Posts Tagged ‘dry-cured’

New Year’s Eve – Benedictine with Bacon

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

We throw a New Year’s Eve party every year, and while our guests bring lovely snacks to share we always make some too to seed the food table with. This year of course I decided mine should be bacon-based. So, I chose the Benedictine with Bacon recipe from the Bacon book.

But first, I also made one of my favorites that I’ve blogged about before – the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with a sliver of Balinese long pepper. But this time I cut the dates in half, and used 1/3 slice of Broadbent’s bacon per half-date (although I should say, Broadbent’s slices are very long, so with a standard piece of bacon you may need half a slice per rather than a third of a slice). This way I could make a lot more of them. I used the full amount of long pepper in each half though – I love long pepper! And my guests seemed to as well. They were a big hit. Here’s an in-progress photo:

minibaconwrappeddates

On to the Benedictine. Here’s my ingredients:

benedictineingredients

I decided to make a double recipe, but I didn’t need to – had plenty left over. Happily it tasted just as good the next day though.  I did make three variations, just in that I used regular bread for some, gluten-free bread for some, and for some I did not put the bacon on top, for the party go-ers who don’t eat pork. (The vegetarian ones were the only kind I had left near the end of the party – all the bacon-topped ones were snapped up fast!)

First you peel and de-seed the cucumbers. This always seems a bit odd, in that it seems like you’re getting rid of most of the cucumber when you take out all the “guts”, but these cukes were large and really there was plenty left.

cukes

Then I grated the cucumber, and put it in a sieve and squeezed out the water. And chopped up some onion.

gratedcukes

The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, for 1 cucumber and 10 oz of cream cheese. I was using two cukes and 20 oz of cream cheese, but decided to hold the line at 2 tablespoons of onion and I’m glad I did – that was plenty. Maybe my onion was extra powerful. But anyway, then I put the onion, cucumber, and 20 ounces of Zingerman’s Creamery cream cheese in the food processor and blended it til smooth, and then scooped it out into a bowl, ground in some fresh pepper, and probably 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt. (I’m a salt fiend.)

cukesncreamcheese

Then put it in the fridge for a couple hours. During that time, I cooked 8 slices of Broadbent’s bacon, on a rack in the oven, at 350 F, for 20 minutes or so. I watch it closely, since I’ve overcooked Broadbent’s before. It is a dry-cured bacon so has less water than conventional bacon, and cooks faster I find. And its a bit deceptive in how it looks, too – it gets stiff and dry when overdone, but doesn’t look burned, so in order to tell if its done I’m looking at both the color and the flexibility – I want to take it out while it still has some bend to it.

I patted the bacon with paper towel to take off some of the fat, and set it aside for a little while, until I was ready to assemble. Just before the party, I toasted some good white bread, and some gluten-free white bread too. (There is a bakery in Toledo that makes decent gluten-free bread that my grocery store carries, called Pure and Simple. It can’t approach the scrumptious-ness of real  bread, but its much better than some of the others we’ve tried.) I cut the crusts off just because it seemed the thing to do – maybe I was having flashbacks to a high tea I ate at Harrod’s in London when I was in high school. I put the two breads on three different plates (the third plate for the bacon-free), and took the Benedictine out of the fridge.

It had thickened some, but was still a bit runnier than I had thought it would be.  Maybe its because I was using Zingerman’s Creamery cream cheese – which has no guar gum, the standard thickener for commercial cream cheese. But it tasted wonderful – light, fresh, and cucumbery with a gentle onion bite – so it was way worth it to not have guar gum in there!

I spooned a bit onto each piece of toast (probably between 2 to 3 teaspoons per), broke the Broadbent’s up into inch-long pieces and placed a piece carefully on top, on two of the three plates, and served!

benedictine

Here’s the snack table that we set out, and our guests quickly filled it with more:

foodtablestart2

And here’s the snack table near the end of the evening – the two plates of Benedictine with Bacon and the Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Long Pepper were emptied long ago, but the vegetarian plate is still hanging on. It was eaten too though, just not as quickly.

foodtable

Here’s the full Benedictine recipe, from page 168-69 of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon:

The credit for inventing Benedictine spread goes to Jennie Benedict, a seemingly pretty powerful personality who studied with Fannie Farmer and went on to become one of Louisville, Kentucky’s top caterers. She was the first woman to sit on a Board of Trade in the South. In 1902 she wrote a book called the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, in which she first described this spread. Over the last hundred years Benedictine has become to Louisville what paté is to Paris or baked beans are to Boston. Beyond that bit of background, I don’t have a huge heck of a lot to tell you about Benedictine other than that it’s really, really good and Louisvillians definitely do pretty uniformly seem to love it.
The first time I had it was at Lilly’s, which is one of the best restaurants in the city. It wasn’t on the menu but when I told Kathy Cary, the chef and owner, that I’d never eaten it she went straight to the kitchen and came back 10 minutes later with a plate of little Benedictine-filled finger sandwiches. I really liked the stuff, and I think pretty much anyone who likes cream cheese would like Benedictine. Every recipe calls for cream cheese, and they all have cucumber as well. Most have some onion. A few add other spices. The better the cream cheese and the cucumbers, the better it’s going to be. Many locals add green food coloring, which I think was probably a pretty common ingredient back in the early years of the twentieth century (color was an important part of the way people approached food in that era of “scientific cooking,” and the dishes of a meal were often color coded). Personally, I skip the green, but Kathy’s husband quickly reminded me that rather surreal green color is the one I’d see in most supermarket deli cases.

Part of why I like our Benedictine so much is because I’m so smitten with the traditional, hand-made cream cheese from Zingerman’s Creamery and this is a really good, regionally authentic way to eat it. I like to look at it as sort of a high-society, upper-South version of bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese (slices of pork instead of salmon makes sense when you’re hundreds of miles from the sea). The other reason is because it’s really good with bacon—Kathy made that clear by topping each of the little sandwiches with a half slice of the stuff. Which is why it’s in this book! I’d use Broadbent’s or Father’s to stay true to the Kentucky origins of the dish.

INGREDIENTS

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated

10 ounces Zingerman’s Creamery cream cheese

2 tablespoons grated onion

Coarse sea salt to taste

Freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper to taste

4 slices bacon

4 slices good white bread

PROCEDURE

Drain the grated cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve. Combine the cucumber, cream cheese and onion in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and add salt and pepper. Cover and let the spread set up for a couple of hours, refrigerated, to assimilate the flavors. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
When you’re ready to serve, fry the bacon over medium heat until slightly crisp. While it’s cooking, toast the bread. When the bacon’s done, drain it (save that fat!) and cut the slices into quarters. When the toast is done, cut it into quarters as well, spread on the Benedictine and lay a bit of bacon on top. Serve on a genteel, socially acceptable platter!
Serves 4 as a side dish


Lex’s Roast Chicken with Bacon and Spicy Coffee Spice Rub

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

I was in the mood to cook something more elaborate this Saturday than has been my habit recently, and it was a cold, rainy, windy day, calling for serious comfort food, so this was an obvious choice. I picked up a jar of the Spicy Coffee Spice Rub (which is also available from Zingerman’s Mail Order), and some Benton’s bacon, from Zingerman’s Deli, and the rest of the ingredients from a locally-owned grocery store called Arbor Farms, which I really like because it specializes in organic ingredients and also in gluten free products.

The recipe was not difficult, in that it did not involve any tricky techniques or extra-careful cooking; it just had a lot of ingredients and several steps. First I did a lot of chopping, and here’s my assembly of the ingredients, except the chicken. For the hot pepper flakes I used my own, from some tiny round  hot peppers I grew last summer. The garlic I grew also, as well as the parsley, which is still thriving in my front yard – it will withstand the frost for a little while. The bread is gluten free, which Arbor Farms buys from a bakery in Toledo.

IMG_7510

I did skip a step, in that I did not need to pre-cook any bacon; I already had a jar of bacon fat, of exclusively artisanal bacons from all my experiments, so I was confident I had some tasty fat already. I put the melted bacon fat in the bottom of a pyrex dish, and lined it with the bread, and meanwhile cooked up the onions/celery/apples/currants/lemon zest/hot pepper flakes/other spices.

Apples_Onions_Currants_etcBread-lined Pan

Then I put the apples/onion mixture over the bread, and prepped the chicken, rubbed on more of the melted bacon fat, and the spicy coffee spice rub, and poured the lemon juice over. And last, laid the strips of Benton’s bacon on top.

Chicken with spice rub and bacon

It smelled wonderful as soon as it started cooking! We also had some veggies roasting in the oven in another pan, so I had to cook it a bit longer overall, probably more like 80 to 90 minutes instead of an hour. But I did pull the bacon off to the side after 45 minutes as recommended, and the chicken skin did get nice and crispy. Here’s how it looked when just out of the oven:

Cooked chicken with spice rub

I pulled the chicken off and let it rest on a cuttingboard for 10 minutes, and meanwhile broke up the strips of bacon onto the “stuffing” and then served the stuffing onto plates. Added pieces of chicken (and some of the veggies we roasted on the side), and enjoyed a fabulous dinner. Was rich, spicy but not too hot, complex flavored and all-around good. I will make it again. It is not a dish to make when you’re pressed for time though. The full recipe is below, enjoy!

My plate o chicken

From page 200 of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon by Ari Weinzweig:

Lex’s Roast Chicken with Bacon and Spicy Coffee Spice Rub

My friend Lex Alexander turned me on to this recipe about 10 years ago. It’s in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating and has become one of the staples of our catering work here at Zingerman’s. I loved it from day one because it’s such a nice way to make a mini-Thanksgiving dinner without having to spend two days cooking: the chicken juices drip down on the bread beneath it in the roasting dish, essentially creating a low-labor but high-flavor version of stuffing (which I love!). In working on this book it dawned on me that getting bacon involved in the dish would be a big win. So here it is, Lex’s chicken take two . . . this time with bacon.

I also decided to add a spice rub that Roadhouse chef and managing partner Alex Young did for Esquire magazine a few years ago. Zingerman’s Spicy Coffee Spice Rub is a blend of ground Roadhouse Joe coffee, Urfa red pepper from Turkey, Tellicherry black pepper, cloves and sea salt. I really like the coffee, clove and bacon blend of flavors—in some strange way it makes me think about a spicy, exotic version of red eye gravy. It’s appropriate, too, since Lex’s current life revolves a lot around the very fine coffee shop—called 3 Cups—he owns in Chapel Hill, NC. Having tried the dish with a number of different bacons, we settled on Allan Benton’s—its big smoky favor and silky fat served the dish well!
It should probably go without saying, but the better the chicken, the better the dish. I use free-range birds we buy from Amish farmers in Indiana. The chicken smells great in the oven, too — the aromas of roasting chicken and bacon both make me want to eat as soon as the thing starts cooking.

Ingredients:

1-1/4 pounds sliced Benton’s bacon (about 12 slices)

2 large Spanish onions (about 1-1/2 pounds), cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half circles

4 stalks celery, cut into 1/8-inch slices

1-1/2 pounds tart apples (about 3 medium), 1/2-inch dice, skins on

1 scant cup dried currants

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (preferably Marash)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper

1/4 cup parsley, chopped, rinsed and squeezed dry

1/2 loaf leftover country bread, such as a good crusty white country loaf, sliced 3/4-inch thick. If the bread is still fresh and soft, slice it and let it dry on the counter for a few hours before using.

1 roasting chicken (3 to 4 pounds), split in half and backbone removed

5 tablespoons Zingerman’s Spicy Coffee Spice Rub (or you can make your own—the ingredients are listed above)

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 400°F

Arrange 6 of the bacon slices on a 1/4-inch-deep baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and most of its fat is rendered. Remove the baking sheet carefully from the oven. Drain bacon on paper towels and reserve for another use. When the fat cools a bit, pour into a Pyrex measuring cup. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Heat 1/4 cup of the fat in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onion and celery. Cover and sweat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until soft.
Add the apple, currants, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, salt and black pepper. Stir to mix. Cook, covered, until the onions and celery are translucent, about 5 to 7 more minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley, and set aside.

Lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 15-inch oval roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat. Arrange the bread slices to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish. (If the bread is too big to fit easily, simply cut the slices into smaller pieces so that they tile the entire bottom of the dish properly.)

Layer the onion mixture atop the bread. Place the chicken, skin side up, over the onion mixture and bread. Rub it with 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and 4 tablespoons of Coffee Spice Rub. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken, then lay the remaining bacon slices across the top of the chicken.

Place the entire dish in the oven and cook, uncovered. After 45 minutes or so, check that the bacon has crisped on top of the chicken. Once it has, pull it off the chicken and lay it directly onto the bread mixture so the chicken can brown. Change the oven function to broil, but continue at 400 degrees F. The chicken should be done in 15 to 20 minutes: the skin should be nicely crisped and its juices should run clear when the bird is pricked with a fork.

Remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle the whole dish with 1 tablespoon Coffee Spice Rub and let stand for a few minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and cut into quarters. Draw a sharp knife through the bacon, bread and onion mixture to break it up. Spoon some of the mixture onto each plate and place the chicken on top.

Serves 4 as a main course


American Fried Bread

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Tonite’s culinary foray was American Fried Bread. (Yep, my hubbie is away for the weekend again, a good time to cook with gluten!) It sounds plain. And for sure it is simple, but too good tasting to be plain, due to really good bread, bacon fat from a flavorful dry-cured artisanal bacon, and real maple syrup drizzled over.

For bacon I had three slices of Edwards bacon. Sliced medium-thick, and so long that they can’t fit in my largest skillet! And since they aren’t pumped full of water they did not really shrink, so in the end I cut them in half so the outside ends could be moved into the middle.

Edwards' dry-cured bacon

Edwards' dry-cured bacon

I used a couple of slices of Zingerman’s farm bread, which was fresh but I put the slices out on the counter for a couple hours to “stale” them up a bit.

Edwards’ bacon I find, I am particularly prone to overcooking.  Still very edible, just crunchier than I mean for it to be. I pulled out the bacon, and in went the bread, and after a minute, I added 2 tablespoons of milk, too, which hissed and bubbled in the hot pan, and sprinkled the bread with a bit of salt.

Farm bread in the pan with bacon fat and a little milk

Farm bread in the pan with bacon fat and a little milk

The first side got a lot more fat than the second side, but I did not add any more, I figured the first side had absorbed plenty for both! The cooking time was short of course. In the meantime, for a side dish I was also heating up some beets, and kale, from my garden, which I had cooked the night before.

When toasty on both sides (the first side completely golden brown from all that bacon fat, and milk too I suppose, and the second side toasted in areas), I removed the bread from the pan, drizzled it and the bacon with real maple syrup, and ate while hot. I ended up putting the bacon on top of the bread. It was a little decadent feeling, but holding firmly in mind that bacon fat from well treated, naturally raised pigs is better for you than butter, I told myself it was not THAT decadent, really. And its great comfort food.

American Fried Bread

American Fried Bread

This recipe is written up on page 162 of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, but I’ve covered all the specifics above. Ari does suggest using Zingerman’s Roadhouse bread (also known as Thirded Bread or Rye ‘n’ Injun bread in the 18th and 19 centuries) if you can get it!