Archive for May, 2009

Bacon cooking adventure #2 – bacon-wrapped dates

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

So this past weekend I cooked up a bacon appetizer for a fancy dinner party that I was going to – bacon-wrapped dates, with Balinese long pepper. It was a huge hit!  And super easy to make. The only potential hard part is, you need to get your hands on the ingredients.

I found some large, appetizing-looking dates at my local grocery store. And since I’m lucky enough to live near Zingerman’s, I went to the Deli and bought a half-pound of Broadbent’s dry-cured bacon, sliced thickly. But then when I asked the Deli dry-goods person where the Balinese long pepper was in the store, he replied that they were out! And that it’s hard to keep it in stock. Oops. But fortunately, they did have a sample box still, and since I only needed a few of the large, oddly shaped long pepper corns, I was able to get enough to make my dish for the party with. Whew.

Dates

I went home with my haul, and made an appetizer for 8 in only half an hour. First I pitted the dates. Then with a large knife, held very carefully so I could not cut myself, I managed to chop the inch-long, rock hard long pepper somewhat into strips, or at least small pieces when the strips broke up. The long pepper is very spicy, so I did not want the pieces to be too large. It is spicy in a very aromatic, flowery kind of way though – not just hot. Very much worth trying.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Then I put a couple of slivers/pieces into my pitted dates – roughly in a line the length of the date, so that if you ate the date in 2-3 bites you’d still get some long pepper in each bite. Then wrapped each date with a half slice of Broadbent’s bacon, stuck a toothpick through in whatever way seemed like it was most likely to hold together. And broiled them for about 10-12 minutes and turned them once.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

The toothpicks got a bit charred but none burst into flame so that was good. Some of the smaller ones were done before the largest, so I took them out in three or so batches. I let them cool for 15 minutes and we ate them warm. I’m not a bit sweets fan, I go for savory over sweet in general, but this was a perfect combo of the sweet dates, the flowery/spicy/crunchy long pepper, and the salty-bacon-ey Broadbent bacon. We each ate our two dates and looked around hoping there might be a few more hidden somewhere! The recipe from the book follows.

BACON DATES from pages 165-66, Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon

Taking our passion for bacon a tad bit beyond the now-standard allusions to love and sex, it seems reasonable to go ahead and actually make a real life “date with bacon,” don’t you think? That said, I guess this recipe really is a literal as well as figurative date with bacon (or, actually, if you prepare the whole recipe, 16 dates with bacon). Of course there’s really no limit, since you can multiply the recipe as many times as you like.

Bacon dates are a great little appetizer and extremely easy to make. If you’re up for a “double date” you could serve it for dessert, too—I’ve never thought of using the same dish to both start and end a supper before, but given Americans’ fondness for bacon it sort of makes sense to bacon-end the meal. I love the organic dates from Four Apostles in Bermuda Dunes, California. The sweet smokiness of the bacon with the buttery richness of their ripe dates and the spice of the long pepper gives this finger food a great bit of balance in its flavors.

Ingredients:
16 dates, pitted
8 slices bacon (we prefer these with the Broadbent bacon), cut in half crosswise
4 whole Balinese long peppers, quartered lengthwise

Procedure:
Heat the broiler.
Stuff each date with a sliver of long pepper, then wrap with a half-slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place the bacon-wrapped dates on a baking sheet and broil 10 to 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp, turning once. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
Remove from the oven once the bacon is done, let cool for a couple of minutes and serve while still warm.


2009 Ann Arbor Book Fair

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Zingerman’s Press had its first public appearance on Saturday, May 16th, with a booth at the Ann Arbor Book Fair! And it was the unveiling of the Anarchist Edition of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, which an intrepid crew of Zingerman’s folk had hand-made on Wednesday night. There were 170 numbered and signed copies of the Anarchist Edition, of which more than three-fourths were already spoken for, and the remaining few dozen we sold at the fair. The Bacon Farm Bread from Zingerman’s Bakeshop, and the Sumatran coffee from Zingerman’s Catering, were both extremely popular with our booth visitors.

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Assembly party, Anarchist Edition of the Guide to Better Bacon

Monday, May 18th, 2009

It was a fun collection of folks who came together Wednesday night, for a three-hour book assembly party of the Anarchist Edition of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon. Some people I had not even met before! There was a lot of laughing and chatting while we all measured, glued, numbered, tied and boxed. It was a great feeling to have all these folks come and help out and support Zingerman’s Press. And it came out really well, too. The Anarchist Edition was dedicated to Jan Longone, a culinary historian who lives in Ann Arbor and who donated a huge collection of cookbooks and other historical culinary material to the Clements Museum – she and her husband came and helped us put together the books!

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T-shirts! Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon book

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Now you can order your own Guide to Better Bacon t-shirt!


Bacon cooking adventure #1, Cornmeal Cush

Friday, May 15th, 2009

A very simple recipe, and it was a really tasty one-dish brunch all on its own, albeit with a beverage on the side of hot coffee with steamed milk. (The full recipe from Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon is below.)

I didn’t have Anson Mills cornmeal, but I did have a really good Italian cornmeal courtesy of Zingerman’s Mail Order. I used Edward’s Bacon from Zingerman’s Deli. I had a bit more bacon than I needed for the recipe, so I baked a few slices in the oven too, to just have on hand.

The recipe calls for chopping and frying the slices of bacon. And the first and most important thing I learned, is that Edward’s bacon cooks a lot faster than standard supermarket bacon! I almost overcooked it in both cooking methods. But not quite. Still rescue-able and extremely tasty. But a very good thing to remember – reset your default bacon-cooking-time assumptions, if you have them in your head like I did! Perhaps this’ll be true for all the artisanal bacons, I don’t know. Or maybe just all the dry-cured ones? I plan to make my way through plenty of bacon recipes so I’ll find out!

Cooking the cornmeal for the suggested time of an hour was a good thing, it really did get creamier. (I was too hungry to let it cook more than an hour.) When I tasted it while cooking, the bacon flavor from stirring the cornmeal into the bacon fat in the pan, was excellent. (I did not have a bacon chunk so I just used all slices.) And then topping off the cornmeal cooked in the bacon fat and water, with the bits of crunchy fried bacon goodness – mm mmm. Last, I deviated from the recipe again by pouring just a bit of real maple syrup over the top of my bowl – I love bacon with syrup – I thought that bit of maple sweetness melded nicely with the corn and bacon flavors. My partner ate his straight. We both devoured our bowls.

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Cornmeal Cush, page 197, Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, by Ari Weinzweig

The name is likely a contraction of “cornmeal” and “mush,” and the dish is simple but delicious. It’s an old-time Southern approach to cornmeal that’s just a slight twist on the basic recipe for mush, but will get you a more bacon-y bowl of goodness.

Ingredients:
4 ounces sliced bacon (about 2 to 3 slices), chopped
2 ounces bacon, in a single chunk
4 cups water
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup Anson Mills stone-ground cornmeal (or any other really good cornmeal you care to use)
Freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper to taste

Procedure:

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Fry both the chopped and chunk bacon in a heavy 6-quart stockpot until the chopped bacon is done and the chunk is crisp on the outside.

Cornmeal

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan and add a teaspoon or so of salt. When the bacon is done, remove it and reduce the heat to medium low. Add the cornmeal to the bacon fat, stirring steadily so it doesn’t burn or stick. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add a bit of the water and stir immediately to make a paste.

Cooking cornmeal

Add more water, stirring until well blended with the cornmeal. Continue until all the water has been added. Bring to a slight boil, stir well, and turn heat to low.

Add the bacon chunk back into the pan, stir again and cover. Cook the cush for at least an hour, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking. When you’re ready to serve, remove the bacon chunk from the pot. Chop it into small pieces and heat it along with the reserved bacon pieces in a skillet until crisp.

Cornmeal Cush

Spoon the cush into warm bowls, pour the bacon over the top and serve with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 to 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a side dish