Archive for December, 2012


Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

You’re not sick of bacon yet, right? Good.

More bacon than meets the eye.

More bacon than meets the eye.

I got a little crazy two years ago around the holidays and decided to take porcine liberties with Nana’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. Then I made the mistake of sharing them with people, and now Wife’s co-worker is holding her annual jar of cranberry-infused vodka hostage until Wife brings in a bag of goodies.

My Nana makes her chocolate chip cookies crispy. Ergo, I like my chocolate chip cookies crispy. It is the law of grandmothers: however yours cooked x dish is the “right” way to do it, and anything else is heresy. If you like fluffy, chewy cookies, there are plenty of other recipes out there that you can make substitutions into. But if you’re like me, and want a cookie that won’t fall apart when you dunk it into a glass of cold milk, you’ve come to the right place.

And I'm not sorry.

And I’m not sorry.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c. softened butter
1/3 c. CBG (candied bacon grease)
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 lb candied bacon

  • preheat oven to 350°
  • trim and discard excess fat from candied bacon, then mince remainder
  • mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl
  • cream butter, CBG, white and brown sugar, and vanilla extract, then mix in eggs
  • gradually mix in dry ingredients, then stir in bacon and chocolate chips
  • drop by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet
  • bake 10-13 minutes until golden brown
  • remove from oven, let cool

If you’re feeling REALLY ambitious, you may be able to re-bake the excess candied bacon fat trimmings for even more grease drippings.  I did.  And then I ate the crispy, caramelised remnants, probably shaving about a month off my life expectancy.  It was glorious.  The end.

Jalapeño Cranberry Sauce

My family has always skipped the “gel in a can” and made cranberry relish from scratch, with sugar, an orange, and a blender.  But last year, I decided to try making a sauce instead.

Doesn't that look festive?

Doesn’t that look festive?

I am the biggest spice weenie, but everyone else in my family likes things hot.  My parents are on a perpetual quest for sinus-nuking Chinese mustard.  Dad and my grandfather used to have jalapeño-eating contests.  A while back, I gave Dad a bottle of the kind of hot sauce that comes with a disclaimer; he and the Wife each tried a drop, and bonded through their tears.  When I don’t weenie it down, people with normal capsaicin tolerance describe this cranberry sauce as having great flavour with a mild kick.  The only way I can handle it is with the accompaniment of dairy, like on a cracker with feta cheese.

It's also fantastic on vanilla ice cream.

It’s also fantastic on vanilla ice cream.

INGREDIENTS:
12 oz. fresh cranberries
2 jalapeño peppers
1 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon or lime juice*

  • remove cores and seeds from jalapeños, then mince
  • stir sugar in water in a saucepan to dissolve, bring to a boil
  • add in cranberries, jalapeños, and juice, return to boil
  • drop heat to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (the less you stir, the more nice, big berry chunks you’ll have)

If you’re into canning, you can absolutely do a large batch of this and save it to give out as gifts (Merry Christmas, Dad!), or for your own personal hoarding.  Otherwise, let it cool to room temperature, then store it in the refrigerator.

* Chemically, there is no reason you couldn’t substitute in orange juice if you wanted to. If somebody wants to try that as a variation, please comment to let me know how it came out!

Matzo Ball Soup

So… I’m not Jewish.  I’m not even Christian.  My parents got married in the local UCC Protestant church; Nana, Dad and I were in the choir for years, and I went to Sunday School there until I was about nine and announced that it wasn’t the right fit for me.  But for a tiny town in Maine (year round population: 4500), it was a startlingly open and progressive church.

It may or may not have looked exactly like this one.

It may or may not have looked exactly like this one.

One of the many things I remember fondly is that they taught us about the old testament holidays as well, and asked the sole Jewish family in town to talk to us about Passover and Hanukkah, and the associated traditions.  And Jewish holiday food is awesome.

The fact that it’s really hard to find matzo ball soup in rural New England led me to eventually try to make it on my own.  Fortunately, I have been assured that as long as you use matzo meal for the balls and chicken broth for the soup, you can’t go too horribly wrong.

This is one of the few circumstances where I will specify ingredient brands. The “Manhattan Matzo Balls” recipe on the back of Streit’s unsalted matzo meal is perfect for big, fluffy balls, and Tabatchnik chicken broth has exactly the flavor profile that canned soups aspire to but fail to achieve.

OMG IT'S SO FLUFFY I'M GONNA DIE!!!

OMG IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE!!!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c. matzo meal
4 large eggs
1/4 c. water or seltzer
1/4 c. oil
1 tsp. salt
pinch of ground pepper

64 oz. chicken broth
2 c. water
1 large carrot
1 purple headed turnip
1 large parsnip
1/2 c. minced onion
dill to taste

For the matzo balls:

  • in a bowl, scramble eggs with a fork, then mix in oil, 1/4 c. water, salt and pepper
  • add in matzo meal, mix thoroughly
  • chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes
  • bring a large pot of water to a boil*
  • drop in rounded tablespoonfuls of matzo ball batter, simmer for 30 minutes

For the soup:

  • chop carrot, turnip, and parsnip into 1/2″ pieces
  • in a large pot, mix broth, 2 c. water, veggies and dill, then bring to boil, and simmer 30 minutes

*Personally, I don’t mind the broth being a little cloudy, like my matzo balls to take on the flavour, and dislike washing extra dishes, so I just cook them directly in the soup.  I’m sure myriad bubbes would scold me for that, but they aren’t here, so 😛

Who Loves French Toast?

The Wife’s family doesn’t tend to put as much importance on food as mine does.  Excepting major holidays, the overwhelming majority of “cooking” in their house happens in the microwave.  But one thing they used to do with fair consistency was Sunday morning breakfasts.  As a result, I’ve had a decent amount of opportunity to perfect my french toast technique over the last eight years.

See that fluffy, gooey, custardy goodness?

I’m sure she loves me for other reasons too, though…

Old, stale bread is alchemically converted into fluffy, custardy goodness.  It’s fantastic. This recipe is for 3/4″ thick slices of Italian or French bread, just double or triple the quantities as needed. As long as the ratios stay the same, you’ll be just fine.

INGREDIENTS:
4 slices stale bread
3 eggs
1 c. whole milk or half and half
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
butter or candied bacon grease

  1. in a pie pan (or other wide, flat, low container) use a fork to scramble together the eggs, milk, sugar, and cinnamon
  2. lay the first slice of bread in egg mixture to soak
  3. melt a small pat of butter or candied bacon grease in a frying pan over medium heat, and while your lipid of choice melts, flip the piece of bread so both sides get saturated
  4. gently place egg-soaked bread in frying pan, and set next piece of bread to soak
  5. flip toast in pan when it’s nicely golden on the bottom, and flip soaking bread
  6. when toast is cooked on both sides, remove from pan to plate
  7. add a new pat of butter/CBG, and repeat steps 4-7 until all the slices are toasted

And a side of candied bacon for good measure

Then, when you find yourself staring at a warm, sweet stack of yum, pour some real maple syrup on top of it.  Berries, jam, or powdered sugar are acceptable alternatives, but if I find out you used artificial syrup, you will officially lose your french toast privileges.

Toast responsibly!

Cranana Bread: an experiment

I have always regarded banana bread as a Hail Mary pass against food waste: about as likely to be successful, and about as appetizing.

Gee, tell your wife I said "thanks." Or y'know... don't.

Gee, tell your wife I said “thanks.” Or y’know… don’t.

But sometimes, you’re looking through the pantry for maple syrup, and you find a bag of old bananas that are just too mooshy to eat straight.  And then you say, “Self, you’re going to do this, you’re going to have fun with it, and it’s okay if it comes out gross, because you’re going to learn from it, and you can always just throw it out, since that’s what would have happened to the bananas anyway.”

I added ginger and nutmeg for a little bit of a “spice cake” quality, and dried cranberries to give it some pizazz, and to counter that blah-mooshy-banana flavour.

And I was pleasantly surprised.  The only thing I might do differently is to substitute the dried cranberries with fresh ones, which would give a little more zing, and a more consistent texture.

Deliciousness, with a side of cream cheese.

Deliciousness, with a side of cream cheese.

INGREDIENTS:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
3 overripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. cranberries (dried or fresh)

  • preheat oven to 350°, and grease and flour a 4″x8″ loaf pan
  • cream together butter and sugar, then mix in peeled bananas, eggs, and vanilla extract
  • in a separate container, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg
  • mix dry ingredients into banana goo
  • stir in cranberries to incorporate
  • bake 50-60 min. until toothpick test comes out clean
  • remove from oven, and allow to cool

Candied Bacon and the Jar of Joy

If I have a kitchen secret weapon, the kind of thing that might get its own catchphrase and facebook page, it’s this:

Better than butter.

Better than butter.

That, my friends, is run-off grease from my most recent batch of candied bacon.

Candied.  Bacon.  Grease.

Nana has always had a can of bacon grease in her kitchen.  Candying the bacon first is my personal upgrade, as is the cute little jar (instead of the traditional open tin can), but the first time my Wife saw me pouring off hot grease to save for later, she looked at me as though I had asked her to lick the floor of the refrigerator.  Then I started cooking with it, and made a convert of her.

There is almost nothing you can’t use this stuff for.  It has the extended lifespan of shortening, the melt point of butter, and the savory sweetness of bacon and brown sugar.  Need to make a roux?  Candied Bacon Grease can do that.  Baking apples?  Throw in a pat of this instead of butter.  Grease your cake pans.  Put it on a steak, a baked potato, asparagus.  Sear stew meat in it.  Saute shrimp in it.  Slather yourself with it and go swimming in the North Atlantic.*

If I save up enough of it this winter, I may use it to make the filling for a batch of whoopie pies.  I expect they will be well received.

And the candied bacon's nothing to sneeze at, either.

And the candied bacon’s nothing to sneeze at, either.

INGREDIENTS:
brown sugar (or maple sugar if you can find it)
bacon
a non-plastic container (I personally prefer a glass jar with twist lid)

  • cover a jelly roll pan, or any baking pan with a lip all the way around the edge, with tin foil
  • place one layer of bacon strips side by side on pan, edges slightly overlapping
  • coat bacon liberally with sugar
  • bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, until bacon is curling at the edges
  • remove pan from oven, drain excess grease into a non-plastic container (try not to spill it all over your kitchen counter)
  • flip bacon, apply sugar to newly exposed side of bacon slices
  • place back in oven, continue baking 5-10 minutes until it looks cooked, but is still floppy.  It will continue to crisp after you take it out.
  • with tongs, lay bacon out on paper towels to cool and blot
  • drain as much clear grease as you can into your container, and store in the refrigerator

*I do not actually endorse this idea, though it would be hilarious to see someone try.  Dad used some weird vasoline blend in the Peaks-to-Portland race back in the ’80s.  At the very least, Candied Bacon Grease would have to be more pleasant to apply.