helps.

Spaghetti with Bacon and Arugula

Serves 4

12 ounces applewood smoked bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese
3 cups arugula, washed and dried

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté until fat is rendered and bacon is golden brown. Transfer with slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but one tablespoon fat. Add breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Sauté until breadcrumbs are golden. Transfer to a small bowl.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl.
While pasta is cooking, add one tablespoon olive oil to a clean skillet or saucepan. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add cream and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the cream. Pour cream over pasta. Add bacon, arugula and half of the cheese. Toss to combine. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and remaining cheese over pasta and briefly toss. Serve immediately.